Friday, May 8, 2015

Greater Sage-grouse on the Red Road

While visiting family in Rexburg in early April, I got up early a couple of mornings to go check out the Greater Sage-grouse that lek out on the Red Road (north of the St. Anthony Sand Dunes). Last year we didn’t make it out there until early May, which is usually after most of the lekking activity has wound down, but were still able to find quite a few birds on leks. This year, we were actually just a bit early, but still found a pretty good amount of activity.

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Greater Sage-grouse (hen) on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 3, 2015.

Much of the area is actually closed for human entry until May 1 to protect wintering Elk that use the area throughout the colder months of the year. By May they’ve usually wandered back to the higher elevations they’ll spend the rest of the year at, and people can help themselves to all of the side roads they want. The closure wasn’t really an issue, as we were able to enjoy the birds without leaving the car anyway.

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Greater Sage-grouse on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 3, 2015.

While there were definitely good numbers of birds gathered on the leks, the actually amount of dancing going on wasn’t quite as high as we saw last year. Many of the birds were just sort of hanging out, rather than actively fighting and displaying. We had to wait a bit longer than last time to get a few good shots of them displaying.

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Greater Sage-grouse on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 3, 2015.

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Greater Sage-grouse on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 3, 2015.

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Greater Sage-grouse on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 3, 2015.

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Greater Sage-grouse on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 3, 2015.

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Greater Sage-grouse on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 3, 2015.

We won’t be around to see it at the right time of the year, but the grassy area in the shot below will likely host well over 100 birds in a couple of weeks when the lekking season peaks.

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Greater Sage-grouse on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 4, 2015.

One other fun find while watching the grouse was this Short-eared Owl out on the horizon. Very far away, but it was fun to find it outside of some of the other big hotspots that they’re better known to use.

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Short-eared Owl on the Red Road, Fremont County. April 3, 2015.

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