Ken enjoyed an early start as he joined RSPB Scotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland to observe a Black Grouse ‘lek’ at Loch Arklet.
As the Species Champion for the Black Grouse, Ken welcomed the opportunity to observe the ‘lek’, a charismatic and exciting mating ritual which sees the male grouse strutting and calling with their distinctive bubbling sound at sunrise and dusk to attract the attention of the females. The all-black males have a distinctive red wattle over their eye and show a striking white stripe along each wing in flight. They also have a lyre-shaped tail which is fanned out and raised to show off white under-tail feathers during the display.
Scotland is home to around 70% of the UK population of these spectacular birds, however, between 1995 and 2005 they showed a population decline of 29% with the largest declines recorded in south and west Scotland. The Black Grouse is now a red-listed bird species of conservation concern. Declines have been caused by a number of factors including loss of habitat, collisions with deer fences and increased threats from predators such as foxes and crows.
Despite much conservation effort, more needs to be done to help reverse the decline in the Black Grouse population. This will involve organisations such as RSPB Scotland and the Forestry Commission working to support land managers whose practices provide important habitats for the Black Grouse, as well as ensuring that our forests and woodlands are managed with this species in mind.
You can find out more about the challenges facing the Black Grouse on RSPB Scotland’s website.