A great new adventure began in 2012 when I acquired a little over five acres of neglected fen woodland on the banks of the River Yare. The intention over the next years is to upraise its wildlife potential through practical work and with the support of others, but especially my friend, poet Matt Howard. Blackwater Blog is a way of recording these slow-won achievements and celebrating this glorious patch of wild Norfolk.
Here are black grouse seen at dawn at Corrimony RSPB in Highland as part of our fabulous Aigas Wildlife week. Elsewhere I have written of these birds as follows: " Displaying males inflate their necks to emphasise the lustrous blue-black of their feathers. The head is arched down, then thrust forward, a lyrate tail is opened behind and white under coverts puff out in an extravagant bustle, while the broad black wings, banded and spotted with white, are bowed down and spread. As a final visual flourish males have curious sea-anemone-like wattles of bare skin above each eye and in the heat of display they fill with blood and stand proud on the head in a thick gash of scarlet. As if the splendour of all this martial costume were not enough, black grouse produce a music that has few equals and very little frame of reference in the rest of British ornithology. The base note is a weird volatile quavering or wobbling sound that is often named as 'ro-cooing'. It is unfathomable and it also seems without source and it would be easy to imagine that it arises not in the bird's vocal chords, but out of the ground. The unleashing of all that avian testosterone has somehow fractionally shifted the tectonic plate beneath them and the Earth itself must let it simmer out. There is one final gild I must mention. The best time to watch a lek is at dawn when everywhere can be rimed with frost. If the sun is visible then the whole landscape glitters. As the birds advance and back away in synchronised formation they let out a second vocal challenge, a hard aspirated crow-like cho-wakkkkk. Just prior to you hearing it - since the sounds takes a split second to travel through the freezing air - the noise is visible as a ragged globe of mist from the bird's beak."
© Mark Cocker 2013