Monday, July 18, 2011
Early, every spring, sage grouse begin their mating dance that is played out on the prairie floor with great energy and persistence. In mid march and early April the male grouse begin gathering at breeding grounds called leks.
Many leks have been in use for longer than records have been kept. The males return year after year to continue the dance and attract females for breeding. They arrive in the middle of the night and reserve a favorite spot to display. Just before dawn, the females fly in from the surrounding sage and the party begins. Females stroll by, seemingly ignoring the strutting males. Then for some reason undetectable to this observer she will select a male and mate.
It is a process that has gone on for hundreds of years in the same place. Recently efforts have been undertaken to catalog and study these leks in an effort to sustain this species and better understand them.
In order to photograph these fascinating birds you first have to locate a suitable lek. Then be prepared to arrive well before daylight, set up your blind, and stay until the birds leave, well after sunrise.