June 30, 2006

When grouse attack

Yesterday on the North Taylor Creek Trail in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness, M. and I encountered a hen blue grouse. (Photo: Colorado Division of Wildlife)

Did she fly away? No, she actually bluff-charged us.

She had chicks--or a chick--with her. I saw just the one, scooting through the undergrowth.

Ma Grouse, meanwhile, fanned her tail and marched down the trail at us, clucking noisily.

Then she flew at M.'s head. Yikes, it's raptor grouse! At the last moment, she veered to one side and alighted in a sapling fir, then flew down to the ground.

At that point, we were between her and chick(s), but maybe that was the plan. Carefully, we walked up the trail. I gripped my hiking stick, ready to fend off the vicious bird, until we were safely away.

I have met blue grouse with chicks before, but never such a bellicose individual. Life is tough at 10,000 feet.

The aspens in that drainage are heavily infested with forest tent caterpillars. Most of the larger trees were stripped of leaves, but the grass was thick and green beneath them. The elk should be happy.

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