Bird karma

I’ll do a bigger post about this very soon, but I spent a little time this morning on a sage grouse breeding ground, which is called a “lek.” Since I live in the sagebrush sea, and love early morning photography, I have a choice of about a half-dozen leks that are located fairly close to my house – this one actually straddles a seldom-used county road.

I arrived in the dark, shutting off the lights of the truck as I rolled into the lek, cutting the motor so I could watch and listen. The moon was full and I was hoping that I could be in a good enough position to be able to see the moon sinking over the Wyoming Range Mountains, with the grouse in the foreground. (Yes, I have strange goals in life.)

All was going well on the small lek, with grouse strutting and squabbling, posturing and prancing, and me patiently waiting as the sun began to rise and the moon began to drop.

I started taking a few photos, knowing full well there really wasn’t enough light yet for really good shots, but happy about it because I was in a prime position when we had just a little more light.

Just as that little more light was beginning to shine, the birds suddenly shot into the air, like drunken bombers, noisy wings beating the cold morning air. I frantically scanned the lek for the trouble. Ah there. Leisurely cruising about 20 feet above the ground came a rough-legged hawk. I swear that bird was buzzing the lek just for fun. I had to laugh, because the rough-legged posed little threat to these four- to seven-pound sage grouse.

I have been haunted by a rough-legged for about the past month. I think these are such beautiful birds, and absolutely cannot get a half-decent photo of one. We have one hanging out by the sheep pasture, and I see it every day. It seems to know when I have the big lens, because it takes flight before I can set the focus. When I don’t have a decent lens, the hawk sits on a fencepost and scowls at me as I drive by. I’m sure we’ve got some kind of karma happening …

Anyway, I’m off to another lek in the morning, and we’ll try this again.

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