I took the indulgent decision to spend this afternoon mooching around Langholm Moor, hoping for some more short eared owl action. As it was, I drew a blank with the owls but enjoyed a couple of hours on the hill on a rather dull and overcast day. The grouse were quietly getting on with their own business, but some very vocal hen birds offered a timely reminder that pairing up and mating is well underway. There was a quiet bubbling of curlew off in the distance, and while those cunning old whaups are not yet settled on the hill, they’re certainly starting to dip their toes tentatively into the heather.
I couldn’t resist heading round to one of the lek sites, despite it still being rather early to see any action from the blackgame. As it was, I popped my head over the brow of the hill just as eight cocks flew in over the white grass, joining at least three others for a short bout of sparring and silliness. One bird landed on the power lines (pictured above) and leered disdainfully down at us all, fanning his tail and pausing for a second to wonder what I was. Tails were up, but they were wild and wary, never calling more than the odd giggle. There is no question that numbers are up on last year in this area, and it looks like there are a few new recruits still watching and learning in the margins. It’ll be interesting to see how these youngsters fit in as April approaches and the hormones take over.
Heading back, I stopped to watch half a dozen greyhens on the roadside, almost within touching distance from the car window. Sometimes you can sweat and strain over the hill for little return, then find the best views from the comfort of your seat.