Radio Controlled Dancing Sharp-tailed Grouse

May 24, 2015  •  1 Comment

The weekend of April 11th and 12th, 2015 a handful of us from the Minnesota Valley Photo Club went up to Aitkin, MN to photograph male Sharp-tailed Grouse dancing on their Lek.  This is ritualistic dance they perform for 2 - 3 hours starting at sunrise to attract females.

In order to get close to these grouse, we needed to be in blinds before they dance, which meant by 5:45 AM.  As we walked to the blinds we could already hear them hooting and clucking. 

Blinds on the Sharp-tailed Grouse LekBlinds on the Sharp-tailed Grouse LekAitkin, MN on April 11, 2015

Shortly after sunrise this male came about 20 feet from our blind.

Male Sharp-tailed Grouse Coming out to Dance at SunriseMale Sharp-tailed Grouse Coming out to Dance at SunriseImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 11, 2015

When dancing, their wings rattle sounding like a lawn mower.  You can listen to their dance here: Sharp-tailed Grouse Sound.

Dancing MaleDancing MaleImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 11, 2015

On Saturday afternoon, Tim and I went on a 3 mile wildlife loop around Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge in McGregor.  I spotted this porcupine up in a tree.

Porcupine in the TreePorcupine in the TreeImage taken in Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge in McGregor, MN on April 11, 2015

At another stop on the loop this beautiful immature bald eagle circled overhead.

Imature Bold Eagle Soaring OverheadImature Bold Eagle Soaring OverheadImage taken in Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge in McGregor, MN on April 11, 2015

That evening we went back to the blinds to see if the males would dance before sunset, but no such luck.  However, the sunset was worth capturing.

Sunset from the LekSunset from the LekImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 11, 2015 Sunset from the LekSunset from the LekImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 11, 2015

Leaving the blind in the evening, there's a great chance to see whitetails.

Whitetails on the MoveWhitetails on the MoveImage taken in Aitkin, MN on April 11, 2015

Then next day from the blind started with some more hooting and clucking.

Male Sharp-tailed Grouse HootingMale Sharp-tailed Grouse HootingImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

Following by the Dance.

Dancing MaleDancing MaleImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015 Fully SpreadFully SpreadImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

If you look closely you will see a strange brown bump on this male's chest and also a wire sticking up.  We found out later that the MN DNR hired someone to tag and track grouse in the area this year.  This male was wearing a transmitter.

I think Tim had a remote control to bring this male closer to us so we could get some great shots.  :)

Sporting his TransmitterSporting his TransmitterImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

Here are two males ready to dance for a female.

Let's Dance for that HenLet's Dance for that HenImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

Here's their dance off.

Dance OffDance OffImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

Well, who won?

2 Males2 MalesImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

This male was about 15 feet from the blind.  There was one opening in the blind at grouse eye level.  I crouched down to capture this image through that opening. Great nature shot except for the radio transmitter. 

Male Sharp-tailed Grouse Sporting his TransmitterMale Sharp-tailed Grouse Sporting his TransmitterImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

When we captured enough of these males dancing, we opened up the blind to spook the remaining few.  I caught this one as he circled back.

Male Sharp-tailed Grouse on the moveMale Sharp-tailed Grouse on the moveImage taken from blind in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

On the way from the lek to a well-earned breakfast there were a couple of Sandhill Cranes on the edge of a farm's field.

Sandhill CraneSandhill CraneImage taken in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015 Sandhill CraneSandhill CraneImage taken in Aitkin, MN on April 12, 2015

Check out all of my images from this weekend at Dancing Sharp-tailed Grouse!


Comments

Tracy(non-registered)
Great shots and well told story!
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