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"I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy....

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"I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy....
(Apologies for the quality of the photos. The range from the truck to the birds was extreme and I don't have the focal length needed to not have to make very aggresive crops to get the birds large enough to see....doing that degrades the quality of the photos. If ever there was a case where "I NEED A BIGGER LENS" this was it).....


Once they outnumbered the Buffalo....their mating ritual was, and is, the basis for many of the traditional dances of the American Indian....they were a reliable food source for those early settlers who started the process of "taming the West" and at the same time detroying the habitat that the Sage Grouse needed to survive.....today they exist only in those places that were either inhospitable to man's agriculture or that were thoughfully set aside by those men who felt that maintaining their presence in the West was as important as commerce was, and is..... but now they are losing even these areas to a never ending need to increase grain production, grazing, oil, exploration, mineral extraction and "wind" interests in thee last remaining unchanged remanants that were once considered "worthless".......those "few" that remain know nothing of the "whys", nor do they care......all they "know" is that the need to "dance", to win that center spot in the lek that will insure that they will be the breeding male is so overpowering, so all consuming, that they simply will not quit.......as long as there is "one" male left they will attend these leks and display, summoning those few remaining hens and "hopefully" if we are very lucky, and very diligent, those that have never seen, or heard, these birds will have that chance.......meanwhile, like the historic Spartacus mentioned in the title the males will stand, vulnerable, and likely overwhelmed, but refusing to admit defeat, attending their leks as if defiantly declaring in the face of sure defeat, "I AM SPARTACUS and I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED".....


Sunrise in Sage Grouse territory......listen carefully and you will hear them.....




Just breaking dawn on the lek....




Against the mountains.....once this was sage all the way to the mtns....now only a remnant of that habitat remains.




The hens arrive....the dancing begins....






Does this tail make my butt look big?...



(probably my favorite view of them displaying....the inflated air sacs are neat but when they pivot with that spiky tail fanned and all the little white tipped undertail covert feathers erect and seperated its a very dramatic presentation....one that I know would impress me if I was a girl Sage Grouse)....


My "moobs" are bigger than your "moobs"...




This place is getting crowded....




You wanna piece of me?....





COPULATION!!! COPULATION!!!!....



(this one requires a little explantation as to the title...by the time this fight broke out we had been watching this pair of Roosters display for the same, indifferent, hens for almost an hour....lots of dancing and booming with no response from the hens, (although I suspect they were making little comments amongst themselves "just loud enough" for the guys to hear).....Greg saw a bird fly over the ridge into the lek and since it was a bird that we hadn't seen I put the camera down and picked up the binoculars to look at the newcomer...I had just located him when Greg says quite loudly, "copulation", then repeats it more loudly, "COPULATION", then starts YELLING "COPULATION, COPULATION, COPULATION" ...I look up to see dust flying, drop the binoculars, pick up the camera and catch a series of two Roosters fighting, a very rare event by the way.....I said to Greg afterwards that I thought it was a fight but that since he had more experience with Sage Grouse on the lek than I did that if it was indeed copulation then one of the participants appeared to be "less than willing".....


Now leave.....I run this place and ALL these ladies are mine....




Done for the day.....leaving the lek....





A pretty shot and a tough life but ultimately the "reason" for the decline...




For those that appreciate the outdoors there are certain things that I think they should "hear" before their time is done.....a "bucket list" of "sounds if you will.....

Wolves howling

Old Squaws yodeling

Turkeys gobbling

Elk bugling

Bighorns fighting

Whales blowing

the cracking of the Northern Lights

Those things that we have to do more than to just "listen outside our back doors" to experience......to me Sage Grouse on the Lek
is right up near the top.......

Steve
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Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
Steve,
Very nice ,that scenery is spectacular.
WG
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Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
Well, Steve, all I can suggest is sell several of your shotguns and rifles. That equals a larger lens! Loved those pics and please don't ever apologize for the photos. I thought they were wonderful.
Really liked that list of yours. I have done all of them with the exception of the yodeling Old Squaws.
Al
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Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
Very nice,,

I do not know if I have ever seen a lek in a stubble field...

Do not forget that West Nile has had a big impact on sage grouse, so combine that with the sagebrush landscape being altered...and you get the decline in some areas.

Sage grouse are one of my favorite critters, many fond memories of the high desert country of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming and a sage grouse hunt.
matt.combes@greatbasinenvtl.com
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Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
Very nicely presented.

thanks.


Eric


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Re: Al, I told Don Shearer that I needed a bigger lens.... In reply to
he told me "METH" was the quickest way of getting a longer lens......my preference would be to sell his boy child to the gypsies.....that way I'd get the lens I want, preserve my "seat" in the truck on bird hunts which I'm sure the kid will usurp at some point in the future, AND I offered to donate a protion of the proceeds to the Washington State University in Don's name.......

Can you believe that he said "no"?......

Haruuuuummmmppppphhhhh...its not like I was trying to sell his daughter......

Steve
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Re: Al, I told Don Shearer that I needed a bigger lens.... In reply to
Keep trying, Steve. You might run into the right boy child! Who knows they might give you a longer lens just to take the kid!
Al
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Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
"I need a bigger lens"

The story of my life Steve! HA ha!

Nice pics. Very cool looking brids, quite a dsplay!

_________________________________


Capt. Brian Rhodes
The Swampers
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Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
I was born in Wyoming and I enjoyed those pics. You have good taste.
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Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
you are the man,

to add to your sounds, I would say heavy wind over speedy canvasback wings. A covey rise of bobwhite underfoot, large tuna inhaling flying fish at night in the pitch black, whiporwhills, and what the hell, banjo music.

Thank you for posting these
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AWWWWWW he needs a bigger lens!!! In reply to
Well we can't all have the biggest and bestest most fancy LLLLLLLL lenses, or astrophysics scopes......that said, me thinks that you did a really good job with what you had to work with. Very cool....I wanna see that someday. How long do the displays typically last? I mean, during the year? A month? Less? More?

And I'm impressed with the backside view of the displaying sage grouse. Very pretty backside.

In the fall, do their "fans" have the sharp pointy tips still? so if you mounted the fan would they look like that?

Dani
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Re: Al, I told Don Shearer that I needed a bigger lens.... In reply to
Steve,

You almost had me at the gift for WSU. You have no fear about the boy usurping your place in the truck. He is being raised with a strong respect for his elders and by the time he starts hunting you will be so old to be limited to riding around in the truck and telling us stories about how it was back in the day.

I do fear you getting another lense for the camera. You already want to stop for pictures so often that if you get another lense and can take pictures even further away it will take all my vacation time just to get to MT.

My best,

Don
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Re: Dani, as I understand it its much like Turkeys.... In reply to
the Roosters show up first and will be on the lek daily starting early March.....the older the bird the earlier he'll show up and the longer he'll stay......first year birds start later and finish earlier than the older, more mature birds......its "starts" in early March and will continue through mid to late April with the PEAK being the last week of March and the first week of April....thats when the bulk of the hens will be visiting the lek daily and actually breeding......we saw no no breeding activity the day we were there and other than being in the presence of the domnant bird very little interest at all.....like little Turkeys essentially.....

The tails are the same in all plummages so "yes" on a "fan" if you did one.....

Steve
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Re: Kris..I'm with you ont he Tuna slurping Flying Fish.... In reply to
and would add:

Winnowing Snipe

Woodcock sky dancing

Snook popping under the mangroves

the last sounds of water running off of a tidal marsh with that lispy little quack of Black Ducks in the background

and too many more to list that there is room....


Steve
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Re: Kris..I'm with you ont he Tuna slurping Flying Fish.... In reply to
how about the whinning of an ottomobile bwhahahaahaha
me complaining about the accomodations
the rattle of the third bag of peanuts being opened up as you chase a cripple down.

neat pics bub
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Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
Steve, Thanks very much for posting this....I never new very much (or anything at all) about these birds, and your excellent "tale of the lekking grounds" has opened my eyes! Unfortunately, the habitat loss has become the story of todays wildlife....you are so fortunate to have been able to experience these birds. Where do the birds go when they leave the lek?

Two additional sounds everyone should experience which should be added to your "bucket list"..... the melodic sounds of a spring raft of eiders in full courtship. The "coos" of the drakes and the "chanting" hens with its symphonic rhythm are my most favorite "natures opera".......another being the melancholy calls of the male resplendant quetzal reaching out through the shroud of the cloud forest.
"El arte de arbole"
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Re: Keith....when not on the leks.. In reply to
the birds just disperse into the sage to feed and loaf......

they really are dependant on the sage...they'll feed on alflafa in the summer and early fall and they'll pick up the odd piece of wheat but without a "grinding" gizzard like the other gallinacious birds have they don't really benefit from it....winters and spring they eat Sage almost exclusively.....nest in it, use it for escape and thermal cover....

For most its not an "attractive" habitat, dry and except for a brief time in early spring drab and featureless.....I've always liked it even if it doesn't compare to the more attractive short and long grass prairies from a number of species standpoint......its what so much of the real West was and what so little of it is these days......

Steve
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Re: Keith....when not on the leks.. In reply to
The movement of sage grouse.. check out the abstract.

Up to 82 km in parts of Idaho from breeding and wintering areas to summer habitat.

Steve, as far as what I enjoy....sagebrush grassland...is my favorite, wide open vistas and a very interesting plant and animal community. I spent some of my younger years working as a tech classifying plants and quantifying plant production on big game winter range, that is mostly sagebrush grasslands in this area..

A site of interest:

http://gf.state.wy.us/...sageGrouse/index.asp
matt.combes@greatbasinenvtl.com
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sage history In reply to
Steve & Matt,

I just tried doing a google search but didn't come up with anything on the history of sage. In the back room of my memory I thought I had read that sage was not an indigenous plant to the western US but was an import from (?) Germany? That prior to that introduction there were many more grasslands that the sage eventually pushed out.

Any truth to that? If so, what did the sage grouse do before there was sage?


Pete


MOLON LABE [mo 'lon la 've]

Technology has it's place, hunting isn't it.

Life's a blink, never have to say ....... "I should have"!

"That human optimism & goodness that we put our faith in, is in no more danger than the stars in the jaws of the clouds." .................Victor Hugo
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Re:Pete...incorrect.... In reply to
Sage is native to America........

From the Lewis and Clark journals.....

In his travels, Lewis noticed not just one but several species of sagebrush. He wrote, "Of this last the Antelope is very fond; they feed on it, and perfume the hair of their foreheads and necks with it by rubing against it."

You might be thinking of Cheat Grass which creates issues int eh sage for two reasons.....first it provides grazing opportunities in the sage that make it more attractive for that use and most importantly it burns extrememly hot.....fire in the Sage Brush is a natural occurance and without Cheat Grass it doesn't suffere from it......Cheat Grass burns so hot that in wild fires Sage is destroyed by the intense hear......Sage will not regenerate on its own after killed by fire....
..

Steve

Last edited by:

Steve Sutton: Mar 24, 2010, 10:03 AM
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Re: sage history In reply to
Pete,

Sagebrush....

Artemisia tridentata --Big sage native
Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis--Sub species of Big sage, this is the best deer/elk winter range forage of the larger sages native (need a black light for positive ID)
Artemisia nova -- Black Sage native
Artemisia arbuscula -- Little sage native
Attemisia cana -- native

so on and so forth..there are dozens of species and most are native

See: http://plants.usda.gov/...profile?symbol=ARTEM

Sage brush can dominate a sagebrush grassland when overgrazing has occurred, and fire suppressed (a cool fire helps maintain/rejuvenate the system -- not a hot fire from excessive build up of plant growth and invasive weeds -- that causes damage). The dynamics of a sagebrush grassland here in the west is controlled by, grazing, fire suppression, agriculture, water usage for irrigation, and introduction of invasive species (cheat grass the way bad guy on the block)..plus a host of other land uses. A sagebrush/grasslands communities species composition changes as the variables are played in various ways..

So yes grazing may reduce native grasses and increase sagebrush as a percentage of individuals or as percent of cover. Sagebrush and sage grouse are always associated together. What the optimum ratio between grass and sagebrush is I do not know off hand, but I am sure is has been researched and published.
matt.combes@greatbasinenvtl.com

Last edited by:

Matt_n_Barb: Mar 24, 2010, 10:19 AM
Quote Reply
Re: "I AM SPARTACUS"...very photo heavy.... In reply to
Neat pictures of "ole nutsack for a neck"... I enjoyed them very much.
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Re: Re:Pete...incorrect.... In reply to
You beat me to it Steve.
matt.combes@greatbasinenvtl.com
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Thanks guys In reply to
Never to old to learn something new.

It has always been a fact I "knew forever" but could never remember where I learned it. I must have been told by my 3rd grade teacher - she was a Democrat - Donchaknow.


Pete


MOLON LABE [mo 'lon la 've]

Technology has it's place, hunting isn't it.

Life's a blink, never have to say ....... "I should have"!

"That human optimism & goodness that we put our faith in, is in no more danger than the stars in the jaws of the clouds." .................Victor Hugo
Quote Reply
Re: Re:Pete...incorrect.... In reply to
Ooooooh...... Sagebrush Science...I need a science nerd emoticon

In the research I participated in we found that most of the radio-tagged grouse remained within a 1-mile radius of the lek during the nesting season. Brood rearing occurred in only a slightly larger area. Of course this was in an area of Wyoming that, at the time, had some fairly high sage grouse densities. Experiments we conducted throughout the Wyoming on various methods to control sagebrush encroachment found that rangeland with approximately 12-15% canopy cover consisting of sagebrush received the most use by sage grouse.

Fire and extripation of sagebrush as a result of cheatgrass invasion is only one problem cheat poses for the grouse. The exclusion of native forbs, which are of significant dietary importance during the spring, can also result in the birds not being able to successfully live in what at first glance appears to be a pretty good looking chunk of sage steppe. Habitat loss due to removal for oil and gas and wind and agriculture are big but for many species the effective loss of habitat due to invasives is the "silent killer".

The pictures turned out really nice....especially since we couldn't get right amongst the birds. In the area we looked there are only a couple hundred birds left and we were able to view just over a quarter of that population in the morning. We located 5 different leks including one that had only a single male strutting all by himself. We also saw some areas of native rangeland that had been recently plowed under to expand the dryland farming. Sad but true, some of that sort of activity has been done in response to the potential Endangered Species Act listing and the perception that the government will stop the people from using their land if the bird is present. Some believe it would be better to not have the birds there at all than to modify their current behavior.

And in my defense on the copulation thing. I was also looking at the bird that flew in and then turned back to glimpse the domionant rooster on top of another bird. Since I had just seen hens right next the big daddy I assumed he was putting the sage to one of the girls. It was a lot easier to just scream copulationthan it would have been to say "Hey Steve, I think it is possible that the most dominant bird on the lek has begun to engage in behavior that will ensure his genetic material will be carried into the future and perhaps contribute to the recovery of the species". Oh well, I guess I was wrong...imagine that...a biologist that came up with the wrong conclusion.