I cannot remember what time we met Mustafa at the front door of his house, but I can tell you it was at some ungodly hour of the morning when even the rooster was still asleep. He excitedly jumped into the passenger seat of our rental car, and guided Pedro to drive to a place that can only be described as a rental company's worst nightmare— ok, we've done worse on previous trips— and that time with the volcano was with our own Atilla The Krill Mobile (you shall be missed).
This was going to be the day. We would not accept any less than one Caucasian Grouse, and Mustafa assured us that yesterday he saw plenty up there in the pastures doing their thing— çok var! I was optimistic until the rain began— and it wasn't a heavy rain, but that insistent, nagging rain that feels like the very air is a thin veil of wetness. My dutiful boots, which served me so well in hiking through five years of Nepal's monsoons, decided that this was also their day. I squished up the mountainside while testing to see if I had any telepathic powers by mentally calling the grouse. Maybe it would work.
In a flurry of heavily accented Turkish, Mustafa suddenly called out to us, the only words I picked up were Dağ horozu and iki tane— Caucasian Black Grouse, and two. There they went!
This is sadly the best photo we have of the six grouse we saw on this trip, as my little camera can't handle distance nor rain. We each took turns watching a very smart-looking male fan around the female with his brilliant red eyebrows and puffed chest— it was both marvellous and comical. Birds have developed a myriad of absurd ways to attract each other (just think of those crazy Birds-of-Paradise!)— but then again, don't we all look a bit silly when flirting?
Wind and rain prevented us from going any further, and so we made our way back to the car, thrilled and soaking wet, our shoes caked in mud. Mustafa kindly invited us to his home for a breakfast of fresh eggs, milk, and butter— and a hot stove to warm our bones.