Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fool Hen

On a recent trip back to the U.P. Nikki and I visited one of our favorite places, Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Chippewa County, perhaps the best location in the midwest to view waterbird and hawk migration.  Though the waterbird migration was a bit pedestrian on the two days we were there (Sabine's gull and a juvenile parasitic (probably) jaeger but very low numbers overall) we did get great looks at one of my favorite species the above spruce grouse or "Fool Hen" as it locally known.  This species which earned its nickname for sometimes being ubsurdly tame when approached, resides in coniferous boreal forests across much of Canada and Alaska, but barely reaches the lower 48 in places like the U.P., northern Minnesota and northern New England.

Though locally common in spots in the U.P. it can be very difficult to pin down at any given time.  In fact when I was in high school this was a major nemesis bird for me, as I dipped out time and time again even though it occurs in areas right around my families hunting camp.  In fact check out my old website (keep in mind I created this back in the olden days of the interwebs when I was in high school so its a bit lacking um lets say lacking) www.angelfire.com/mi/upbirding for details of my then obsession of finding spruce grouse in the U.P.!  My hometown library had a copy of Bill Robinson's great book "Fool Hen: The Spruce Grouse on the Yellow Dog Plains" which chronicles his painstaking research on this species in one of my favorite (and now sadly threated) parts of the U.P.  Still one of my favorite books about the practice of field ornithology, "Fool Hen" only made me want to spend more time exploring the jack pine barrens and spruce bog edges where these birds can be found.

After I started working bird field jobs in some of the best parts of the U.P., I got to see lots and lots of spruce grouse and watch them displaying and see hens with chicks, but after a four and a half year stint in Oklahoma, I was pretty excited to see my old friend the fool hen again!  Here are some more photos.