Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Log in the Forest

A morning or evening walk in mixedwood or deciduous forest in late April or early May often yields a spring icon - the drumming of a male ruffed grouse. Have you ever attempted to sneak in close enough to see the drumming male? It can be surprisingly difficult. The grouse is out to impress the females, but he isn't too keen to end up on some predator's menu while he beats his ardor to the world.  Fortunately, the grouse is a creature of habit. He has a favourite log to drum on, and he will return to that log over and over again, even between years. If one flushes him from his log and sits and then waits patiently nearby (but not too close) he may return fairly quickly. Even better is to locate the log, and then get there ahead of him to await his next session.

If you don't see the grouse leave his log, keep walking and look for an accumulation of droppings and a worn look, as shown in the photo with this post. Older logs with some rot are favoured, and so are logs located in cover (the better to discourage predators).

Back in high school a friend and I headed to our favourite lake for a fishing trip. We got there after dark, pitched our tent in the forest, and turned in. The wake-up call came at about 4:30 AM. In the dark we had inadvertently tied our tent rope to a ruffed grouse's drumming log. That particular grouse wasn't going to let a minor thing like a tent deter his schedule. At close range the drumming is really loud. We wanted to sleep, so we shooed him away. He was back within 15 minutes. After 2 or 3 repeats of this exercise we gave up and got up. And we moved our tent so he could have his log to himself the next morning.

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