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U.S.A. -- COLORADO
9 April 2001
Gunnison Sage Grouse Trip
by Phil and Barbara Davis
I know many people are planning to "go for the grouse" later this
month, so maybe this information will be of some use. I couldn't
access the COBIRDS (Colorado Birds) web archives, so I don't know if
similar information has already been posted or not.
April 8, 2001
On our way to Gunnison to spend the night, Barbara and I passed the
County Route 887, Waunita Hot Springs turnoff around dusk, so we
decided to check out the observation area in preparation for the
morning. The observation area is about 1/2 mile from the Rt 50
turnoff on the east (right) side of the road. There is no formal
structure as some accounts may lead you to belive. There is
merely a series of hay bales set up long the side of the road, that
serve as a blind. The nineteen miles on Rt 50 between the lek
turnoff and Gunnison mostly has a speed limit of 65 mph.
Note: There are not many restaurants open in Gunnison on Sunday night
... plan to eat early !!! Note: Gunnison is statistically
one of the coldest places in the lower 48 states ... see
April 9, 2001
Sunrise time: 6:40am
Temperature: 15 degrees F
We arrived at the Waunita Lek at 5:55 am - there were already five
other cars present. Most cars parked parallel to the road,
allowing you to roll down your side windows and look straight out at
the birds, rather than try to cope with looking the front windshield
glass that is often curved on most cars, and distorts vision.
Around 6:10 there was enough light to see the birds displaying.
We were expecting them to be closer than than they were. There is
a wire fence that runs through the middle of the sage meadow. the
birds were on the other side of that fence ... distance estimated
to be about 300 - 400 yards away. We could see the birds with the
naked eye ... and could clearly see what was going on with
binoculars ... with the scope, we could see details, like the
tail banding and the thick filoplumes on the head. We brought a
photographic "beanbag" to drape over the window glass and rest the
scope on it. This worked fine. Unfortunately, we noted that
some people were out of their cars and using scopes on tripods, in
contravention to the viewing area's posted rules and the published lek
viewing protocol and etiquette (even though the birds were quite far
away). We could not hear the birds courtship sounds.
We counted about 25 birds. About 6:33 one group of 16 birds flew
from the lek. They flew from east to west, over the road in front
of our cars (north of the observation area) and disappeared over the
hill on the west side of the road. We did not actually count the
mix of males to females of this group, but I sensed that it may have
been mostly females with a few males.
Nine birds remained on the lek (7 males and two females). Between
7:05 to 7:15 they flew from the lek in three separate groups of four,
four, and one (a last lone male), They all flew the same direction as
the earlier large group. At 7:15 the show was over.
The Gunnison Sage Grouse
Able, Kenneth P. 2000. Gleanings from the Technical
Literature: Sage Grouse Futures. Birding 32(4): 306-316.
(August 2000 issue).
Davidsonville, Maryland USA