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blizzard warnings - 13:52 , 03 October 2013

heelerless - 21:32 , 18 August 2013

Red Coat Inn in Fort McLeod - 11:38 , 23 June 2013

rushing into the waters - 09:53 , 21 June 2013

choosing a spot - 17:43 , 27 April 2013

24 April 2002 - 17:53


Long entry... sorry.

There were only two strutting grounds on yesterday's lek survey. About six miles apart (of course, it was just about 15 miles of road to cover those six miles). Got to the first lek well before sunup, counted 31 cocks, and then began the 30-minute drive to the second lek.

Set up on a hill about two miles east of the second lek, and set the spotting scope in the window. Usually, it is fairly late in the morning by the time I count this ground, but today I am early. Just 45 minutes after sunrise.

Swing the scope towards the distant clearing that is the strutting ground, and what do I see?

A golden eagle. A g-d m-f eagle flying low over the lek.

Exactly over the lek.

No grouse, naturally. Missed them by seconds. And now have to spend another entire morning just to come out here to count this lek again.

G-d m-f eagles.

So, this morning the heelers sisters and I headed out even earlier. And got to the overlook point for that second lek when it was too dark to count. And too early for eagles to be flying.

I sipped my field mocha while the heelers ran and snooped, and did their business. Only 17o out there.

As dawn progressed, I started my counts. And kept counting until I was fairly sure I had 'most everybody (hard to do with chicken-sized birds at two miles). Then, to avoid wasting a whole morning on just this one lek, we hightailed it east, to try to hit another survey route.

Actually hadn't checked either of the two leks on this other route for three years. Not since the squatters ranchetters got so thick that you couldn't drive down the creek without going through somebody's yard (not cool at dark-thirty in the morning). But now we're coming from the west, and the squatters ranchetters whose yard that road went through disappeared after the last tough winter (whether because of the winter and the 13-mile snowmachine commutes, or because two of the three residents were later imprisoned for stealing new snowmachines, I do not know).

Like most squatters ranchetters, they left all their stuff, which is disintegrating and blowing insulation all over that part of the desert. But I digress.

Birds still strutting away on the first lek. Hi guys, ya miss me?

Nobody on the second ground, but there hasn't been since they did all that drilling for the in situ coal gasification project and stored their equipment right by the lek.

Might as well head south and check another abandoned lek that I haven't looked at for years. Still abandoned, but this was the first chance I've had to check it from up close since 1988, so it's nice to know for sure. We're three miles from the interstate, but it is loud and clear. No wonder the grouse gave up on this spot.

So, the morning wasn't wasted by yesterday's eagle, after all.

Decided to take the questionable shortcut back to the highway. Any normal year, you would be insane or stupid to try to drive across the greasewood flats and the creek crossing any time before July. But not this year. Raised dust.

No water in the creek, but the pond was about half full. With a dozen avocets and a dozen ducks.

Including one red duck!

Yeah, red!

Haven't seen a cinnamon teal in years. We were in a wet cycle when I first came to the desert, and for quite a few years you could find cinnamons on just about every little permanent pond.

But the little ponds are mostly gone now, and with them the cinnamons.

Suspect this pair was just migrating through, but it was still good to see them.

Stopped at the truck stop on the west end of town as we headed home. Which threw the heelers off their routine.

Went to the clerk at the convenience store counter, who was momentarily idle.

"Can I help you?"

I explain I have a rather unusual request. Some folks in town had a lottery back in February, in fact for Valentine's Day, and your outfit donated a camera.

I won it.

Her face lit up. "You won it?! Congratulations!"

She grabs the other clerk and tells her I'm the guy who won the camera. Remember, back for Valentine's Day? And the two of them generally make much more of a fuss than is warranted.

She calls clear across the store to Ken, the manager. "Do you know where the camera from the Valentine's Day lottery is?" His blank stare requires her to repeat the pertinent parts of her question... "Camera. Valentine's Day. Lottery. Remember?"

"Which year?" is Ken's reply.

Okay, okay. I get the point. I've been a little slow getting here.

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