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A day with partridges and grouses - in Scotland (1 Viewer)

curlewsandpiper1980

Active member
Location: NE Scotland, Highlands

Today I found a location in the Highlands (quite NW of Aviemore) which is very rich in grouses and partridges. Being a beginner, I need some help.

I am somehow familiar with the pheasant (as I have it near my home and I hear its song in most days) but I am not familiar with all other grouses and partridges.

Today while doing a long hike, I stumbled upon at least 2 or 3 different species.

1) A Red legged partridge? First I saw a flock of 8 walking red-legged partridges, or at least I thought they were so, until I realise they could have been Chukar partridges. As I relied solely in my quick close-look, I missed the neck detail that would distinguish them. This was seen in dense birch/ Scot pine forest.

An hour later, overseeing a river valley with aspen, birch and scot pine, I had 3 more sightings.

2) A Red grouse or even another Red legged partridge? The first one was a grouse-like bird flew quickly up to the edge of the forest, only revealing an unremarkable body but with a bright orange open tail. Of course I understand light conditions can affect the colors. It could have been a red grouse, but also a female black grouse, a female Caper (unlikely) or even a red legged partridge.

3) Unknown bird call 20min later, now more upland where the moor started, I glimpse something flying fast and then far on the grassland, there was a repeated call, which I do not know what it is. I am attaching this recording here https://youtu.be/t_5yRgA7-bk). The short 1-2 second call repeated several times, about once every minute. It might not even be a wildfowl call but something else.

4) A Red Grouse or female Black Grouse? Just a couple mins later and not far from second sighting, I came across a brown/orangeish looking grouse, quite close to it (as I was coming against the wind, so the grouse did not hear me). Once it saw me, it flew straight and slightly downwards over the deep river valley to the other side (actually it glide rather than flying), which took it about 30 seconds, so I could see a bright brown/orangeish body, open tail (pale brownish?). As the valley is deep, the bird flew quite at a height and landed on the top of the tall trees by the river down there. Made no sound.
I think it was most likely a red grouse. As I did not notice a white bar on wings, I don't think it was a female black grouse (though it was also one of my guesses). I also wouldn't expect to be a female Caper, as the area is not a dense Scot pine wood, but I do not know Capers well, and I do not know if they are present in open heath and grassland.

Comments?

Other birds in the area included meadow pipits, stonechats, possible sedge warblers, and a possible golden eagle sighting.
 
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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
There’s a bit to unpack here!;)

1) The partridge would have been Red-legged Partridge (very unlikely to be Chukar which are found in the Middle East/Asia)
2) Again sounds like a R-l Partridge or Grey-legged (the most stark feature on both these as they fly away from you is a deep rufous red tail)
3) I could be wrong but this sounds a bit like the alarm/contact call of a female/or juvenile Merlin - check here to listen to some calls https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Falco-columbarius
4) Difficult to say, perhaps a female Black Grouse given it flew up into trees and perched at the top - Red Grouse tend to favour moorland/open habitat away from trees.

I see you just edited your post in light of what I have written of the options you have here and then added them in in bold as questions so I hope it was helpful.
 
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curlewsandpiper1980

Active member
Thanks,

I kinda of agree with your suggestions.
Makes sense for bird 2 to be a red legged partridge, as they were abundant in the area, so it could have been another one. Or maybe a red grouse, due to the orange/ red tail. I even think it was most likely a red grouse.
Regarding 3, I heard on xeno-canto, the calls from the Merlin. It might have been one, or something in the lines of a juvenile bird of prey rather than my first thought of another grouse.
Regarding 4) I also though first of a female black grouse. It flew really far (from one side of the valley to the other, slightly downwards, while gliding). Would a red grouse do that?
 
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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Thanks,
Regarding 4) I also though first of a female black grouse. It flew really far (from one side of the valley to the other, slightly downwards, while gliding). Would a red grouse do that?

To be honest, when they take off it’s usually with a real frantic whirr if flushed and with fast wing beats but they do long glides too.
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Thanks Deb, Which one does that (making a real frantic and flapping their wings)? The red grouse or the black grouse?

They both have rapid wingbeats mixed with glides like many gamebirds and based on your descriptions it’s not possible to say for certain what any of these species are that you are seeing - (I would have thought you would have noticed the whitish underwing if it were Black Grouse that flew into the tree although probably not if it was flying low and away from you). It may be worth you investing in a field guidebook, like Collins or something and take a notepad out with you - its very easy to forget details and the imagination takes artistic licence when it’s left to fill in the gaps!

This may be helpful

https://www.bto.org/develop-your-skills/bird-identification/videos/bto-bird-id-grouse

Just to say, with all these species, in June and July, I’m sure you are already aware of this but people should be very wary of walking in areas if they are flushing birds up from the ground and should avoid walking through heather and long grasses, keeping strictly to footpaths and any dogs on the lead:

Some good advice here http://www.blackgrouse.info/forbirdwatchers/code.htm
 

curlewsandpiper1980

Active member
Thanks for your extra advice, Deb.

There was a jeep track which I walked, but the several grouses and partridges I came across with, were all next to the path (despite I was alone and in silence). The area is very remote so not very frequented, in one entire day I only came across two mountain bikers passing by me, and it was a sunny Saturday. Scottish highlands are like this.
 

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