Black grouse lek – Spring’s most beautiful adventure

I wake up from the characteristic sound of the black grouse. It is still dark and I can barely see the birds on the marsh. The game is on - the highlight of the spring.

Text and Photo: Martin Blom

We are just heading into the peak season for the black grouse lek and the last two weeks of April are usually the best with the most action. The males start singing early in the spring, but the mating time is normally within the end of this month. The males gather in the same places every year to show off and fight. The black grouse make an almost continuous bubbling sound, regularly interrupted by a hissing sound – they are cackling and whistling, while they are dancing around each other. The mix between singing and fighting creates an adventurous atmosphere at daybreak. The goal for the males is to impress the females and the reward for the winner is to pass on his genes when the hens choose their mate.

After weeks with singing and fighting one of the males gets his reward - chosen by a hen and the act is over within seconds

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When I was a little kid my parents took me out watching the black grouse lek. I learned both where to find it and how to behave.The black grouse can be heard several kilometers away so if you have no idea where to go – spend one extra night out you should be able to hear them at daybreak (listen to the sound in the video). Then you can search open fields or a marsh for tracks (if snow) feathers and droppings and you probably have the right spot for the night. Or it might be worthwhile talking to some locals, hunters, fishermen or outdoor enthusiasts – they pretty much know where to find the areas.

We normally build a shelter with logs and cover them with branches from spruce trees. With a nice shelter, a sleeping bag and a pair of binoculars you can watch the birds from distance without scaring them. We seek shelter just before it is dark but the birds are more active early morning than late night. If a full moon they may sing continuously the whole night. From daybreak they keep the show going for some hours if not disturbed by you, a fox, birds of prey or just the wind.

From April 15 you are in general not allowed a bonfire in Norway. If you’re not at an approved campfire it might be a good idea to bring a multifuel or similar for cooking so you can have your morning coffee, eggs and bacon!

Nothing like a breakfast in the woods!

- Martin Blom

The whole outdoor package has so much to offer, easily available outside your doorstep. I live in Oslo and I find the black grouse just outside the city. If you go by bicycle or skis you will find the nearest places within 30 minutes from the main roads. Going out with friends and family to watch these magnificent birds in combination with good fellowship is a fantastic experience in nature. If you haven’t seen the black grouse lek before I really recommend you to spend a night or two outside. If you’ve witnessed it before you understand what I mean and then you probably have no doubt what to do over the next few weeks… Good luck – get out and enjoy spring`s most beautiful adventure!

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