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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Hide reveals grouse mating habits
Black grouse
Tourist income from the hide can help fund continued grouse conservation
Tourists who like an early start can now get the chance to see one of Wales's rarest birds perform their bizarre mating ritual.

Wales's first black grouse hide has opened in the Clocaenog forest in Denbighshire to give bird-watchers and visitors the chance to get up close.

It is part of a conservation project which has been hailed a success.

Numbers, which had dropped to 131 lekking males in Wales back in 1997 have now risen to 247.

"Lekking" is the term to describe pairs of male grouse, putting on a competitive display to win the attention of the hen.

Iolo Lloyd, a ranger with the Forestry Commission said: "It's a fantastic sight to see, it's so colourful.

"The black grouse is quite a large upland bird and they have this distinctive sound and bubbling noise.

About 20% of visitors coming to north Wales are looking for some sort of wildlife experience
Dewi Davies

"They then fan their tails in this mock-spar in a competition to show which is the strongest and most colourful bird, so the greyhen comes in and they pair off."

The grouse like the woodland and heather moorland habitat and the Clocaenog is amongst six sites in north and mid Wales which have seen concentrated conservation efforts over the last seven years.

Mr Lloyd added: "We've managed the edges of the moor and forest so it's more suitable for the grouse to live, along with partners such as the RSPB and Countryside Council for Wales."

Black Grouse
The grouse's fan-tail display is only part of the mating dance

Last year's breeding season helped produce three chicks per hen - a threefold increase on the previous year's figures.

The hide will give bird-watchers and casual tourists the chance to witness the mating ritual at the start of the breeding season this month.

Dewi Davies of the North Wales Tourism Partnership said the project had linked up with local bed and breakfasts: "About 20% of visitors coming to north Wales are looking for some sort of wildlife experience while they're here and this is a fabulous opportunity for that."

On the first morning of the hide's opening, the grouse were a little shy - with a male pair choosing to perform their ritual a mile from the hide.

Mr Lloyd added: "They were certainly here last week - but with wildlife, they choose to do what they want where they want!"

All being well, after the curious courtship, the greyhens will start laying their eggs from the middle of next month.




SEE ALSO:
Bird lovers receive dawn call
11 May 02  |  Wales
Bid to save black grouse
27 Jul 02  |  Scotland
Dales plan for black grouse
25 Feb 03  |  England


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