Friday, April 20, 2007

More lek surveys

I haven't posted much lately because my early morning schedule has left little time for the rest of my duties with work and family. Recent heavy rains have put a damper on my dirt road travels until they dry out so I am finally catching up on other things. One of them being my blog. Anyway, I continued my lek surveys this past week and managed to get a 1/2 ton diesel Ford pickup very well stuck Wednesday morning in creek crossing that didn't appear THAT boggy at 6:30 am but really was THAT boggy. I did hear my first Boreal Chorus Frogs in the creek that morning (nothing boreal about this scene though).

It is amazing where you can get cell phone coverage these days - I hadn't seen a single person in the 3 days I had been doing these surveys, but was able to call the office with no problem and then had to wait the two hours for my boss to make it out to where I was. Saved me a pretty good walk. If the nearest neighbor hadn't been home and the cell phone hadn't worked it would have been a long walk to the nearest help. The good news was that I wasn't that far away from the lek and was able to get the survey done and feathers collected after the birds had left.

Although getting out of bed so early in the morning has been a bit of a chore, I really like being out in the field during that time of day. Watching the eastern skyline start to glow and witnessing the soft morning light creeping across the landscape and bathing the buttes and sage in the soft rosy glow while still waiting in the morning earth shadow of the lower ground is quite calming and makes the rest of the day special no matter what happens (like getting stuck). I am also able to see a number of animals that I would otherwise miss later in the day.

Although watching the sage-grouse display with the morning light behind me is good for watching bird behavior and taking photos, having the birds in between me and the rising sun is visually much more pleasing. From a distance the lek glitters with dancing birds. When you look closer you can see where the flashes of light originate. As a bird shuffles into a turn facing directly towards me or away from me, it rises up and pulls the bend of it's wings to the base of it's neck.

Their stiletto fan tail is blocked by the rising body of the bird, but as the wings brush down their sides, the birds lean forward revealing a corona of glowing silver spikes. The flash of back lit tails can be seen for miles.

Dad and I are going to try to get out to a lek to take some photos on Sunday morning. Hopefully the roads will be dried out by then. I will post photos later that day if we make it out.


Clare said...

Early morning at a Sage Grouse lek, sounds like a wonderful reason to get up really really early. Photos are wonderful, and once again I find myself envious.

John Carlson said...

I am sure I will be envious of your observations soon enough Clare! Glad you like the photos. Thanks.