There are some places where the landscapes overshadow the birds. A very specific and endemic bird lives around the town of Gunnison. It is a special place for us both and it's one of the few places I don't mind dipping on the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. Only because it means I get to come back again. And again. And again.
I love the grasslands of Southern Arizona so much that when we came to Gunnison two years ago, we fell in love with the landscape. Somehow, when I stand in the miles of grasses, I forget all the problems of the world. It's like the wind carries all of life's burdens and blows them away. I had that same feeling in Gunnison among the sea of sage. When it rained, the sage gave off this most fragrant smell. And we hiked miles and miles within the sage forest. At one point, I really think I had two of the sage-grouse fly up and bank sharply behind my back. I caught 7 seconds of these birds before they disappeared. I'm not counting them until I have much better looks. I want pictures!
|Sneak attack from a curious llama! This character seriously came out of nowhere!|
So I helped make some important markers for ebird since Gunnison is not well mapped out nor ebirded often. I know this bird's habitat well. We even went to visit the lek that they visit in April and May. Overall, we spent 3 days in this location walking through sage-grouse habitat. These secretive birds hang low in the sage brush and feed from these plants in fall and winter. The weather in Gunnison was unpredictable. It rained off and on each day. The important part was that it didn't snow like it did last time!
These dirt roads are long and wind around many rock outcroppings. Just to give you the magnitude of this overwhelmingly beautiful landscape, I put Micheal's car into the pic.
|Somewhere in that vast sea of sage are about a thousand sage-grouse:)|
|Townsend's Solitaire on a cloudy day.|
When we left the building, it felt strange. A good strange but still....strange. I can't explain this emotion, but after many years of being treated like a second class citizen, it felt wonderful to be recognized as a citizen with full legal rights. It was a moment we'll never forget.
And that is why dipping on THIS grouse is okay. It means we get to keep coming back to this place of serene beauty over and over again.
Our trip into Colorado would bring with it friends and family, happiness and an unexpected farewell. But with the good and the bad, there will always be birds!