Monday, 24 February 2014

3 grouse in a day!

 Last week I went on a trip to the Cairngorns, they're not local to Hertfordshire I know, but I felt I deserved a holiday. It was great! When I arrived on Monday the weather wasn't at it's best – a bit drizzly – but by the time it got to Wednesday it dawned bright and sunny. This was fortunate because at the time I was stood out on a windswept bit of moor with three other people waiting to see if the black grouse would come out and do battle on their lek site. They did! We saw seven grouse in all put on a fine display of posturing and flutter fighting.
After watching the black grouse for an hour (they keep time very accurately and disappear pretty much after 60 minutes) we went and found some breakfast: a bacon bun and some tea to warm us up.
Then it was on to the Caledonian forests in search of the Capercaillies. After 30 minutes or so of wandering round a wood there was a clacking sound of wooden blocks being smacked together and a black, turkey-sized bird appeared out of the heather on a ridge in front of us. We were being challenged by a Capercaillie! This was a 'rogue' bird – one that is more aggressive and doesn't back down. The guide we were with said it was important for the bird's psychology that it dominated this patch of forest so we should slowly back away and let the bird feel as though it was winning. This we did and as it slowly advanced we all managed to take some photos as well.

Next we went to a different part of the forest to find to see if we could find some Crested Tits. These are lovely little birds with a call that sounds like they're chuckling about something. They are very flighty though and don't stay still for very long. They're also don't like moving very far from home so they have quite a small range in the UK. They also have red eyes which I noted with a bit of a surprise.

During the afternoon we stopped on the moors again. This time to see if we could spot some Red Grouse. In amongst some heather we soon found our quarries who very kindly posed for us. They were quite easy to spot – their heads bobbing up and down, in and out of the heather – and their copper colour was stunning.

In all we spotted 38 bird species and five mammal species (including red squirrels, mountain goats and red deer) on our day of wildlife watching. A pretty good count and a very enjoyable day out in the early spring sunshine!

Monday, 10 February 2014


This is my blog on which I'm recording my exploration of Hertfordshire (and surrounding counties). I only recently moved here and this is my record of how I get to know the area.

I've started with a local footpath that I can do as a circular walk from my house. I set out, on the Saturday just gone, in my walking boots and waterproofs. With me I took a camera, binoculars, a drink and some biscuits. In hindsight wellies would probably have been better than walking boots. There hasn't been much standing water round where I live (on a hill it has to be said) but as soon as I got onto the footpath it became apparent how squelchy and water-logged the ground has become – there wasn't a lot of standing water around but if there's much more rain here I imagine a lot of pools of standing water will start to appear.

The weather was bright and sunny but really windy. Admittedly I'd gone out after a couple of showers had passed, not wanting to start my exploration with a soaking. There weren't many birds around, probably due to the wind, but I could hear robins, blue tits and great tits in the trees.

Walking past a particular stand of trees I saw a group of goldfinches taking shelter as well as a pair of blue-tits. A bit further on I saw my first snowdrops of the year. There was also some dogwoods that made a colourful splash of purple-red against the brown/gray of the other trees.

As I turned a corner of the path I came up against a large pool of staniding water. It was impassible without wellies so, making a mental note to wear wellies next time, I turned round and retraced my steps home.