We begin with an idea. Then a plan takes shape.
I have studied this bird for years and have only dreamed about observing this vulnerable grouse dancing on one of their leks.
This is one of the most threatened grouses of North America. Banding and several conservation projects continue to help prevent the decreasing population trend of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.
Our whole trek out to Texas and New Mexico was based around this bird. Months of planning went into this one singular moment. I am thankful Gordon is retired and had time to go through the communications that were needed to observe this bird because it took awhile to contact the right people.
Knowing the right people also helped with the connections to help us access this site. A birder's reputation is important.
We checked into our hotel in Roswell and then took the USS Betty outside of town into the grasslands to survey the area before our early morning departure for a potential observation of these birds.
We scanned the mostly unmarked roads and made mental notes of where to turn and park. We packed our food and used the bathroom before leaving. We made our exit from the hotel at around 4 AM in the pitch dark. It was cold and breezy.
Gordon took the wheel of Betty because my eyes are bad at night. No lights. No disturbance whatsoever to the lek mating dances.
We parked in the pitch dark and opened our windows. And waited. And waited. At 5:30, I heard something near us.
And then, the party started. We were so lucky. Before us, there had only been a few glimpses of just one or two birds. We were hopeful and because of our patience, we had 20+ birds dancing around the lek.
We carefully took notes for the New Mexican BLM(Bureau of Land Management). Gordon submitted our survey forms as he was the contact person.
After several hours in the car, a bathroom break was needed but the lek show was going on. Over time during these precious observation windows, birders have devised various methods to use the bathroom without disrupting sensitive species during important breeding or feeding times. Thankfully we didn't have to resort to any such thing:) A Northern Harrier ended the lek dances quickly and the birds flew off ending our fantastic morning show.
Even months after this event, I am still glowing from our observations. Everything flowed seamlessly together and that's because of Gordon's excellent planning. Our next trek for grouse will be next year.....and I'm thinking Gunnison's is up for an investigation. If you've done the grouse adventure with tour companies, I tip my hat to you. I couldn't do it. It's a lot of driving and sitting. So it's one North American grouse a year until they are all seen:)
On our way home, we treated ourselves to a stop at White Sands. It was a great way to end our trip out to Texas and New Mexico. Until next time....