Saturday, June 22, 2013

Misplaced Dusky Grouse

During the first week of April we made a quick stop at our favorite patch on the way home from running errands. We weren’t planning on birding, we just had a few minutes before sunset and wanted to take the dog for a short walk.

The Patch

Highway 21 bridge over the Boise River, Ada county. April 4, 2013.

The walk was mostly uneventful. We spent most of the time picking goatheads out of his paws and trying to keep him on the path instead of in the brush. However, on the way back the dog noticed something on the path ahead of us that didn’t catch our eye. We just caught a glimpse of something large moving into the dense shrubs to the side of the trail and figured it was a California Quail since they’re very common in this area. We moved closer to the area we had seen the bird leave the trail, and watched for movement, and after a couple of minutes found a Dusky Grouse walking up the hillside from the trail towards the road above.

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Dusky Grouse on our patch near Diversion Dam, Ada county. April 4, 2013.

We couldn’t help but laugh when we realized what it was. We’ve seen Dusky Grouse before in Idaho, but when we lived in Colorado we made quite a few trips specifically for Dusky Grouse, but couldn’t ever find them. We hiked for mile and miles in Rocky Mountain National Park in areas where they’d been reported, and they really became a big nemesis bird for us. After a while we had a running joke, where anytime the birding had been slow for a while one of us would holler “Dusky Grouse!” just to liven things up, when of course we hadn’t actually see one. Back home in Idaho the darn thing was just casually strolling across the paved greenbelt path on our casual walk with the dog just 5 minutes from home!

I’m not sure what he was doing all the way down by the river. There isn’t really a lot of appropriate habitat nearby, and around here they’re usually only seen much further upslope in the Boise National Forest. Unlike most birds, the Dusky Grouse actually moves to higher elevation for the winter, and then comes back downslope for the summer. Perhaps this guy just came further back down than intended?

DUGR map

eBird map of Dusky Grouse observations near Boise.

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