|Spot the greater-sage grouse.|
Getting these wary gamebirds as lifers isn't so much birding as it is a quest. For me, it began at four in the morning (so not my idea of a good birding time), with a nerve-wracking drive through pitch black canyons and with somewhat vague directions. Admittedly, the directions were fairly spot-on, but to me, being unfamiliar with the area they led me to, they were vague enough for apprehension. Yet I did manage to arrive at the Henefer lek as dawn was breaking over the eastern horizon, and as I crept closer to the marked fence - windows rolled down - I could hear the distinctive "popping" of the air sacs as males vied for the admiration of the all-too-uninterested females.
The one-way drive took roughly 75 minutes, but within two minutes of arrival, I had the lifer I sought. Good thing, too, because less than five minutes later, an asshole of a golden eagle overflew the field, and the grouse scattered to the southeast, not to return. I'm glad I arrived when I did, and I'm glad I got at least a minor view and heard the birds as well, giving me the lifer to count. And for the record, I don't really think golden eagles are assholes, but he couldn't have waited a few more minutes?
I did stay in the area for a bit after the grouse had flown their figurative coop, and was rewarded with a few other good birds - some beautiful morning songs from western meadowlarks, and the early morning foraging of a variety of sparrows. It was disappointing to make the long drive home after such a brief birding, but still, the birds and I did manage to cross paths at least for a moment.
|Henefer lek at sunrise, through a dirty windshield (don't get out of the truck, it might disturb these sensitive birds).|