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A quick blog, and the first in a while, mostly to record one of the highlights of a summer that is rapidly receding into distant memory… 
I saw a capercaillie a couple of weeks ago. It was one of the most understated but thrilling things I’ve ever had the privilege to see, so definitely worthy of the first blog in a while.

The sighting was all thanks to Sam Thompson, who had taken me and two other friends to a patch of ancient Caledonian forest near Aviemore for the evening. I’d brought a pair of Leica Geovid HD-B binoculars with me on a jaunt to Scotland, and our primary purpose was to compare them with a few other pairs in low light. (Since starting to work with Leica sport optics as a client, I’ve discovered optics geek tendencies I never suspected I had…) 

 I’d never seen a live capercaillie before – all the ones I’d seen were either stuffed or on Springwatch. I therefore jumped with excitement when Sam pointed one out. 

There was no drama about the bird itself, no grand display of aggression or noise, not so much as a fluttering of wings. It was simply waddling along at one side of the track in the twilight. It was a wonderfully unglamorous sight compared with, say an eagle or a red stag, but very satisfying and comforting.

It was almost certainly aware of us – we were hardly quiet or inconspicuous – but it didn’t mind us being there and continued as before. This was more than could be said for us. We had been laughing and talking loudly. When Sam alerted us to the caper, we fell into an awed silence, which was broken only to swear (as quietly as possible) at the midges.

Astonishingly, though we were equipped with several pairs of binoculars and a telescope, none of us had a camera or even a camera phone, so there’s no photographic record. (As I’m told all social media posts must have images, however, o have included some gratuitous optics images in this one…)

There were several other highlights of that recent Scottish trip, including a short-but-sweet spot of stalking, some walked up shooting, some very special whisky drunk from some exquisite jam jars, a high-octane midnight game of monopoly, climbing hills to watch herds of red deer, and some unbelievably good weather. The very best bit was, however, the capercaillie. 

   
   
The only problem was that all this made the prospect of heading back to London, with its complete lack of grouse species, even less appetising than usual. Fortunately, almost as soon as I was back, work threw something in my path that has made even London a lot more palatable. I’ll blog about that too if I get a moment this week…

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