Grouse Mating Dance Brings Hawks, Coyotes a-Calling
The weather was perfect; the birds cooperated; and despite the cool morning and having to leave at 5 a.m., everyone was very satisfied with the "show" of the mating dance of the sharp-tailed grouse.
For two years, we have tried to get drawn for a permit to go to the Benton Lake blind to view this spectacle, and for two years we were disappointed. So this year, Katie put in to go on a Friday as well as Saturday and Sunday, and it worked. We did get in, but on a Friday, which prevented some of those who work from being able to join in. So seven of us were lucky enough to go.
The blind is a bit tricky to find at dark, but we made the traverse across the swampy uneven ground, lugging our cameras, blankets, extra chairs, snacks with the light of our headlamps, silent as possible so as not to disturb the grouse. As we approached the blind, we could hear the birds were already out, making their drumming and cooing noises.
As we situated ourselves, moved the chairs and then slowly opened the blind windows, we were amazed to see over 40 grouse. The ranger at the office has said not too many birds had been dancing. She wasn't sure if many had died over the long, cold winter we had or if the long winter had delayed their mating, but not many had been on the lek (the term for the dancing ground). But they did show up for us.
We saw around 32 show-off males and many choosy females. As the sun arose, so did other animals. A hawk flew overhead, causing the grouse to lie low and quiet for a while, followed by two coyotes, one of which caught a bird (we think a duck and not a grouse as he was closer to the ducks) for a tasty breakfast. At this time, most of the grouse dispersed, leaving a few sitting, very quiet, females.
We left the blind at 7:37, the time which we were allowed to leave if the birds had stopped dancing, which they had (one hour past sunrise).
We arrived back in town at 8:10, with some of us having to scoot off to work and some to breakfast.
Who went:Jo Ann, Bonnie W, Susan, June, Roni, Catherine, Katie
Old Cars, Old Schools, Contaminated Ground Make for Lovely Hike
We had a great time meeting Jasmine for a guided hike to the Neihart mining district. We arrived at the Inconvenience Store at 9 a.m. and all fit into Jasmine's truck to head up Carpenter Creek Road. She had to use her pickup to "redneck plow," as she called it, a parking spot so others could get by us on the narrow road. She reversed the truck and rammed into the hill of snow several times until there was enough clearance.
Then we tackled the 1400 feet of elevation gain to arrive at the old mining town, which has several buildings still intact, including what we thought was an old school. We did go inside to find mounds and piles of rat and mouse droppings. We didn't stay too long or disturb anything for feat of hanta virus, but many interesting items still remain inside. Most of the screens on the windows were still in place too.
We also had fun looking at the old work trucks, rusted a pretty color. We finished the hike around 3:30 and decided not to stop for food and headed home instead. We went 7 miles. However, Jasmine and June went a bit farther as June's glasses had fallen out of her pack, so the two of them went back to retrieve them. And, yes, they did find the glasses. Yay.
Who went: June, Susan, Katie, Jasmine (our guide)
Girls in Glacier and Katie Kotynski