I was struggling to find a subject locally in this in-between period as winter ends and spring hasn't quite begun.Since I've never seen a black grouse before and as it is something I have wanted to do for a while I thought I would head for what is apparently the best place to see black grouse in England-Upper Teasdale in Durham.
I set off at 5.45 and arrived at around 8.00 I found the landmark I was aiming for and sure enough within a couple of hundred metres I saw my first black grouse.
Whilst anyone in the farmhouse at the bottom of the valley would have had awesome views, the first encounter was quite distant so I thought I would have a drive round to see if there were any more obliging.
I headed upwards on a minor road and it soon became apparent that this particular part of the country was still in the grip of winter.
It also became apparent that there were far fewer birds 'on the tops' than there was in the valley, however one bird was quite prevalent, the iconic species of remote moorland-red grouse.
A combination of sunshine, snow showers and shooting into the sun made for quite dramatic photos.
I went on on the upland road for a bit further but didn't see much so headed back down to a lower level.
One thing that was apparent was the sheer number of birds around, lapwing, redshank and snipe were all displaying, redwings a single song thrush and a pair of mistle thrushes were feeding in the sheep fields and common species such as robins wrens and chaffinches were abundant at every garden and clump of trees.
I headed back to the original area holding the black grouse and 2 males had come a little closer so managed some slightly better shots.
I doubled back to the high road but after a fruitless search I bumped into 2 birders who I recognized from Spurn and they had seen golden plover at a nearby reservoir so I headed out there-whilst the scenery was spectacular I only managed a single and this soon flew out of view, so I headed back to the original site for a l;sat look before heading home.
The 2 birders had just left a site by the side of a wood with a stone wall running its length to provides good cover.
there were 5 grouse at the bottom of the hill but they were slowly heading towards me in a diagonal direction feeding amongst the tufts of course grass.
Eventually they ended up about 20m away but mostly shrouded by grass tufts, and then without warning took flight and ended up quite distant a couple of fields away.
At this point it was time to head back-I called in for the red kites at Warter but only had distant views.
All in all a most enjoyable day what struck me most was the amount of birds in the area at Teesdale I will most definitely be back to this very special place.
I arrived home very tired but very happy after a most wonderful wildlife experience.