Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Grouse are hatched & hatching...

This is the time of year to be thinking more about fishing than working, or mowing the lawn, or household chores, or just about anything, I suppose. I even take a break from thinking about hunting … well, just a little, I guess.

Yesterday I sat in the yard in the sunlight and read a book and sipped a cold beer while the girls did the same. It was Memorial Day and though we didn’t drive to town to take part in any of the official celebration we are well aware and grateful for the freedoms we have. And sitting in the warm sun yesterday enjoying the beautiful weather made it easy to appreciate how lucky we are.

Jack lay at my side so I could rest my hand on his haunch while I read, but every now or then he would hear a squirrel or chipmunk and tear off into the woods to secure my safety. When he gave up the quest he would trot back in all setter regality and again rest in the soft grass. He’s a well built dog and I’d admire how dignified he looked until he’d jump up and chase dragonflies and their shadows. Jack is no pup, anymore, but I doubt he’ll ever grow up. Ty, the senior member of Team Bird Dog, watched from the shade of the birch tree, refusing any part of such antics.

Grouse had been drumming since March and I’ve heard them steadily up until about a week ago. But I haven’t forgotten them and after a while I hopped on my mountain bike to check a couple of nests I came upon last week. I left the setters home but took a camera in hopes of getting some decent photos, and was happy my little digital camera worked OK. The last time I took any quality wildlife photos I was using my expensive film shooting SLR with telephoto lens, and I’ve yet to replace it with a digital model.

I knew where the hens were sitting, but it took some time to locate them in their perfect camouflage. Actually, I found only one hen still nesting, the other had left with her brood of eight in tow, leaving only egg shells to mark the spot. I know the survival rate of baby grouse isn’t all that good, but it’s almost surprising any survive at all. I wonder how many predators passed the sitting hen as she watched motionless, exuding little scent thanks to Nature’s defense system. I saw coyote tracks within a stone’s throw of her nest and I’ve seen plenty of fox in the area. It’s a mystery how the sharp eyes of hawks and owls miss her during the weeks she incubates the eggs.

Since early spring I’ve searched out and found the drummers on their logs, then listened to their drumming efforts to coax a mate. It’s neat to see the effort was successful with the hens on nests, and finally the hatched eggs. Now I can hit the lakes and streams with fishing rod in hand and only have to worry about the grouse through the summer months until autumn, when, of course, they’ll worry about me.