Radio Controlled Dancing Sharp-tailed Grouse
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.
Shortly after sunrise this male came about 20 feet from our blind.
When dancing, their wings rattle sounding like a lawn mower. You can listen to their dance here: Sharp-tailed Grouse Sound.
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.
At another stop on the loop this beautiful immature bald eagle circled overhead.
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.
Leaving the blind in the evening, there's a great chance to see whitetails.
Then next day from the blind started with some more hooting and clucking.
Following by the Dance.
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. :)
Here are two males ready to dance for a female.
Here's their dance off.
Well, who won?
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.
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.
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.
Check out all of my images from this weekend!
Great shots and well told story!
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