I find Red Grouse to be fascinating creatures. I saw my first one last year and spent the rest of that day running around the moors in what seemed like increasingly futile attempts at getting a decent photograph. Being a game bird they are incredibly wary of people which meant that any approach in the open was met with furious flapping and the view of a plump backside. I deployed various tactics including crawling along behind stone walls and using the lie of the land to hide my presence, but ultimately got my first and up to that point only Grouse photo by dropping to the floor and waiting for a female bird to wander in my direction. I was very pleased with the results but didn’t half get some funny looks off passing walkers.
On only the second day of our Leeds trip I was back up on the Yorkshire Moors near Grassington hoping to better my previous efforts. The sun was out and after only a few minutes of walking we had already spotted the distinctive markings of Red Grouse in the soft ground. Soon after came their distinctive call followed by a group of three birds which erupted from very near our feet. Talk about good camouflage! As I watched them disappear over the horizon I began to wonder if I had just squandered what was probably going to be my best chance of the day. Fortunately I was to be proved wrong just a little further up the valley when I spied a male and female pair skulking through an area of burned Heather. I crept as close as I dared and was rewarded with a nice composition and pose, even though I was looking into the sun.
Just around the corner another Grouse was in a much better position and showing off its pale fluffy legs brilliantly. I’d not noticed these before and they are presumably a godsend when winter really starts to bite.
I was already very happy with the photos above when I spotted yet another Grouse sat on top of one of the ancient stone walls that criss-cross this landscape. At first I used another wall for cover but for some reason this individual was so tame that I was able to come out into the open and approach to within a few metres. The results speak for themselves.
Looking at this series of photos it’s hard to imagine that this particular valley was once a hive of activity with mining for lead ore being the primary employer. As a result the whole area resembles something like swiss cheese beneath the surface. While taking the photos above the unstable nature of these old workings was perfectly demonstrated as the sound of falling rocks drifted up from a location that seemed to be directly under my feet. Not being something you expect to encounter I looked around but could see no visible sign of anything untoward. Slightly unnerving but definitely a moment that will stick in my memory for a long time to come.