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Black grouse and capercaillie

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Photograph and experience the impressive courtship display of the black grouse on one of the best lekking sites of the country. An event described here in Norway as the biggest adventure of the spring. You also get the chance to photograph the display of the stunning and majestic capercaillie, the shyest of all grouse species. Even though this species is very difficult to get in front of the lens. our lekking site has proven itself year after year. Our hides are spread out over the lekking site, giving plenty of opportunities to photograph the birds in different settings and light directions.  

 

Photographing black grouse

You will be brought to the hides in the late evening. The hides are 2x2 meter, which offers enough space to sleep comfortably. Sleeping mats are provided and warm sleeping bags can be rented on location. You will sleep in the tent until you get woken up by the black grouse arriving on the display area (somewhere between 2:00 and 4:30). The birds will stay in front of the photo tents until somewhere between 8:00 and 10:00. You have to stay in the hides until the guide will pick you up after the birds have left. 

 

Photographing capercaillie

The male capercaillie gather at the display area already in the evening. Here they sit in the trees and keep a close eye on the area. If the birds have not spotted any danger, they will start their display between +/- 02:00 and 04:00. The display normally lasts until around 10:00 but can last all the way until 13:00. The females arrive around 05:00 at the display area and gather in the territory of the most dominant male.

 

You will be brought to your photo hides between 18:00 and 19:00. Here you will spend the night until you get woken up by the males displaying on the ground. The display is for a large part a vocal play. This means that the males are constantly listening to the sounds coming from the surroundings. It is very important that you are quite! Also sudden movements with the camera can scare them off! To limit the amount of sound and movement, all camera gear is set up in the evening already, before the birds arrive. Additionally, we advise you to bring a thick warm sweater for in the hide. Jackets can make too much noise when moving. The hides are waterproof, so there is no need for a waterproof layer. The sweater will do the job perfectly.

The hides

We work with tents so that we can easily pick the best photo spots. On the black grouse lek, the tents allow you to put your lens at any height between 0 and 80cm above the ground. This will allow you to pick an high angle in order to get the ground as background or an extreme low angle in order to get those intense low angle shots which you need for photographing with back light. Some of the hides are positioned with the rising sun in the back and others are positioned facing towards the sunrise. This is perfect for making those special back light pictures!

On the capercaillie lek we also work with tents. The birds can change where they display on the lek. Therefor it is important to be able to easily move the hides if needed. The tents have enough space to sleep in and can have up to 3 tripods up at the same time. There are in total 9 openings to photograph from, covering almost the complete 360 degrees.

 

There are no toilets in the hides. You will have to bring a pee bottle with you. For the ladies, we advise to use a "Travel John" urinal. 

 

Other species which can be seen and photographed during the trip

-Moose. On some evenings there is the possibility to look for moose. We will photograph the animals from the car. During these drives, we will have a good chance to also photograph roe deer, crane, mountain hare, black grouse and capercaillie.

-Osprey. Not too far from our accommodation, a pair of ospreys is nesting. From photo tents we will photograph how the pair builds the nest, mates and eat fish.

-Small singing birds. In the backyard of the accommodation are bird feeders which attract several species of small singing birds, such as birch finch, bull finch, green finch and nuthatch. 

-Owl species. From year to year there are many owls to be found in the surroundings of our accommodation. In 2015 there were no owls in the area, because the vole population collapsed. In 2013, 2014 and 2018 we photographed the great grey ow, northern hawk owl and the boreal owl in this area. There is no guarantee that there will be any owls in the area, but the chances are good. 

Getting to the hides

Depending on the amount of snow, it takes about a 15 minute hike to both leks. To the black grouse lek, we walk through flat terrain. The past few hundred meter can be boggy. High boots are an absolute must. To get to the capercaillie lek, we have to walk slightly uphill. Also here we have to cross a small bog. Rubber boots will come in handy. 

Itinerary

  • Day 1. Pick up at Oslo Gardermoen airport. The guide will bring you to your accommodation and will give you a short introduction for the coming days. Dinner is included for this day. In the evening you will be brought to one of the leks where you will spend the night in the hide. 

  • Day 2 - 6. In the early morning you will photograph either the black grouse or the capercaillie. Ideally you will have 3 sessions at each lek. After the lekking is done, you will be picked up by the guide. Back at the accommodation you eat breakfast, back up your images of the morning, catch some sleep or photograph around the accommodation. There are bird feeders next to the apartments and the Rena River is just a few hundred meters away. Here you can find whooper swans, golden eyes, cranes, goosanders and dippers. Dinner is served at 17:00. After dinner it is time to head out again to the capercaillie lek. If the light allows it, the photographers who will go to the black grouse lek, can head out for moose, owls and other wildlife. 

  • Day 7. You will have the last photo session on one of the leks. After breakfast you will be brought back to Oslo Gardermoen airport for you flight home. 

 

Please contact us for inquiries for other dates and other questions.

Or fill in the booking form below.

2021: 15 - 21 April (Fully booked!)

2021: 24 - 30 April (Fully booked!)

2021: 1 - 7 May (Fully booked!)

2022: 15 - 21 April 

2022: 24 - 30 April 

2022: 1 - 7 May

7 days, 6 nights in the hides 

Deset (2 hours north from Oslo airport)

2 - 6 persons

Twin room apartments with own bathroom, kitchen and living room

Guided by Floris Smeets

19.500,- NOK (3500,- NOK deposit)

Oslo Gardermoen Airport

Price includes

  • Accommodation: Cozy twin room apartments, with own bathroom, kitchen and living room. 

  • Breakfast, lunch and diners.

  • Transport: All local transport, including the pick-up and drop off at Oslo Gardermoen airport. 

  • Tips for photographing on the lek.

  • 3 morning photo sessions in a private hide.

Single rooms: 4200,- NOK extra

Price does not include

  • Flights to and from Oslo Gardermoen airport

  • Alcoholic beverages and snacks

  • Sleeping bag rental. Sleeping bags can be rented for 500,- NOK per week 

Photo equipment
The birds display on various distances from the hides. On a full frame body a 400mm, 500mm or 600mm will be the best choice. On a crop body a 300mm would do the job as well. Some birds might come very close (1-2 meter), so an additional shorter lens such as a 70-200mm or a 100-400mm can come in handy.

 

Additionally you should bring:

  • Tripod / beanbag

  • Plenty of memory cards 

  • Plenty of batteries

  • Battery charger

  • Camera bag

  • Pee bottle (for the ladies we advise to use a "Travel John" urinal. 

Clothing

The temperature around this time of the year can still vary a lot. Bring plenty of layers so you can dress accordingly. On day time it can be somewhere between 0 and +20 degrees Celsius, but at night the temperature will most likely drop below 0 degrees. Expect the temperature to be around -5 degrees Celsius at night. 

To get to the hides, we have to walk for about 15 minutes. Don't dress too warm for during the walk and bring rain clothing. From mid April the snow will start to melt. High rubber boots are an absolute must!

 

List of clothing:

  • Thin gloves for photographing

  • Warm hat

  • Scarf 

  • Warm thick (woolen) sweater 

  • Rain clothing

  • High rubber boots or snow boots, depending on when in the season you will come

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Guest testimonials

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Melvyn (DE)

I have been on a number of Floris's trips over the last few years to photograph Capercaillie and Black Grouse. Floris is a great host who goes out of his way to ensure that I always have the best opportunities to photograph the elusive Capercaillie and feisty Black Grouse. Floris always prioritizes his guests first and foremost and I now consider Floris a good friend rather than just a photography guide. As a bonus, Floris is great cook and always makes sure his guests are well fed.

 

My highlight of each visit has been to see the Capercaillie and their bizarre lekking rituals. And no trip would be complete without meeting the very charismatic Funky (Floris's dog).

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