Saturday, 18 June 2016

Grouse family

A hen Red Grouse and a chick up above, crouch low in the heather 

The Red Grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica, a race of the Willow Grouse, are quiet on the moors just now as they have chicks. They spend the day walking slowly through the heather and wet flushes of grasses and sedge. That is where the chicks, which feed themselves from hatch, can find more adult insects and caterpillars, important sources of nutrients for them in their first two weeks of life.

The hen watches me closely as I pass by

I was walking up a hill towards the higher ptarmigan habitat when I noticed this family hiding in the heather. They were spread over several square metres, crouched and frozen exactly where they were feeding when the adults must have given the alarm and they all crouched down to hide from, a potential predator - me.

The cock bird peeps through the cover of a sprig of blaeberry

I have studied grouse and ptarmigan for many years and recognised the behaviour of the adult male, whom I saw first. So I stopped in my tracks until I could see that my feet were clear of stepping on any chicks. Then I slowly crept round them, counting six chicks altogether.

The chicks are well camouflaged in the heather, blaeberry and moss

If I had stepped too close to any of the birds they would have jumped up and flown downhill away from me, cheeping if they were a chick and croaking if an adult. All would then have erupted from the heather in explosive flight. Each was crouched ready to jump at the first call. Even at only a week old, the chicks are strong enough to fly for about a hundred metres to safety. In such circumstances, the adults then quickly round them up once any threat of danger has passed. A great strategy to ensure that even if one chick were caught, the others should survive.

Crouching ready to spring at the first alarm call 

No comments:

Post a Comment