The Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is one of the most coveted subjects for bird photographers, especially on the lek, where much interesting bird behaviour takes place. In April I was lucky enough to spend a few nights in tent blinds on a lek in central Sweden, to experience the spectacle firsthand, and get some photos in the process.
The procedure for this is committing; since the birds arrive at the lek in the evening, the photographer must be in the blind, and quiet, by mid-afternoon. With the birds only leaving the lek to forage in the mid-morning the following day you’re looking at no less than 16 hours in the blind/session – and these are pop-up tent blinds with no ground sheet, pitched on desperately uneven and rocky ground, and only JUST long enough for compact me to lay outstretched in. I loved every moment of it!
I was using my 500m f4 as primary lens. On the 7D mkII it was often a bit long, but the 100-400 mkII, which is great in ALMOST every aspect, has a best aperture of f5.6; not what you need in dark conditions, shooting blackish birds, in the deep woods of Sweden. If I had still owned a full-frame camera that would have been perfect on the 500mm – but things turned out OK.
The spectacle is fantastic to witness – the dominant males clash so loudly that you think they break each others’ necks some times, with karate-style blows to the opponents’ head and body, with beak-wrestling and clawing, and with ENDLESS posturing and staring-down, accompagnied by the weirdest sounds you could imagine. The local bird people come back for more year after year, and having been there myself now I don’t blame them – it beats a night at the movies hands down.
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I have literally thousands of images; here’s a selection of them, I hope you enjoy!
- Aperture: ƒ/4
- Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
- Exposure bias: -1/3EV
- Focal length: 500mm
- ISO: 1600
- Shutter speed: 1/80s