Yellowstone National Park is known probably most for its wildlife … bear, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, coyote, wolf, fox, deer to just name a few. It’s also home to some fabulous birds, such as bald and golden eagles, falcons, a variety of hawks, owls, and many species of ducks and other water birds. Then there’s the grouse.
Such a sweet bird … resembling that of a chicken. I remember one winter having such a great time photographing a grouse, though now that I think about it, while photographing it that grouse flew down from the roof of the outhouse … almost into my lap! I was amused that year. Little did I know that I was about to have another grouse encounter.See, this beautiful dusky grouse was located by coincidence as we stopped to photograph something totally unrelated in the far distance. The grouse was walking around on the grassy landscape and started making its way towards us. As usual, I started talking softly to it as I happily snapped off some shots of it. As it neared, it walked over to some flowers in the grass, picked them off, and proceeded to eat it. The flowers complimented its bright yellow eyebrows. So pretty. Such a wonderful photo op, I thought.I distinctly remember telling it how adorable it was and how I loved what it was doing. I was in a squatted position and it began to come near me. That’s when I noticed that its eyebrows were changing colors and I got caught up in the moment of wondering why. I remember another photographer also nearby taking shots … but they were much more selective. Then all of a sudden gave a call out … then rushed me … and OK, don’t think I’m crazy, but it jumped at me … making contact with my shin. I was totally startled, jumped up, and that’s when I heard the clicking of another camera. I noticed it was the other photographer nearby and then saw that he was laughing. I asked if he had seen it and he responded that he did. I then asked if he had gotten a shot of the “assault” and again he said he did. He then told me that I wasn’t the first that it had attacked. LOLThis grouse then would give a shrilled call out, that I can only compare to the call that the velociraptor does in Jurrasic Park movies. OK, by now I’m trying desperately to vacate the area, but of course, this guy kept following after me.All the while, its eyebrows continued to grow a deeper shade of orange …… to an eventual reddish color. He would act as though he lost interest in me, then would eye me from a side glance, and rush me again! I wasn’t alone either, as he seemed to prefer women. He never really went after Tom or the male photographer having fun at others expense. LOLAt some point, he began to flare up his feathers and go into courtship mode. See, they have a patch of violet-red skin on their neck surrounded by white feathers. I wished he had turned just a bit more to show it off better, but I clearly didn’t want to hang around any longer.I’m not sure if it has a nest nearby or if it was simply protecting its territory. Either way, I got the message quite clearly. As I turned to leave the area, it gave me a final glance. It truly was a fascinating, though I must admit, a bit frightening of an experience. Tom of course didn’t believe that it made contact with me, but Jen saw it for herself. We laughed the rest of the day and many times since over this encounter. I think that it goes without mention that these images are all cropped for detail. Just making sure that’s clear. 🙂
Next Up: Lunch with a golden eagle and more from Yellowstone NP
© 2016 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography