I’d been to the White Mountains several times this year and so far I’d struck out on the bird I wanted to see most, Dusky Grouse. I had yet another chance to put this right, but I didn’t hold out too much hope.
My friend Ed Tobin and I arrived at Green’s Peak, probably the best known site for Dusky Grouse in Arizona, not long after dawn. We immediately headed along one of the rough trails that plunges down the steep slopes. Aftrer a while we took a side trail (made by deer or elk) and soon heard a noise I’d been listening for on previous visits – the sound of a big bird flushing from the ground and alighting in a nearby pine. I was sure it must be a grouse so we went straight to the spot. The bird flushed again, a big, fat bird with whirring wings and a chuckling flight call. We had a terrible view as it disappeared, but it had to be a grouse… didn’t it?
I wanted a better view, but hours later I was coming to the conclusion that we’d had all we were going to get. By now we had gone off trail completely and were picking our way through the pines and aspens, scrambling the steep slopes and climbing fallen tree trunks. But at 9.30am it happened again – we flushed another big bird from the edge of a clearing, and this one definitely landed in a pine up ahead. I crept slowly, scanning the trees, not imagining I’d see anything in there, but then a shape materialized in front of me and… yes! There it was, a DUSKY GROUSE perched motionless towards the top of a pine. I got a couple of record shots and signalled Ed to come over. He just got on it as it leapt from the branch and flew away from us, down slope.
It had been a long and exhausting morning but our hard work had paid off with a decent view of one of Arizona’s most difficult species. Happy days! 😀
Click here for more photos from this trip to the White Mountains .