Waiting for the Black Grouse (Part 2)
3.30am. Meeting with Daniel. We have in mind to go hide in the snow near a lek where the male Black Grouse parade. During breeding season, which occurs in spring, the males gather to these arenas where they perform courtship displays to attract a female.
4am. We start to hike in the dark night in order to arrive at the lek before dawn when the Black Grouse would easily see us.
Thus, we make sure we do not bother them. With such elusive and fragile species, it is extremely important to take all the precautions needed. If you plan to do a trip to watch the parade of the Black Grouse with a guide, please be sure he or she will be as respectful as Daniel.
5am. The hides are set up. It is still completely dark outside and we are now waiting. I was way too excited to fall back asleep in my hiding tent. An hour or two later, the first typical "rookoing" calls of the males! It is incredible to hear them before you can actually see them. The moment was surreal. When the first light of the day reaches them, you start to see only their silhouettes. One at first, but soon many more! There was more than 10 males on this lek that day.
2 males usually face eath other, fluffing up their feathers and spreading their tail to show their white undertail coverts (their tail have the shape of a Lyre, this is why their name in french is "Tétras Lyre"). They also inflate their neck and make their beautiful cooing sound.
- Short video to come soon -
The females are watching the show with attention, but they remain hidden in the bushes nearby. We did not see even one, but we were still very lucky that day. The males displayed for hours in front of us! Then, when a female is receptive to the male's parade, copulation happens.
All of a sudden, after 9am, they all took off, but I saw at least 4 of them landing not too far. To ensure their intimacy and to fully respect them, the rule is clear: we do not get out of the hide until we are 100% sure that all of the males are gone. And even then, we wait 15mn minimum to move. So we waited. And amazingly, 4 males made their way back walking to the exact same place. More parade to come, fantastic!
Finally, it was past 10am when the show was over. I will always remember this unique experience. Thanks to Daniel, I had the chance to live one of the most secret wildlife shows nature has to offer in the Alps.
To see my favorite Black Grouse pictures of that day, please visit my gallery here:
Finally, on the way down, we got surronded by a flock of Yellow-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) whilst enjoying the beautiful morning scenery !
I really hope to repeat the experience next year. If you are interested in doing it and want more info, feel free to contact me. I would be happy to help.