Friday, May 2, 2014

How to shoot Red Grouse

So over to the Cairngorms. When birding in this area one of my targets is to see seven species of grouse/Pheasant. Viz: Common Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Capercaillie and Ptarmigan. Pheasant is easy...they seem to be  everywhere below 1000ft as they are released in their hundreds to supply the shoot! Most seem to get killed on the roads if my experience of driving around the area is anything to go by. Likewise Red-legged Partridges, they walk across most roads with gay abandon and this is also added to the road-kill and trip list. Grey partridge can be tricky and we only saw a couple down in the Findhorn Valley. Probably all been shot!
The RSPB reserve at Loch Garton came up trumps for us on the first morning with an impressive male Capercaillie strutting and feeding out in front of the Osprey hide. Initially picked up on one of the cameras we were struggling to overcome a dodgy conscience and convince ourselves that we could tick it 'cus we could see it on the screen. Fortunately a birder in the hide managed to locate the bird through his telescope and we all formed an orderly queue to get real views. Capercaillie, perhaps the most difficult of the grouse to find, in the bag! (Deliberate use of shooting term there!)
Next stop Tulloch Moor for Black Grouse. This is a well known lecking site and good numbers of grouse have been recorded here in the past. Today there was just a single, forlorn looking male sat out on a tussock of tussocky stuff. So not the spectacle that we were hoping for but that's Black Grouse ticked and only twenty minutes after the Caper. Only Red Grouse and Ptarmigan to get now!
Red Grouse must be the third most common of the species listed above. They can be heard and seen in just about all suitable habitat. Again I suspect that the moors are kept just right for these birds so that they can later be blasted to bits of bone and feathers by the shooting brigade...lots and lots of pound coins to be made in so doing. But the correct way to shoot Red Grouse is with a camera and a telephoto lens!!

Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica...Just having a little look to see if it's safe!

Male Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica. Canon 1DS MK III and 400mm lens. Less fatal than a twelve bore.

Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica - Shot with a camera and therefore still alive!
Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica - Also shot with a camera and therefore also still alive!
Only Ptarmigan to find to bag (continuing use of relevant shooting terminology) all seven species. These tend to dwell in nasty high places over 3 000 ft or about five miles high so I'm leaving these until tomorrow when I've had a hearty Scots breakfast and bought some Kendal Mint Cake.

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