There is a wood in a glen that holds a big surprise, but if you were to go down to the wood today you definitely wouldn’t find a teddy bear’s picnic. What you may find is a crazy capercaillie that owns this patch and, in order to defend it, is prepared to take on all-comers regardless of size, threat or risk of personal injury.
This rogue* bird is something of a local legend and has even been featured on TV. Even so, capercaillies aren’t the most well known birds, they are usually difficult to see and don’t have a place in the psyche of everyday folk, unlike more symbolic birds. I’m thinking here of birds such as the dove (a sign of peace), the puffin (clown of the sea) or a robin (the gardener’s friend) for example. However, after each of the few occasions that I’ve tried to photograph this crazy ‘caper’, I have come away with a symbolic association of my own – that a fully charged up male is akin to a psychotic nightclub doorman looking for an excuse to prove how tough he is.
Personal space is also an alien concept to this fella’ and once aware of an ‘intruder’ he is prone to charge in frighteningly close. When that happened I was more than willing to back off and try to keep a respectful distance between us, which was more difficult than I expected it to be (let me tell you, photographing this bird was no easy picnic). I was driven by an instinct no more altruistic than my own survival. Why? Because I have seen this particular bird come nightclub bouncer draw blood. Thankfully, it wasn’t mine.
* Rogue is a term often used to refer to birds that exhibit unusual or exaggerated characteristics, in this case aggressive behaviour that would normally only be expected at a spring lek being evident throughout the year and without restraint.