Another early start was called for this morning in order to catch the dawn on the Rhinns of Kells, almost where the hills run down to Glenlee and Dalry. My main goal was to sift through the Rig of Clenrie and use that high point as a means of surveying the adjacent flat top of Drumbuie Hill where blackgame are said to lurk in twos and threes. It was was a quarter to six by the time I arrived, fuming at having been held up by a timber lorry which had taken an aeon to drive between Corsock and Balmaclellan. I like to be on site quite early when looking for the leks, and if possible I am always keen to be out and listening while it is still “blue dawn”. As it was, the bracken banks were reddening and the rear view mirror of the car was starting to pick up some peachy light in the East as I parked up and yomped up through the rushes.
The Rig of Clenrie is a fantastic spot, representing the southernmost tip of the massive Rhinns, and black grouse are certainly present in these vast rustling spaces. I soon had to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be seeing any lekking as the stiff wind was enough to put off all but the most determined fan tail, despite the sunshine and fluffy cloud. There is just so much space in these massive hills that it would be impossible to scan it all as thoroughly as it deserved, and I did my best “eagle on an eyrie” impression with my binoculars, sitting out of the wind and combing through the heather and the white grass below me. Red deer bottoms materialised in the distance, and a pair of roe deer wandered peacefully through the naked myrtle strands almost a mile away, but otherwise the hills were curiously vacant.
By eight o’clock, it was obvious that there was nothing forthcoming, so I turned my attention to a veritable cornucopia of wheatears which had arrived to squabble and fight on the sheep-cropped crags nearby. I had no idea that they would be so engaging, and by the time I realised it, I found that I had been watching them for forty five minutes. More on the wheatears to come, but worth recording another blank day on my Galloway lek surveys this year. There are birds there, but I am not connecting with them as frequently as I would like, and it goes to show that when surveys do find birds, it is often a lucky case of being in the right place at the right time. Without a strong, reliable population, small numbers of birds pop up and move around a great deal, and it could be that the Rig of Clenrie will be visited by displaying blackcock tomorrow, and the birds will move on somewhere else on Wednesday.
Inevitably, I’ve got more ground to cover elsewhere tomorrow, so I might have to head back up the Garroch Glen again in May.