Sunday, 29 April 2012

Black Grouse - Langdon Beck and Beyond

Probably one of my worst days for taking pics but an absolutely outstanding day for watching birds.   I had a really early start rising at 2 then leaving the house at 3 then arriving at Langdon Beck at 04.50 for a 5 start.  The mist was bloody awful but I did get some great views of a Barn Owl somewhere near Edmondbyers.  At Langdon Beck about 20 members of the NHSN were gathering for the Black Grouse Lek and the first person I bumped into was Maria S who offered a ride around in her much larger vehicle as we were all car sharing to cause less hassle to the birds.  Off we went and when reaching the Lekking point there was 19 Males and a few females already "at it".  They were too far off again for pics but great views through bins and scopes.  Then we were blitzed by Snow and Hail Storms for 30mins on and off then it brightened up but the males were still holding territory although the females had vanished.  10mins after the "storm" ceased in came 3 females and it all started again.  At about 7 we then went on a drive round the area to watch the displaying Snipe and Lapwing which there was plenty of.  Also spotted were Curlew, 2 Short Eared Owls (which brought the convoy to a halt whilst one of them sat on a post a bit of a distance away but in an absolutely stunning setting but even Maria didn't bother to unholstering her beast of a camera as it was just a couple of lenses too far.  Off we went again and a Wheatear was just sitting on a wall as we turned a corner and never moved but the convoy carried on going and we couldn't tell anybody as the leaders walkie talkie had broken and he had taken  mine back (sob sob).  Several more Black Grouse were seen along with Pied Wagtails, lots of Redshanks, Golden Plover and a fleeting glimpse of a Dipper.  Then we stopped to observe a male Ring Ouzel and after a minute or so a female appeared also.

Then after about 75mins driving around we headed back to the Langdon Beck Hotel for a Full Monty Breakfast, then a great presentation by one of the Black Grouse Officers from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, ably assisted by a couple of wardens from Natural Englands Moor House Reserve (the sound on the computer (distinct lack of it actually) was substituted by one of wardens, Chris, doing his interpretations "they are now explaining about...." "the Black Grouse males are now bubbling, bubble, bubble bubble" was probably better than the original.  Then some of the more able (fools) went out for a walk around then onto the Moor House reserve led by the Director, James Littlewood (he told us it was approx 3 miles, he didnt mention the up bits), it was a nice wander though starting with view of the Spring Gentian, a flower that I had never seen before, unfortunately it hadn't opened up yet (possibly something to do with the hail and snow a couple of hours previously).  The following pic is really bad but that was me not the weather not the distance this  time, I took 4 quick pics and this was the best

The walk was a good 2 and a half hours but some great spots included another couple of  pairs of Ring Ouzels, at least 2 pairs of Wheatears, and a single female, a possible fleeting glance of a Dipper,  Dunlin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, more Black Grouse and a Red Grouse, Golden Plover and Redshank.


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