Roosting Blackcock

Off to roost

Off to roost

Worth mentioning in brief that after a few weeks without seeing any blackgame on the Chayne, I was pleasantly surprised to have a thrilling reunion last night when walking in off the hill just on the darkening. I looked up in the blue gloom and there was a blackcock blasting downhill just twenty feet over my head. I could hear the wind whistling through his feathers as he came, and it would have been quite easy to mistake him for a mallard if it wasn’t for the floppy tail and the supercilious angle of the head.

He vanished down over the red grass towards a seventy acre bog which is probably the least visited part of the entire farm. I had always dismissed this area as barren and hopeless, since the only things I have ever seen down there have been voles and crows, but since some adjacent forestry has been felled the aspect is now altogether more welcoming. One of the summer broods was found a little further West of this mossy hole, and it could be that I ought to be focusing my attentions in that direction.

It was interesting to see that he was flighting at about the same time as the woodcock, and two or three long-beaked shapes came whizzing crazily past a few minutes later. Perhaps this is a habit he has copied from them, since they stand to lose a great deal by undertaking long flights in the open while hawks and falcons are out and about. This short period of twilight is a busy moment for all kinds of shy, vulnerable species, and perhaps the blackcock knows that.

It was also a good reminder of the scale of ground that blackcock use on their daily rounds. Judging from the angle he was flying at, he had got up from a piece of rushy ground on the neighbour’s back hill, and by the time he landed, he would have covered more than a mile. That is a tiny distance for blackgame, and it puts my 1,600 acres in perspective as part of a much larger landscape for these birds.

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