Saturday, March 25, 2017

Finger Licking Good

California Quail
The thing about ground birds is that they are VERY hard to spot.  Often we'd hear the birds, like the Mountain Quail, and not see them.  We'd drive miles and miles into their habitat range and just look.  

The eyes can get tired from scanning hillsides, rocks and roads for hours.  We passed countless Horned Larks and Snow Buntings.  And then two Gray Partridges zoomed past our car......into the shadows.  No good.  We needed better looks. 

Horned Lark
At one point, we noticed Ruffed Grouse in the snowy trees.  They blended into the bare branches and gray skies pretty well. 

This is yet another grouse that I have looked for time and time again back in Wisconsin.  After watching Khanh scan for grouse, I think I have a better idea about finding these birds on my own.  I had been doing it all wrong!

With new buds on the trees, and towards the evening hours, we found many of these birds feeding.  

Ruffed Grouse
 Our next day found us on the road again.  This time for the skittish Gray Partridge.  Khanh spotted a covey of about 15 birds running along side the road. 

Gray Partridge
 We had to be quick with cameras as they quickly took off in flight.  The Gray Partridge was introduced from Eurasia and can be a tricky spot for birders. They rely heavily on agricultural fields and the grains farmers feed their cattle.  

The last ground bird we observed well was the California Quail.  I was happy when Gordon was finally able to get great photos of this sometimes difficult quail.  And I only say "difficult" because it hasn't been easy for the two of us over the past several years. There is one spot in Arizona where they can be found and it's a difficult area for photos. These are not common birds for us here. While we both had seen the birds, it was Gordon who hadn't really gotten nice close ups of this quail.  So I'm glad they played nice for him.  

I've learned a lot from our grouse trek up into the Pacific Northwest.  It's not easy.  None of it.  Yes, certain times of year are easier than others, but they are difficult birds.  I have shared stories about attempted views of the Gunnison's sage-grouse.  It still hasn't happened but like I've stated before on other posts......I have enjoyed dipping on this bird only so that I can go back to Gunnison again.  It's a pretty special place for me.  If you need a guide in the states of Oregon and Washington(and possibly Canada), I'd highly recommend my friend Khanh Tran. He's a great guide and knows his owls and grouse well (and all the other specialty birds that are found in his area). We did the impossible and it was exhausting.  Sitting back now, I have time to reflect on the week long journey.  The birds, the food, the fun and the company were the best. I think I have a couple more posts to go and then I'll be back in Arizona for all the fun I've been having here.  More to come..... 


  1. I love Quail, they are comical birds. - Also loved your deer.

  2. What a great trip! I'm glad you finally got your grouse! Love the pics, and your story telling. Maybe one day I will get to bird this area!

    1. It's such a great place. I KNOW you'd love that area!

  3. Sounds like a hard but rewarding trip, Chris! Way to go!

  4. Hello, these are all wonderful birds. Most would be new for me, great photos and post. Happy Birding!

  5. Interestingly the Grey Partridge is now a rarity in my part of the UK!

    1. That is crazy to imagine. Such a strange bird for me here in the US. It sounds like the same thing is happening with your House Sparrows as well. We have plenty of them here:)

  6. Jolies photos. Les Alouettes hausse-col nous rendent visite en hiver sur nos plages ;-)
    Céline & Philippe

  7. beautiful bird pics. the California quail are lovely.

  8. It's so great to finally get some shots that you both wanted. What a great place to be looking with all that wonderful scenery!


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