Saturday, 28 July 2012

Dusky Grouse

Thursday July 26

Last week we had travelled to Waterton Park in the hopes of seeing a Dusky Grouse. While they inhabit the foothills to the south-west of Calgary, we had been seduced by reports of sightings on the Red Rock Canyon “Parkway” in Waterton and we needed to go to Waterton in any event for Red-tailed Chipmunk. We had been unsuccessful in finding the grouse on that trip (though we did get the chipmunk), so on Thursday Brian, Ray and Phil went to the Sheep River Valley about an hour from Calgary, to ascend the Foran Grade Ridge.  (Actually it’s only about 3km in length with an altitude gain of 250 m, but the vistas up the Sheep River valley are great.) This has been a reliable site in the past.

Soon after we began the ascent we ran across a Bull Moose, giving us one of our best sightings of this majestic mammal.

Bull Moose from the Foran Grade Trail

Winding our way up the treed slopes, we ran across several flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows and all three species of chickadee. The recently-fledged young were fun to watch, though impossible to photograph. Three indistinct grouse (a hen and 2 juvenile birds or 3 juveniles) tantalized us before we reached the summit of the ridge. At the time, we thought they were Ruffed Grouse (we could see a bit of a crest) but upon closer review they appear to be young Dusky Grouse.

A grouse in the grass

Ray and Phil became momentarily distracted by a nearby Hermit Thrush singing lustily, but Brian stayed focused and spied a male Dusky Grouse on the trail just ahead of us. Although the grouse wandered away from us, Brian and Ray were able to get some good photos. Success! Bird species no. 401 and a Fur and Feathers total of 462.

Dusky Grouse
We took our time on the descent, stopping to enjoy the scenery, the flowers, the butterflies, and a very striking juvenile Townsend’s Solitaire.

Butterfly on a gallardia flower

Windy Point Ridge and Sheep River Valley from Foran Grade Trail

Juvenile Townsend's Solitaire
Our plans for the immediate future will be to try to see some of the local mammal species which have so far eluded us, and of course to go after any bird rarities which may turn up.

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