Monday, April 15, 2019

World's End

Willow Ptarmigan or Red Grouse(Britain)
When I hear the words, "World's End", I think of a coffee shop OR a place you can go to do some shopping.  I didn't think grouse.

female Willow Ptarmigan
I love all things grouse and I didn't think I'd get to observe these birds while in Wales, but when Steve mentioned them, I had to hold back my excitement.  Observing grouse on a lek is one of the most satisfying things a birder can experience out in the field.  Steve asked if it would be okay to get up earlier than normal.  Anyone who has seen grouse on a lek understand that these sacred mating dances are held at dawn or a little before dawn. And only during a specific time of year. The avid birder must arrive before sunrise to watch the several hour show.

Black Grouse prepare for the real mating dances
On this day, we witnessed the males getting ready for the big show as they practiced their performances with each other before the females arrived. 

It was an incredible show and I was thrilled to observe these Black Grouse do their thing for several hours.  Like the Razorbills, Northern Lapwings or White-throated Dippers, the Black Grouse was a much desired target bird to observe in the wild.

I still think about that day often.  Learning about observing grouse on a lek comes with a bit of foreknowledge of birder do's-and-don'ts.  1.  Get there early.  2.  Never get out of your car. Turn your car off. Use your car as the blind. Whisper and do not talk. 3. Stay for the entire time so that you don't disturb their mating rituals.(usually lasts for around 3 hours).  It's a commitment of time for one bird, but it's worth it.

Along the way, we were told about the magical Henoed creatures who lived in the forests around Wales. Apparently, these "people" are only found in Wales and nowhere else. 

the wise Henoed give us weary travelers advice
Lucky for us, we had an excellent observation of the Henoed!  They used these devices called "mobility units".  One of the Henoed warned us to be careful around any deer we saw in the wild as they can attack. But only when they are cornered. Note to self, NEVER CORNER A WILD ANIMAL. He may have saved our lives.

Micheal tries his first Black Pudding.  Steve assures us that it will taste better with HP sauce:)
In all seriousness, they were a sweet couple.  Without going into details, I needed this trip away from home.  So much has happened over the past few weeks. We live our lives thinking everyone will be okay and that there will be a tomorrow.  I can only develop a sense of humor for it all because saying good-bye to loved ones is so difficult.  Micheal has lost a dear friend to cancer and another to a murder-suicide.  My father is going into bypass surgery this week.  The birds seem to make it all better.  Driving away to our destinations with a nice cup of coffee to observe birds makes the pain and worries disappear. For a moment.

Again, thank you to Steve and Bonnie for a fabulous visit.  Wales is stunning and so beautiful.  You'll meet Bonnie in the next several posts.  I mean you've already met her, but you'll get to see more of her over the next several weeks.  I've been on the road here in the US collecting lots of data.  All that and so much more to come.  Until next time.....


  1. Wonderful photos Chris and so envious of you seeing a black grouse lek - something I have never witnessed.

    So sorry to hear of Micheal's losses and hope your father's surgery goes well.

    Look forward to seeing more of Wales :)

  2. Superb pictures of the Black Grouse. I saw my first one last year. Wonderful looking birds.

  3. Great post - I had some great days further north watching Black Grouse - many, many years ago.

    cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne


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