Grouse

Carsphairn Blackcock

A Carsphairn cock
A Carsphairn blackcock

It was an early start again and over to Cairnsmore of Carsphairn to meet fellow blogger and Galloway stalker Brent Norbury above the Water of Ken, where a combination of decent management and his hard work on foxes and crows has meant that black grouse are very much alive and kicking.

In the half light, we bumped into a very officious looking blackcock standing in the middle of the road just a few hundred yards away from the house. He was very much on the prowl, with wattles flaring and a defiant expression playing about his chops. As the pickup approached him, he fluttered a few feet out onto the verge and attempted to eyeball us, then fluttered on again a few more feet, this time landing with his tail spread out a little in the half light. On further provocation, and only with the most exaggerated reluctance did he rise once and for all and fly off downhill. Almost simultaneously, two other cocks rose from behind him and followed on.

While the birds perhaps weren’t lekking at full bore, they were probably having a bit of a shuffle just before we passed them, and soon we were out on the open hill, where red deer watched us cautiously and the massive bulk of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn buried its head in the clouds. There are three Cairnsmores in Galloway, and all are clearly visible from the Chayne as the Eastern boundary of the Galloway Hills. The largest is Cairnsmore of Carsphairn (797m) which stands up to the northwest, Cairnsmore of Dee (493m) in the middle and Cairnsmore of Fleet (711m) which provides a skyline to the southwest. This latter has been the subject of a few blog articles recently, and is not to be confused with this morning’s visit.

Cairnsmore of Carsphairn looms over the Ayr road to Glasgow, surrounded on all sides by tremendous sweeps of wild, open country. Before the days of the foresters, this countryside was alive with blackgame, but they are now sadly depleted to a few pockets here and there. They have not collapsed altogether as elsewhere in the county, and even a small scattering of birds was enough to make the early start worthwhile on a lekking week that has so far been full of false starts and blank days.

Cairnsmore of Carsphairn last winter when the snow was down.
Cairnsmore of Carsphairn last winter when the snow was down.
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