I admit, the agenda that I set for our Colorado trip was ambitious. I think Todd was worried but the itinerary actually worked out great. We now refer to our trip as the Non-Chicken Trip since we saw all of the Grouse but neither of the Prairie Chickens. We cut out the chickens due to the location of those leks being really far away. We would have needed 2 more days to get to those. Plus, the chickens can actually be found in other states.
We started our grouse trip in Gunnison located in the southwest part of the state where there is a very rare Gunnison's Sage Grouse. Gunnison is the only place in the world to see this grouse and the wildlife rangers are very strict about viewing the lek. There are a million rules:
- Arrive 1 hour before dawn
- Park in designated spots (NOT ON THE ROAD!)
- No headlights
- No talking
- Stay in your car
- Remain at the lek until all birds are finished displaying
With all of these rules, you would think that the birds would be really close and skittish. Turns out, this was our view. I had to use red arrows to point out the birds. The ridge was 1 kilometer away.
|Gunnison Sage Grouse lek|
On to our next quarry - Dusky Grouse which can also be seen near Gunnison at the Black Canyon park. Although many birders find the Dusky here, they usually do not see them displaying since these birds do not use a lek. When we arrived at the canyon, we ran into a birder who we know from New Jersey - Tom Johnson. Tom is an excellent birder and a professional tour guide. He had 2 vans of birders looking for Dusky Grouse and found one on the side of the road. Todd and I stopped to view that bird and found 2 more further up the road. Then we found this guy actually displaying. You can see the red air sacs on his neck and the yellow eyebrows.
|Dusky Grouse display|
We spent 2 hours watching the display. I shot 2000 photos.
|Greater Sage Grouse Lek|
The obvious question is: Why did the chicken cross the road? Answer: Sex!
After all of the birders and most of the birds left the lek, this male kept at it. Click the play button on the video.
He was rewarded (if you know what I mean) by this female. Believe me, this photo is the G-rated version. I have X-rated versions too.
|Done for the day|