March 31, 2007
I had been anticipating such a morning for a long time.

It had snowed the previous day, and I had never photographed sharptail grouse on the lek when there was snow on the ground. I thought it would provide a good opportunity to show some contrast between the grouse and the dead brown grass which is usually in the background.

I arrived at the site about 6:40 a.m. and found my blind to still be upright (the previous day I stopped to reset the blind as the wind had blown it down). I quickly entered the blind, and started to set up my camera and monopod.

I anticipated a cold morning, and dressed like the middle of winter as there is little opportunity for movement over a 2+ hour period (i.e., cold toes).

As it got lighter, I noticed that the visibility was limited because of fog in the distance. I could not see across the river, and saw only one yard light in the distance. At one point, I saw vehicle lights about four miles away. The lack of lights in the distance really made me feel alone (except for the vehicle noise on U.S. Highway 83, just one mile east).

I waited for what like seemed forever for the grouse to show, and just like the past weekend, they swooped in right about 7:00 a.m. One of the birds flew within three feet of the blind and landed. This was kind of frightful, especially when you consider how loud they are when they land.

The grouse quickly found their chosen locations on the lek, and then didn't do much. At about 7:15 a.m., I thought that I scared the grouse as they all flew away. However, instead of flying away from me (and the perceived noise), they all flew at me, and then right over the blind. A couple of seconds later, a predator bird flew across the lek at me, and in the direction that the grouse flew.

Then, I waited ... and waited ... and waited. When grouse are scared away from the lek because of a predator bird, they must take their time getting back, probably to make sure the area is safe.

The grouse showed up again, about 7:40 a.m. There was some activity. However, I did not see any females fly in and walk through the lek.

The fog moved in closer as the morning progressed. The visibility at my location was just over one mile. It was a beautiful morning with the new snow, and the fog banks close by.

Sometime after 9:00 a.m., the grouse all flew away again, and right towards me and then over the blind. About two seconds later, a predator bird flew over the lek and then northeast to a small grove of shrubs. I decided to leave, thinking that it would be another 20 minute or so wait.

I did enjoy photographing the grouse with snow in the background, and will make efforts to get out again if it snows. I am using a new camera - a Pentax K10D - and am finding that I need to learn how to use it. The focusing is a challenge in the morning when it is darker out (you will see a number of photos that are out of focus). Also, I had to add about 1.5 stops to increase the light coming in the lens.

Anyway, enjoy!







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