Capercaillie ‘lek’ in the forest
It’s twilight and the melodic singing of Thrushes punctuates the silence above the twisted trunks of the surrounding pine forest. In the pale summer evening light, you silently settle into the pre-prepared hideout patiently waiting for the male Capercaillies’ to begin their amazing courtship and mating dance. Get some sleep before the drama starts as there is no risk you will oversleep and miss this ancient display of male cockiness and female flirting.
There is something primeval about the mating behavior of Capercaillie. It’s reminiscent of 19th-century costume drama, pompous, deadly serious and rather silly at the same time. As daylight emerges over the forest the cock seemingly glides around on railroad tracks like a small locomotive, puffing testosterone and showing off his feathers.
Then suddenly a squadron of cooing hens fly overhead to check out the neighborhood. The cock goes wild and starts flying up and down like a yo-yo, almost somersaulting in ecstasy, flapping his wings noisily to attract attention. The hens are impressed and join the party leading to a visual spectacular where any kind of flirting seems to be allowed to attract the dancing male.
Your close encounter with Capercaillie actually starts the previous day as we must settle into the hide well in advance of the Capercaillies’ arrival. You walk on a small track over easy terrain winding through a marshland forest of small twisted pine trees. The hide is a strategically placed tent. The evening’s serenity and silence is a relaxing prelude to the frenetic early morning performance.
There are strict rules so that you don’t disturb the Capercaillie love story. So long as you abide by the rules you’ll return home amazed and amused by the hidden world of these wonderful, secretive creatures of the forest.