Thursday, May 17, 2007

Birding featured as "backyard ecotourism"

USA Today:

WALDEN, Colo. (AP) — People jostled cameras and squirmed on benches inside a trailer on a high-mountain meadow as the tour guide gently opened retractable doors, turning the bird blind into a window on one of nature's most spectacular shows: Strutting, chest-puffing male sage grouse in the last throes of mating season.

Dozens of greater sage grouse were first heard in the 5 a.m. darkness: Swishing sounds followed by pops, like a loud percolating coffee pot.

Light gradually spread over the meadow, brightening the jagged, snowcapped peaks of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness and revealing the source of the sounds — two big white air sacs on the birds' chests that repeatedly inflate and deflate. The brown and black birds, about 2 feet tall, fanned out their spiked tail feathers, trying to attract the two or three hens checking them out and charging at the other eager males.
Nice to see birding get widespread publicity in a mainstream national newspaper.

Greater Sage Grouse courtesy of Gary Kramer/U.S Fish & Wildlife Service

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