We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.
801 Northcrest Shopping Center
Ft. Wayne, IN 46805
Phone: (260) 484-3000
Fax: (260) 483-0445
Email: Send Message
Mon - Fri: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm
Sat - Sat: 9:00 am - 7:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
I had an interesting wildlife encounter on a recent trip this September to visit our son who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah and works up in the Wasatch Mountains at Snowbird Ski Resort. On the day of my arrival our son wanted to see what his 50 year old dad from the flat lands was made of, so off we went to do some ridgeline hiking at altitudes ranging from 10,000 to 11,100 feet above sea level. After leaving Ft. Wayne that morning at an elevation of 810 ft. my heart and lungs at times felt like they were going to pop out of my chest, but the views were incredible and well worth my physical sacrifice.
As we hiked down the mountain we began to follow along a snowcat (machine used to groom ski slopes) track that zigzagged through open meadows and mature stands of pine trees. As we passed through the pines a large bird running quickly across the ground passed directly in front of us. The late afternoon sun was casting huge shadows and darkened our view of the bird, as we walked a few more steps ahead I saw some motion just off the trail at my feet. Sure enough it was a beautiful female spruce grouse. I could have practically bent over and touched her she was so close. After snapping a couple of dark photos we continue down the path.
As we hiked, my son recalled an encounter that he and a friend had while spring skiing in the backcountry with a female spruce grouse who aggressively came out of the trees and actually attacked their ski boots and skis by pecking at them. The protective Mom followed behind them for about 200 yards escorting them out of her territory. Upon my return, I did a little research and found that close encounters with humans is not uncommon. In field notes written by Ted Bailey while in the Kenai, Alaska National Wildlife Refuge he cited multiple "attacks" while hiking the area, saying, "Territories are most aggressively defended during the breeding season, but apparently they may be defended year round. I also learned that spruce grouse when approached by a predator, relies on camouflage and immobility to an amazing degree, for example letting people come to within a few feet before finally taking flight, a behavior that has earned it the moniker "fool hen."
I just find that every time I am out in nature that I am always learning more. Our backyards and local and state parks are just an amazing classroom teaming with wonders if we slow down enough to look and listen to what is going on around us. It is so fun after a hike to come back home and dive into my computer for the explanations of my observations.