09 April 2011

Sagebrush and sage grouse

Male sage grouse on lek, displaying. Belle Fourche, South Dakota.

It is spring on the plains and prairies. This means beautiful, soft, mild weather interspersed with scattered ice, fog, high wind, snow, thunderstorms and tornadoes. Two years ago we missed the annual crane trip to Nebraska and just about everything else happening in April because we had major blizzards for 3 out of 4 weekends. This year, the situation is much better, but we don't assume anything.

We went to a site near Wyoming to watch the annual safe grouse lek. Check out the action here. These are shy birds. Normally this trip consists of watching three moving specks on the horizon that look like animated pepper grains and assuring everything that, yes, we do see the grouse, and aren't they lovely? This year, we got the display up close and personal, with a lone male dancing away from the main lek. This guy was dancing and booming for all he was worth, cold or no cold. We could hear him booming. It's love. It's spring.


Facing us, air sacs, fully inflated.

Dancer in the sagebrush.


Closer to us, great view.

Good view of the inflated air sacs.

Turning in place...

Turning again...

The object of his affections.

Tail fan.

Tail fan.

Moving away...

Tail fan.

Dancing in circles as he slowly moves away.

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