There is nothing like experiencing first hand something you would watch on Discovery or the National Geographic Channel. Here I am, well before sunrise, driving westward in anticipation of watching the Greater Sage Grouse perform their mating dance. I arrive in Craig to meet up with the other Northwestern folks joining in on this training trip. Everyone looks pretty groggy as Sasha gives a preliminary chat about what our day will entail and what to expect once we are on the “lek”. All the necessary forms are filled out and last minute details finalized, everyone loads up into the vehicles, and we begin the journey continuing west until we near the Wyoming border.
There they were with their tail feathers high and fanned out, the tips of their wings scrapping the ground and their air-sacks expanding as they proudly danced and displayed their manliness. It did not take long before the ladies arrived to check out the gentlemen who were looking for that special someone. There were three ladies that came for the show and left, as far as we could tell, satisfied. They were off to feed and soon lay an egg. After a few hours the show was over and everyone that came for the viewing was as satisfied as the Greater Sage Grouse ladies. It was a sight to see and one I, and the rest of the group, will not soon forget.
What happened to the grouse dancers?
Too find out read the next installment of “The Forbidden Dance” later this week or a few seats are still available, join us for a “dance” experience you will remember always!
Male grouse compete for female attention at the "dance"
It was a breezy, but beautiful morning in Northwest Colorado. The grouse were dancing in full display. The sun had just come-up and the light was perfect for photographers taking happy snaps of the happy grouse couples on the dance “floor” when out of the clear blue sky a bold and beautiful party crasher swooped in. A russet colored female Harrier Hawk coming in low, fighting the wind, inches from the top of the crested wheat grass stubble. The music stopped the dancers too and a hush fell over the crowd. In she swooped, brazen as, well as brazen as a hawk on the hunt. The tension built as the invited grouse guests hunkered down. Would we see blood-shed on this bright and beautiful morning? Would the dancing end as the frightened guests scattered?
CEC, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Wilderness Society and our partners invite you to the “Dance”. We are pleased to offer limited seating trips to see the iconic Greater Sage Grouse mating dance. To learn more about the tours or to purchase your ticket, click here.
For the past six months I have been working for CEC as their Conservation Advocate Fellow on the West Slope in the Northwest office located in Craig. Our office looks after Routt, Moffat, and Rio Blanco Counties and their conservation areas. One of the more exciting aspects of my position is to get folks from our region out into the areas we work to protect. This helps raise awareness of our public lands, Wilderness Study Areas, and other areas of special interest. The first week on the job I did a ride along with the Luke Schafer, West Slope – North Campaign Coordinator. He showed me some absolutely amazingly beautiful country in Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties. It got me excited to explore these new areas that were foreign to me.
Cross Mountain–In Dinosaur National Monument (CEC)
Our outings were first coined as a “Hiking Series” and it consisted of four locations. The first location was to hike Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain up to the quarry. The second was the south rim of Cross Mountain in Dinosaur National Monument. For the third hike, we selected Carpenter Ranch, specifically the Yampa River Preserve. The last hiking location was Duffy Mountain. Of the four hikes offered, two happened: Howelsen Hill/Emerald Mountain and Carpenter Ranch. On both hikes the participants were fantastic and everyone had a great experience. The Carpenter Ranch hike was especially fun as we bushwhacked through the brush to explore an old home, found bear prints in the dried mud, and saw a bald eagle soaring above us on the hike out. It was because of the success of this outing that we decided to rename the series from “Hiking Series” to “Adventure Series.”
Beautiful hillsides of Diamond Breaks (Mark Pearson)
The three outings I planned in the newly re-named “Adventure Series” started with Cross Mountain in hopes of getting some interest in exploring the area and observing the canyon from above. Followed by an outing into a Wilderness Study Area of Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge called Diamond Breaks, up through Choke Cherry Draw. This hike ends at an old homestead and has an interesting story on how the area got its name. Lastly, I planned an outing to head into Bull Canyon on the far western border of Colorado visiting another area of beautiful canyon country. Unfortunately, Bull Canyon was cancelled due to weather conditions and the trips to Diamond Breaks and Cross Mountain didn’t fill, so we did not go.
Due to the cancellations, the “Hiking/Adventure Series” was not as successful as we had hoped for 2011, but the groundwork has already been set for 2012. With the areas already chosen, and the descriptions and posters written up, weather permitting, we can start earlier this spring and hopefully get more folks involved in getting out and getting excited about where we live. If you are interested in joining CEC’s West Slope – Northwest 2012 Adventure Series, check the Get Involved page of our website at ourcolorado.org to see where we will be exploring this spring.