Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sage grouse

I have been gone to Utah to a leadership conference with my Student Body Officers. It was a great experience and the kids were absolutely great - all 20 of them.

While in the motel, I read an article about how barbed wire fences are harmful to the Great Sage Grouse and this may place them on the endangered species list. Rather interesting as this will be the thousandth time this has been attempted. Last spring a group tried to outlaw photographers from visiting the leks (breeding grounds) where the grouse congregate each spring. These leks have been used for hundreds of years.  The group said we were disturbing the breeding of the grouse. It is a long story so I will write about that later. But here is proof that when the sex bug bites - who cares if a truck is within eight feet of you.

Meet Whitey - the dominate male of a lek I love to visit. He has been the dominate cock on the lek for the past three years and probably breeds 50 per cent of the hens that visit.  This leaves a lot of jeolous males mad at him. I named him for the white feathers on his left side.


I have seen him surrounded by as many as eight hens waiting to be bred while they ignore the other displaying males.  Here a hen squats, informing Whitey she is ready to be bred.



Whitey mounts her not eight feet from my truck as my camera continues clicking.



As he completes the breeding he is attack by a jeolous male.  I can imagine what is being said, "Who do you think you are?  Warren Jeffs!!!"  as this is the third hen bred that morning by Whitey.



The hen is not very lucky, as she is trapped under the battling males and limps off after escaping from them.



Not two minutes later Whitey is surrounded by four other females, all desiring to be bred by him.



He breeds his fourth hen of the morning just as the sun comes up and the last one as the lek is attack by a pair of golden eagles that flushes them.  There were 27 males and 14 females on the lek that morning.



Hopefully I will be able to visit the leks next spring to get a few more pictures before that activity is outlawed.  I only have about 40,000 pictures of sage grouse, but not the perfect one yet.

Hoping for more wild days in Idaho with the sage grouse.

19 comments:

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Bill: I have seen these on hunting shows and they are such a beautiful bird to get with your camera.

Monts said...

Bill Beautiful Picture story set that sets the scene perfectly. This is something I would love to see but the Black Grouse Leks here are in the far North and Scandinavia, nothing this far South. Great Post Well Done

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Totally awesome, Bill... It's so neat that you are able to see that in person and take photos. Looks like to me that you have 40,000 PERFECT pictures... Wow!!!
Betsy

Jann said...

I agree; I find that when it's breeding season, any animal intent upon pursuit of the opposite sex could care less about the human and his/her vehicle just some-odd feet away! I'm totall jealous that you get to see the sage grouse! Well I could if I could find out where/when in my own area.

Janie said...

We've visited a sage grouse lek near here for years. There's a "sage grouse crossing" sign on the road because they don't seem worried about cars at all. They don't seem to mind photographers, either. As you say, they have other, much more powerful, interests.
Great photos!

Robert Mortensen said...

Great work on the observation and photography of the Sage Grouse. I'm glad you have shown an example that man and beast can co-exist. So much of the world acts as if the earth would be better without mankind upon it. Sure we could all be better stewards and avoid abusing the earth. I just have the perspective that the good Lord put all the plants and animals on this hunk of rock for me to use and enjoy appropriately.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Wow, what else can be said, outstanding photographs of a beautiful species. I have never seen Sage Grouse before and these are great photographic examples. I love how their colouring blends so nicely into the earth tones~

Slow Motion...always an adventure said...

Very interesting set of photos. He really is a handsome bird.

www.wildlifearoundus.blogspot.com

mountain.mama said...

Ah, I went off with a friend one spring in search of such a display but never caught it. I'm glad you did.

Small City Scenes said...

Great show and info. I did a paper on Sage Grouse long ago. Very interesting bird.
Kuk Kuk Kuk

MB

Alpicks Treasures said...

You do very nice pictures. Amazing. Thanks for commenting on mine. I am still just learning how to take good ones. Enjoy your week.

Cloudia said...

Sex and violence, just another Saturday night.
Wonderful post, Bill!



Aloha, Friend


Comfort Spiral

Grayquill said...

I love your pictures and narration. Did the eagles score a kill? You kind of left me hanging in anticipation.

Kathleen said...

Great photos. I've never seen a grouse before.

Gabrielle said...

Sage grouse AND golden eagles!?!? What a day!

Queenie Jeannie said...

Wow! Incredible photos!!

Thank you for stopping by to visit my blog!

troutbirder said...

Funny I had an old picture of ruffed grouse hunting up today on one of my blogs and you have sage pictures. I'm wondering if sage are the same as a rare game bird in southwest Minn. known as prairie chickens???

Mary said...

Fantastic photos, Bill. And thank you for the informative narration. I too care about the environment and about respecting all creatures on the earth, but without the kind of first-hand knowledge you provide, I could easily be misled about the best course of action for the sage grouse.

St Ives Birds & Photo Journal said...

Great photos Bill. It was interesing to hear you mention the barbed wire being a problem for the grouse. We have a similar problem in Scotland where fences were erected to keep Red deer out of sensitive areas but the Capercaillie which is a rare species here cannot see them and so fly in to them and commit accidental Hari kari. Is this what happens with the Sage grouse?