Another early morning trip out into the hills behind the house failed to show fruit in terms of blackcock. I could hear one (or possibly a couple) murmuring away, but I just couldn’t get a clear idea of where they were. I think that they might be in a little hollow, in which case there is no way that I could see them without them seeing me first. As much as I want to have a look, they wouldn’t get anything out of the experience.
Blackcock will put up with a huge amount of disturbance during their displays, and one of the best leks I ever saw in Galloway was within twenty yards of a main road – they get so pumped up that nothing seems to phase them, and while they don’t like to see humans moving on foot, they are very forgiving of people who pay even the slightest attention to camouflage. However, it is easy to forget that leks are just as much about greyhens as they are about blackcock. Greyhens are much cooler and more safety conscious when it comes to visiting leks, and they certainly won’t visit if there is anything even slightly off about a lekking ground. A consequence of their being so well camouflaged is that it is sometimes hard to tell whether they are even at the lek or not, and it’s very likely that leks are often disturbed by people who take liberties with fearless blackcock and never give a thought to how the invisible greyhens are reacting.
I could stake these birds out and wait for them one morning, but there is too much ground to cover elsewhere for me to get hung up on one particular area. Perhaps I’ll have a good look if there is time at the end of May when the best of the actual breeding is over and the lek becomes nothing more than thoughtless hormonal silliness.
It was a bitterly cold morning, and as I listened for birds, a roe deer barked madly off in the forest to my right. There were a few outbursts, like the sound of an old man choking on his soup, but otherwise there was only the occasional cackling of red grouse on the hill above me. As I drove home, a cock hen harrier drifted over a bed of naked bog myrtle beside the car, but it was generally a fairly damp squib. At least I know that there are still birds out there. I sometimes need to be reassured.