I enjoyed a grand reunion with an old friend on Saturday afternoon. Spying for a fox on the high ground (on which more to come), my eye was caught by a black shape against a drift of snow. Assuming it was a raven, I scanned the binoculars along the crest of the hill and only returned to the apparition five minutes later, by which time it had become much more conspicuous. I found myself staring at the same blackcock I followed all spring, standing proudly up on a tump of moss seven hundred yards away. Although I have seen glimpses and signs of birds all winter, this was the first time I had seen this individual since November, and I was encouraged by the momentary suggestion that he was not alone. I could have spent all afternoon watching the bird(s) browsing through the frozen grass, but a fox materialised three hundred yards away to the imagined overtures of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.
By the time this fox was accounted for, the cold sun had crash-landed behind Cairnsmore of Fleet and smashed the sky into a million crimson shards. I searched the hill for some sign of this bird or his accomplice, but headed home disappointed. I consoled myself with the thought that it won’t be long before the spring brings these hidden shadows into their full glory. For a bird so large and apparently conspicuous, it is surprisingly easy to lose track of blackgame between July and March, so I have fingers crossed we’ll have a busy spring.