March 24, 2007
Okay, you know it's an inactive day when you do more counting than photographing.

Several times during the morning I would start either on the left or right of the lek, and then count all the sharptail grouse. Sometimes, I would come up with the number 22, other times, 26, or some number inbetween.

It seems like there are fewer sharptail grouse this year, but I will wait until early to mid April - when the lek is the most active - before I make that conclusion.

The morning: All I can say is that it's great to be in the outdoors again, photographing and just enjoying the beauty of the prairie.

It's very refreshing to sit in the lek, and to watch the landscape as it goes from dark to light. As I sat in the lek, I could look south and see lights from the city of Mandan. I also looked across the river where I could see the blinking lights of a wind farm. I could also pick out vehicle lights in the distance - people going to work (or coming home from work), or to check on their livestock, or to make an early trip into town. As the landscape grew lighter, I could make out the Missouri River valley, just over two miles west of where I sat. And I could make out several snow banks that covered the prairie - and with no shape the same. These are areas where the winds piled up the snow, and where it takes much longer to melt - revealing the prairie landscape at a later date.

The sounds of the morning are also like music to my ears, including the grouse Canadian geese and other prairie birds.

One thing that I think about as I sit in my blind is why I don't see coyotes approach the lek as they must be able to hear the grouse for miles. However, I am guessing that they have learned over the years that it is impossible to sneak up to a lek, primarily because of the shape of the hill that the sharptail grouse gather on (round top with gradual slopes leading to the top - in other words, no place to hide).

The grouse flew in this morning about 7:00 a.m., with sun rise about 7:38 a.m. I did not see any females walk through the lek. That will soon change, especially as the new month approaches.

I like the position of my blind this year. I can see most of the sharptail grouse from my new location. Plus, many of the birds are walking (or running) right by my blind, and even making noise on the backside of the blind. This should result in great "photography" opportunities this year.

It was definitely cooler this morning (low around 26 degrees) than yesterday (low around 32 degrees). Plus, the southeast wind had some moisture in it. By the time I left the lek - at about 8:50 a.m. - I was cold. I quickly turned the heater on full blast as I started the trek back to Bismarck.

I anticipate another day at the lek, maybe in about one week when the females start showing up (and in larger numbers).

 

 

 

 

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