Glen Tanar black grouse count

Jeremy Squire is a member of the reserve team at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve. As part of his wider work around Scotland he recently had a day away from Loch Leven, to help with the annual census we take of the Glen Tanar black grouse. Here he gives us a short update on how his journey north went.

It was an early start so I ventured up to Aberdeenshire the night before and had a comfortable evening in the back of the van.

The Rangers and estate workers had all been allocated areas to count and driving through the ancient forest the following morning before dawn was quite exciting. After dropping everyone off, I headed to the end of the Glen and onto my own count section.

Black grouse are best surveyed when they are lekking. A lek is where male birds assemble to engage in competitive displays to attract females. As soon as I got out of the van I was surrounded by the ‘whirring’ and ‘bubbling’ calls of the lekking grouse. It was not quite light, but after ten minutes or so I could locate at least four males strutting their stuff around me and another flew in to join the group.

Black grouse male displaying at lek

Black grouse male displaying at lek. Image (c) Mark Hamblin/2020Vision

The Rangers later pointed me in the direction up the Glen where I was likely to find more. I hiked up the hill. I heard no Black Grouse but lots of red grouse and a few ring ouzels.

Red grouse

Red grouse

I was beginning to think I was in the wrong place, but I got to the top of another small hill and before long the familiar sound started up and again I was surrounded by black grouse. I also had a couple of females fly past.

I could hear a merlin calling nearby and then was lucky enough to get great views of a male merlin through the telescope. Scanning the breaks in the heather on the neighbouring estate there were even more grouse. You should be aware that black grouse are easily disturbed at the Lek. For safe watching please observe this RSPB guidance –

Black Grouse in the early morning gloom

Black Grouse in the early morning gloom

After completing my task in Glen Tanar I had a quick visit to Muir of Dinnet NNR. I had the good fortune to work in the visitor centre last year, and this time around I was lucky to spot a red squirrel near the visitor centre and an otter on Loch Kinnord. I was also really fortunate to have an osprey catch a fish right in front of me – I saw the common gulls lift, and the redshank start alarming, and suddenly a loud slap as the osprey dropped in. It flew away with what appeared to be a small pike.

I missed out on those famous adders though.

Jeremy is now back at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve where the wildlife is no less exciting, and you can follow events at Loch Leven on our NNR blog @



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