Lek Progress

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The past week has been a rushed haze of work, blackgame and illness, hence the shortage of time for writing on this blog. In the middle of it all, my beloved jeep has died and so my operational radius has been hideously limited. Suffice it to say for now that the extremely cold, dry weather is not really slowing down the progress of the Spring. While the grass has hardly risen, half the lambs are now up and away and some of the curlews are down on their eggs. I’ve heard the first cuckoos for the past six consecutive days, and it was a literal “buzz” to find a grasshopper warbler while up looking at the leks near Carsphairn last week.

I was up the hill this morning to check on the leks and found one particular blackcock in one of the most inhospitable wind tunnels on the farm – the ferociously cold North wind was blowing right under his tail, but he was more or less unperturbed by the experience. Rather than move around to find a greyhen, this fellow is sticking to this particular spot in the hope that he will draw in a suitable female. His resolve may begin to falter in the next few days if he doesn’t find what he’s looking for, and it’s not uncommon for birds to turn up in all kinds of different places, sometimes displaying over huge areas in a single morning as May comes on. There are females in the vicinity, but they may have been drawn in and covered by other cocks by now, so this bird’s chances are narrowing unless he’s after a latecomer or the offchance of a hen who lost her first clutch.

It was also satisfying to open the year’s account with the larsen traps this morning, and I also shot a hen crow off her nest on the walk back to the car. The first shot hit the nest with a clatter, but it’s surprising what protection birds get from a mesh of twigs and sheep daggs. She flew off at top speed and I was lucky to connect with the second barrel at the very limits of range. Trapping and snaring will pick up in intensity now I’ve got a slightly freer diary and more time to spend on the hill.

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