Finding Hazel Grouse in the Carpathians

HaselhuhnHazel Grouses (Bonasa bonasia) are certainly one of the most thought-after bird species for naturalist and bird photographers in western Palearctic. This is in parts due to the fact, that this bird is one of the few autochthon representatives of the Phasianidae family in Middle Europe. And: actually it is a very beautiful bird. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately for the keen photographer – it is a difficult bird to observe or even photograph. In so far, not too many images are available, especially photos of the middle european subspecies of Hazel Grouse. Besides the fact, that it is said, that it’s European breeding population is very large and amounts to more than 2,500,000 pairs, it is rare in European countries but Scandinavia and Russia. It is difficult to photograph as it is a shy and cautious bird with a lot of predators which hunt on them. The Hazel Grouse or Hazel Hen is a sedentary species, breeding across northern Eurasia as far east as Hokkaido, and as far west as central and eastern Europe, in dense, damp, mixed coniferous woodland, preferably with some spruce, hazel and willows.

Some years ago I was lucky with the northern subspecies of Hazel Grouses; with Bonasa bonasia bonasia. The image of the blog was shot in Finland.

More attempts e.g. in the Alps or in Middle Europe in the mountains and forested hills in the middle of Germany were not successful. Hazel Grouses have at least 5 different subspecies in Europe and I was keen to photograph one of the subspecies of the Middle European range. These birds are said to be browner than the

Residual population of the Hazel Grouses are restricted to the more remote forested and mountainous areas of Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and further east. After having seen and especially heard several individuals in Germany and  Austria, I decided to devote a specialized trip to this elusive species. I decided for Slovakia, because the experience and expertise of the owner of a Slovakian trip agency, Vlado Trulik, convinced me. Vlado arranged for a guiding by local rangers and guides. He recommended a trip for one week in April.

What is important, is the right habitat…..

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