Sunday, April 12, 2015

Post #18 - Greater sage-grouse showcase in Coalmont, Colorado!

First, I have created a Facebook page for The Speckled Hatchback. Please take two seconds to "like" it here. The more "likes" I can amass, the more potential there will to pull other people and organizations into the fold on the birding and conservation fronts.  It will also be a main pipeline through which I disseminate information moving forward. If you use already Facebook, please think about helping me with this, I would really appreciate it!

OK, on with birds! Greater sage-grouse was a bird that gave me nightmares during my bicycle Big Year. I spent countless hours tramping through appropriate sage habitat at a number of locations, mainly in Colorado, before I was finally able to flush about a dozen of the large but surprisingly sneaky grouse just north of Vernal, UT. This find was particularly meaningful as Sonia was visiting me during that time. She was able to share in the excitement as I finally ticked this species for year bird #503. It’s funny that she was present for a piece of the Colorado legs both this year and last. We both agree that if we don’t live on either coast, Colorado would probably be our destination of choice.

During my exhaustive sage-grouse search last year, I made friends with a couple of property owners in Coalmont, Colorado. After my visit last year, they invited me to return to their home whenever I wanted to search for grouse. This is a particularly outstanding invitation as they have a number of leks on their property! As I was passing through the area on the cross-country drive, I decided to take them up on their offer this year.

To get right to the point, finding Greater-sage grouse on their property and along the nearby Route 26A was criminally easy. Between 2 large leks, Sonia and I counted well over 100 individual birds. We didn’t even have to leave our cars for fantastic views. If anyone visits these areas in the future, I strongly suggest that you view the birds from your car. First, they don’t really seem to mind people as long as they/you are in cars. Two birds walked within 10 feet of my car! Second, you don’t want to be the moron that gets out and scares the birds off. It’s not good for the birds, and the other birders are likely to give you an earful. As incredibly entertaining as fights between birders can be, it’s probably better that we avoid them by being on our best behavior under circumstances such as these. This shot should give you an idea of the setting!

Greater sage-grouse "birdscape"
Coalmont, Colorado, 4/5/15
Canon 70-200mm IS v2 at 200mm on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/1250 at f/8, ISO 800

Apparently, spring came quite early to Colorado this year. While temperatures this morning started out at 22F, they climbed into the high 30s once the sun rose. This made for very pleasant viewing as the birds strutted for the better part of 2.5 hours. Birds arrived along route 26A around 5:45am, roughly an hour before sunrise. They stayed until around 8:15 at which point all of the ~60 birds had disappeared. The trick, like all grouse, is to get there early! If you go, plan to arrive at least an hour before sunrise to give the birds sufficient time to adjust to the presence of your vehicle. If everyone does this, it makes for better viewing for all.

Greater sage-grouse - Centrocerus urophasianus
Coalmont, Colorado, 4/5/15
Canon 500mm f/4 IS v1 on EOS 1D Mark IV
1/1600 at f/8, ISO 800

1/1600 at f/8, ISO 800

1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Male displaying for 3 females/hens
1/2000 at f/7.1, ISO 800

1/800 at f/8, ISO 1600

1/2000 at f/8, ISO 800

Sonia and I spent that afternoon hacking around Coalmont and Walden. We each took a turn on our hosts’ horse (Hondo). He was quite docile so even a citiot (city + idiot) like myself could handle him. The day was rounded out with 6 moose as we made our way towards Craig and Sharp-tailed grouse. 

Sonia rides!

Sonia's exposures need a bit of work!

1 comment:

  1. I like your post because you present the informative facts of Greater sage-grouse birds. I also like Greater sage-grouse birds pictures.