Random Shots: Cruising the Sagebrush Steppe


WC and Mrs. WC spent another freezing cold, wind-rocked night out on the sagebrush steppe, for a chance to see the Greater Sage-Grouse lekking on the hillside north of the Snake River Plain. Afterwards, we drove out to Weiser for a a second census of Short-eared Owls in Weiser Cove. Photos were taken.

Sage Grouse Lekking

Sage Grouse Lekking

The inconspicuous, cryptic females are massively indifferent to the noisy, egregious males, who are in full display. The presences of a female – three in this shot – always induced even more impressive shows from the males.

Male Sage Grouse Strutting His Stuff

Male Sage Grouse Strutting His Stuff

In the low, very early morning light, the backlighting effects were irresistible to WC, so the males’ hard work was good for something anyway.

WC and Mrs. WC stayed for most of the show. After the hens leave, the males eventually give up and hunker down to rest. The timing probably also has something to do with when Golden Eagles start to take to the skies. Greater Sage-Grouse are Golden Eagles’ favored prey. So WC and Mrs. WC drove over the crest of Bennett Mountain on a pretty sketchy road. Important note to spring birders: there’s a lot more snow over the road on the north side of a mountain than on the south side.

This is basin and range country, and the next basin offered some good birding, including this handsome fellow.

Western Meadowlark Announcing His Arrival

Western Meadowlark Announcing His Arrival

The song of a meadowlark is lovely and a sure message of spring. It’s always a pleasure hear it.

We arrived at Weiser Cove early – a bird census almost always starts at a fixed time – so we prowled up along South Crane Creek Road in the late afternoon so see what might be found. For those not familiar with Idaho’s sagebrush steppe, it is generally treeless, but there are a few trees along stream courses, and often those few trees host nests. Like this one.

Great Horned Owl and Chick

Great Horned Owl and Chicks

If you look carefully there are two chicks on the nest with their parent. Great-horned Owls are supremely adaptable species, found in an astonishing range of habitats. It’s a treat, but not really a surprise, to find them in the sagebrush.

But it was a treat to find this pretty girl.

Burrowing Owl Playing Hide and Seek

Burrowing Owl Playing Hide and Seek

Finding the bird is left as an exercise for the reader. But WC plans to re-visit this site in a few weeks to see if there are chicks.

Those of you who wonder what WC does for fun, here’s your answer: bird from two hours before dawn to four hours after sunset. Oh, and we saw a Barn Owl on the way home.

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