The Grasses are Coming to Life
Spring is trying to sneak out from under this winter’s cold grasp. Grouse are one bird species that truly celebrate the coming of spring in a big way. Gathering on leks all around the globe, the males dawn their best plumage, rise very early and start to dance and call in their attempts to attract a mate. Leks, typically an area of topography that can be as small as a spot on a log to as big as a couple of acres, come to life just prior to sunrise and then the activity peaks as the sun hits them and then fades away not too long after the sun is shinning on the lek. It’s a fascinating right of spring the grouse pursue in their drive to create the next generation.
I’ve been very fortunate to photograph all the grouse of No America except the Ruff Grouse. These are simply really cool birds I love to watch and photograph. Above are the Greater Prairie Chickens whose mating ritual is dramatic and hilarious all at the same time. Below are the Greater Sage Grouse, large birds that dance up a storm ending when they inflate their air sacs calling for love across the sage. The Sage Grouse are literally in my backyard and I started looking for them this week to see if the annual celebration as begun. It’s been real quite so far but signs are it’s about to burst. Grouse are generally a long lens, low light, walk very softly photography proposition. Sadly, many leks have been closed off because of human disturbance. But other leks on refuges have tours that I highly encourage you to participate in. If you get hooked on this annual wildlife ritual, hopefully you’ll work with biologists to gain access and then share your photos. Many states no longer have any grouse, they’ve become extinct. Some are listed as endangered and fighting for their existence. The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken (below) is one that is just hanging on considering one hundred years ago, there were over a million of them. They all need your photography to tell their unique story!