Although the blackcock have been bickering and squabbling for the past six weeks, they have only recently started their serious displays. Heading up to the farm this morning, I was delighted to hear a very familiar bubbling sound off in the distance. Stopping three quarters of a mile away from the property to open a gate for the car, I noticed that the wind was blowing in my direction. Vague snatches of conversational cooing were just audible, and I drove the final stretch with a smile on my face.
After a brief search, I spotted a blackcock displaying at full bore on the hill above me. No more of the previous caution and reserve; flutter jumps, caterwauls and determined bubbling were the order of the day, and although he had no-one to display to, it made a fine spectacle in the gloom.
After twenty minutes, a sour veil of rain started to smirr my glasses, and the blackcock began to lose enthusiasm for the job in hand. He quickly packed up his tail and headed for the shelter of the windbreak. In his absence, I headed off to check my traps, but when the rain cleared and I returned, he was back in the driving seat, displaying along the top stones of a drystone dyke.
Despite persisent bad weather and early nightfalls, it seems like this bird has decided that it is spring time. Nothing will change his mind.
And it’s not just black grouse who are full of the joys of spring. Red grouse are increasingly audible on the hillside at first light, and I took some photographs today of birds with decidedly flashy and conspicuous wattles (below) along the county line with the Scottish Borders.