My second mission for Wild Wonders of Europe did not send me far from my home land. I look at Sweden as my second home country, with beautiful natural surroundings. This time I came here to take pictures of displaying black grouse and capercaillie in the region called Bergslagen, and thanks to a nice black grouse lek I visited and several wonderful sunrises, mission part 1. is already completed.
After a long winter with a lot of snow, spring came later than usual in Bergslagen. When we (my wife, Orsolya, and I) arrived in the beginning of April, extensive snow patches covered the forest floor, and most lakes were frozen. The staff of Nordic Safari, who support Wild Wonders of Europe by giving us a free run of the use of their hiding tents for watching the black grouse, has set up their tents on a wet bog, where a dozen of male grouses put on a display each morning from late March to early May. This year 13 males are playing in this area, which is, unfortunately, only half the amount of last year’s population.
I do not know of many things that would make me feel better than staying overnight in a hiding tent with birdsongs in the air. When it is still too dark for photography, I just lie in my sleeping bag and listen to all the sounds that spring has brought along. The symphony orchestra of the forest is broadening every single day with a new instrument, as the migrating bird species arrive back to their nesting areas and fill the forest with the sound of life. In the dark hours, the hornlike sound of the cranes breaks the silence, and then at 5 o’clock in the morning, nature awakens to the echoing concert of the black grouse, starting suddenly out of nowhere.
Through countless generations, black grouse have been gathering in traditional areas every single year to complete their odd courtship ritual. Sitting in a hiding tent in the middle of their playing ground, bizarre sounds can be heard from all directions: bubbling, “hussh”-ing and other strange noises. Every male is displaying in a small territory in the lekking area, and there are often fights between the owners of the neighbouring territories.
The goal of the game is to fight for the most central territory that will be visited by the females later in April for mating. The display of the males lasts until 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning and stops as sudden as it started a few hours earlier.
No morning is like another. So far we have had clear sky, rain, fog or simply cloudy weather. Unfortunately it is not only us visiting the lek. On the second morning a goshawk landed on a treetop a few metres from the hide, after an unsuccessful attack on one of the grouses. I can only hope that next time he will not choose my favourite grouse to fill his empty stomach with…
After the morning photography, a wonderful experience itself, we are introduced to some great culinary experiences in Bergslagen. Hellen & Thomas Sundqvist, the owners of the Ulvsbomuren wilderness lodge, serve us some amazing food every single day. Most of the raw ingredients are collected from the local forest: wild meat, berries, mushrooms, used to great effect to create some wonderful dishes, something we have never experienced before and never expected during our fieldwork. Thank you Hellen and Thomas, we really appreciate your work!
Erlend Haarberg / Wild Wonders of Europe
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.