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Expeditions » Monitoring of Capercaillies

In lek
Photo: Aivars Petriņš
Start date 04.04.2011
End date 24.04.2011
Days 21
Total amount of people 3


The monitoring is performed during lek of Capercaillies with the goal to count the number of Males present in lek. The monitoring is performed to follow the trend of Capercaillies in Latvia  Since there is no support for carrying the counts from the state this work is undertaken by „Motacilla" Ltd. Lek visits are carried out with agreement with the State Forest Service.


Necessary skills and knowledge

Observers must be able to distinguish capercailly (both sexes) by appearance. Knowledge of behaviour (and song) is desired but not obligatory. Important is precision, proper attitude and interest in this work. Observers shall be able to read maps, work with compass and GPS.


Size of the group

The size of the group is 2 to 9 persons per week. One expert takes maximum 2 to 3 persons in one lek. If the size of the group is 9 persons, the group is divided - 3 persons with each expert.



Basic season is from April 5th to 25th. In some years lek invencories are possible also from March 29th to May 2nd.

Total length of the monitoring is 3 weeks. This time is divided into 3 working weeks. Minimum period for participation is one week. Each working week consists of 5 to 6 days, usually from Monday till Saturday. The first day is for instruction and teaching, the rest - for performance of the registration.



Males are being counted in lek from two to four locations (depends on number of observers participating) to cover properly the whole area of lek which ussually exceeds 10 ha. Observers shall enter the lek about one hour before any activity starts there, in total darkness (aproximately 3 a.m.). Counting ends usually around 8 a.m. The rest of the day within abilities and limits is spent at the closest and/or most suitable on the way to the next lek birdwatching locality.  

Every day 2 to 3 hours are allocated to midday repose. Overnight stay is taking place in guest houses. In some leks which are difficult to reach and upon wishes of participants, it is possible to spend the nights also in tents.

Every day different lek is being surveyed and during the week it is four to five different leks. Average walking distance from parking place till the observation spots varies between 1 to 2 kilometres, in some cases it is up to 5 kilometres. Each lek must be surveyed twice during the season usually it shall be done during different weeks to catch different parts of the season.

Almost every night around the sunrise the temperature might be below 0oC. However even in cases when it is not below 0oC it is very cold anyway since observers MUST stay motionless for one-one an half hours before birds start displaying. The choice of clothing should be especially considered. It has to be warm enough, the best option being several layers of thin clothing with ear inbetween, the upper layer/ jacket must "make" no whizzing noises (like nylon).

It is permitted to use cameras during the survey, but yet there will be no time provided for making hides, that basically excludes the possibility to make good quality of the pictures of Capercaillies since most of the work is carried out in darkness and dawn.


What you can see and hear

Most of the leks of Capercaillies are located in oldgrowth forests with a high biodiversity. Long-term experience of the researchers has shown that during the morning survey in the territory of leks one can expect to hear (and in some cases also to see) all forest owl species of Latvia (tawny, pigmy, Tengmalm's owl, Ural and eagle-owl; even the most recent observations of the great grey owl in Latvia were performed exactly during the lek inventory in eastern part of the country). The lekking season of Capercaillies coincides with the highest activity time for most woodpeckers, so there is a good chance to spot White-backed, Middle spotted, Three-toed, Black and Grey headed woodpecker during the daytime. There is also a reasonably good chance to see wolfs.



Participants of the registration have to cover land-rover's rent, fuel expenses, mealtime expenses and overnight stay expenses for themselves and the experts. If the participants use their own car, expenses are lessened.

For the group of 3 persons (2 participants and the expert) expenses for one person per week are approximately 280 LVL.



Māris Strazds, Jānis Ķuze, Helmuts Hofmanis

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