Saturday, April 13, 2013

April Rendezvous - Greater Sage-Grouse

March is the beginning. The beginning of the time when the sun returns to this side of the world and the landscape and it's inhabitants respond. One of the important milestones of the annual return begins in March too, but really peaks in April. This is the time for the prairie grouse to gather on their traditional leks and perform their spring-time ritual displays. As a result, April is a month I look forward to each year, and even more so now that I am much more confined in where I live and where I work. Lek therapy I call it.

So far this April my lek therapy has been limited to one morning on a Greater Sage-Grouse lek south of Billings. It is  ironic that a bird that indirectly causes me so much stress in my professional life can provide so much stress relief when I get to spend time with them directly. My morning last week was no different.

I arrived late in the afternoon just as the trailing clouds from the most recent snowstorm were progressing to the southeast and the sun was making another appearance. There was a tattered blanket of snow on the ground and I grabbed my blind and tripod and headed across the sage to the edge of the lek.  I got the blind situated and headed back to the truck for the night. After my quick dinner I crawled under the topper in the back of my truck settled in for a bit of reading before getting to sleep. That didn't last long - it was a lot colder than I was expecting and despite my preparations I realized pretty quickly that I wasn't going to be able to keep warm enough that way. So off I trundled to the cab of my truck with my sleeping bag and blankets where I spent the rest of the night alternately sleeping and starting the truck every two hours to run the heater. At least until 5:00 that morning. Just as the sun was lightening the eastern sky I gathered my camera and headed to the lek. Once inside my blind I could hear birds already around me and soon I could hear the swishing sound of others winging in around me and the dark space in front of the porthole in my blind slowly filled with birds and light. When the sun finally breached the sky above the Pryor Mountains the birds displaying in front of me were bronzed in the light.

I spent the next four hours watching the birds display and interact. I spent some of the time taking photos, but I also spent a good portion of the time just enjoying the intimate time I had with these birds before they flew off into the surrounding sage.


Montanagirl said...

Oh my goodness - I don't even know what to say! Your photography is STELLAR, and the photos of the Grouse are just amazingly beautiful. Your Dad, Chuck, is always helping me with my Bird I.D.'s when I get stuck. I always appreciate his input. Your blog is wonderful.

MTWaggin said...

That indeed surely made you smile to see the lek busy as ever after freezing the night before. So glad you shared!

John Carlson said...

Thanks Mona. I have been keeping up with your blog for quite a while too. Nice to see what is going on at "home" and what birds and stuff you are finding to photograph.