Sunday, 27 January 2013

More from the Cairngorms: The Red Grouse

So a few days ago, I've been telling you all about our trip to the Cairngorms last week. Species such as red squirrels, crested tits and mountain hares are ever so epic to see and photograph. However, for this post I am going to tell you a little bit about the red grouse, where I have spent some times photographing these birds as well as getting to learn their behaviour in the field.

A red grouse in flight in the snow

They are spectacular birds to watch, almost a bit like chicken or pheasant, but very shy around people and full of personalities. I was lucky enough to spend sometime with these birds in their natural habitat, learning about their calls, diet and flight pattern etc.

The red grouse (Lagopus lagopus) is a game bird with plump body, a short tail and a hook-tipped bill. It is brownish red in colour, with pale feathers covering its feet. The birds we see here in the Cairngorms are resident all year around and travelling very little in their lives. They feed on heather, seeds, berries and insects on upland heather moors. They are easier to spot in the winter while they stands out again the snow; but they know that well too, rocketing up from the heather when disturbed, flying off with fast-whirring wingbeats.
The different between male and female is that, females are not as red as the males and have fewer conspicuous combs. The females also lacking the hot-red wattles above each eye when in full breeding finery.

Great habitat and condition to spot the red grouse: upland heather moors in snow 
you can see the pale feathers covering their feet in flight
A female feeding on heather 
There are very well camouflaged and often just their head poking out between the heathers
Here is a male looking over into the sun, you can see the red wattles about the eye 
Here is a female without the red wattles, peeking through at me 
You can just see the female's head in the background, watching as a male walks pass 

The Red Grouse is endemic to the British Isles, however it is found across most parts of Scotland. Numbers have declined in recent years and birds are now absent in areas where they were once common.  Reasons for the decline include loss of habitat due to overgrazing, as well as gamekeeping and diseases. 

Thats all for today, tomorrow I am going to upload a video for some 'behind the scene' footages while we are in Scotland looking for wildlife. Be sure to keep an eye out on here!

1 comment:

  1. Another great set Jacky, stunning birds to photograph, especially in the snow