Successful Sage-grouse Experience
By Larry Hyslop
Participants watching sage-grouse strut on a lek
Ruby Valley was cold at 5:30am, but beautiful as the sky slowly brightened in the east. Birds sang and a willet flew in circles uttering its weird call. In the distance, 51 sage-grouse males strutted; standing up tall to puff up their air sacs, then releasing the trapped air before lowering themselves, turning a different direction to run forward a few steps before repeating the performance. In the still morning air, their “popcorn popping” or “water drops on a lake” sounds were distinct.
Thirty-two people go up early enough to gather at the BLM building at 4:30am where they loaded into vans donated by Barrick Gold Corporation. Participants were part of the 2014 Elko County Sage-grouse Experience, and wanted to learn more about sage-grouse. They stood beside the valley road, watching this unique spectacle through binoculars and spotting scopes. The viewed lek was on private land and the landowner was there to talk to the group. Shortly after the sun came up over the East Humboldt Range, the group returned to the vans to travel to the Ruby Valley L.D.S. Church. The Ruby Valley 4H Club had prepared a brunch and their hot chocolate help revived the chilled group. Newmont Mining Corporation donated money for the breakfast.
Leta Collord of the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group welcomed the participants, as the leader of the group who put together this event. Joe Doucette of NDOW introduced the morning’s speakers. Caleb McAdoo, NDOW area biologist, told the group about bird populations and the importance of private lands for sage-grouse conservation. Cam Collins, BLM biologist, described the various habitat needed by sage-grouse throughout the year, including habitat for strutting, nesting, brood rearing and winter. Kent McAdoo, Rangeland Specialist for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Service, described the seven sagebrush obligate species that live in the area, requiring the presence of sagebrush at least part of the year.
Everyone received an event T-shirt donated by Noble Energy and arrived back in Elko by 11am, tired but understanding more about this iconic species, the sage-grouse.
Elko Daily Free Press, “Nature Notes”, 4/26/2014
© Gray Jay Press, Elko, NV
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