Grouse Mating Dance Brings Hawks, Coyotes a-Calling
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