Saturday, April 14, 2007

A day in the Field

Fort Peck, MT - Yesterday I spent the day looking for Greater Sage-grouse feathers. I am collecting feathers for DNA work being done by a colleague in Alberta. On the way to my first lek I flushed a young Golden Eagle perched on a rock along the dirt road I was traveling on. It had a hard time getting off the ground and it's distended crop suggested that it had been eating something nearby. I stepped out of the truck and found the remains of a Cottontail Rabbit that the bird had eaten. It must have been pretty hungry - there was nothing left of the rabbit except hair, the backbone, leg bones and feet. Even the skull was picked clean with only the jaws and teeth left.

The first two leks I visited were easy to find. I had surveyed both of them earlier and they were fairly close to the road so even with the birds gone I was able to find the lek pretty easily. The last lek I had surveyed earlier too but it was nearly a half mile away from my vantage point and in the middle of a large flat area. I spent about a half an hour wandering around playing the hotter/colder game with the density of green worms of grouse poop and grouse tracks in the mud. I finally made my way to the main area of the lek and gathered my last pile of feathers.

The weather has finally gotten back to April normal here. It happened about 5:00 Thursday evening. Today was the best so far and the boys and I spent the better part of this morning wandering around the yard doing spring chores. The birds in the backyard haven't changed much lately. Red-winged Blackbirds, House Sparrows, House Finches, Robins, and Blue Jays are about it. One of the Blue Jays coming into the yard is a bird that I banded here last fall. I do still have about 5 or 6 Common Redpolls at the thistle feeder and there were even about 20 here on Wednesday when it was fairly cold here.
I haven't had a chance to go to a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek in many years but I recently found this web site that has some great photos of Sharp-tails dancing. Makes me want to get out to a Sharp-tail lek this spring!

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