The following pages are a few extracts from recent fieldwork I have been undertaking studying Black Grouse in northern England. This has involved some ridiculously eary starts, getting up and in the car for just after 2am, to ensure I was ready in the hide (you can just see part of it below) by 3am at the latest, soon after which the grouse could be heard echoing their distinctive bubbling calls on the lek.
I've spent many hours over the last few weeks watching the birds dispaly on one of their traditional lekking arenas, an have been captivated by both the birds themselves, and the changing light from the near gloom of a pre-dawn moorland, to the brightly lit arena full of golds and green just a few hours later. Most of the activity had subsided well before 7am, with the birds dispersing from the arena to preen and rest before flying off to their prefered feeding pastures, leaving me to trudge back to the car, exhausted but compltely exhilarated for a 'late' breakfast at around 8am!
Above - you can see my easel, sketchbook and the handle of my tripod in the photo here. The sketchbook page which was only partially completed when I took this photo, can be seen in its finished form below. The mobile phone in the photo might make you think there was a danger of disturbing the birds, but this was not the case. Although there was no reception in the area (there never is in the middle of nowhere, where often the best birds are to be found!), it was on silent mode as an added precaution, and simply enabled me to keep a track of the time.
Male grouse (below). These studies were made when most of the main activity had died down, and the birds had settled down to rest or feed leisurely near the main lekking site.
This sketch, (above), was made just before 5am - the soft, pastel tones of the early morning were something I was trying to capture.