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FORUMS Photo Sharing & Visual Enjoyment Birds 
Thread started 25 Apr 2010 (Sunday) 23:55
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Sage Grouse Lek

 
popeshawnpaul
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Apr 25, 2010 23:55 |  #1

I don't post here much but thought this experience could be appreciated by some birding folks.

I spent the night last Wednesday in a sage grouse blind and lek thanks to my good friend and member on this site, Tom Reichner. It was one of the most memeorable experiences I've ever had in the wild.

I started out getting out of court early that day. (I'm a lawyer) I had a client walk into court late that wanted a warrant quashed but I just ran out and told him to handle it himself. Why was I in such a rush? The birds come into the lek or breeding area around 8pm and I had a 3 hour drive ahead of me. I drove like the wind and got to the lek around 7pm. I met Tom and he helped me get situated in the blind. It was still light out, and I was wondering why I was hiding in this blind/tent before dark but I soon heard the reason why. At about 8:30pm a sage grouse flew in by the tent. That was the only one I heard fly in. I tried to sleep but couldn't that night. It was eerily quiet and there were coyotes howling all around. I was miles from anywhere in a remote sage brush and wheat field off the road. Tom warned me the grouse would be all around, so be quiet in the night. Peeing in a coffee can and trying to be quiet was a chore, but I got it accomplished.

I got a little sleep, and woke up at 3:00 AM. I knew it would be light in an hour or so and I couldn't wait. I tried to look out the peep hole but didn't see anything because it was too dark. At 4:30 AM it was mostly dark and eerily quiet. Out of the still night a loud alien type sound came from 5 feet outside my tent. I about jumped out of my skin. Suddenly, the field around me lit up with alien "boinking" sounds. I peered out the peep hole and saw flashes of white moving everywhere. They were here!

I slowly got sat up and got a coat on because it was cold. I had laid out the camera gear so I was ready. There were white blobs boiking and dancing everywhere around the tent. I slid the lens out inch by inch slowly. Although I tried to take pictures in the early morning light, the best images came later once I could drop the ISO to 800 or 400. The sounds and actions the sage grouse make are amazing. I blew through 800 images in 2 hours. Here are a few for your enjoyment.

IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

IMG NOTICE: [NOT AN IMAGE URL, NOT RENDERED INLINE]

www.shawnmccully.com (external link)

  
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alohabob
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Apr 26, 2010 00:03 |  #2

Beautiful...Awesome colors and detail! Great narration too, lol.
I want to hear grouse boik!


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kd_reno
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Apr 26, 2010 02:06 |  #3

Wonderful images, and a great story.


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Nighthound
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Apr 26, 2010 08:06 |  #4

Amazing seems to fall short for these Shawn. I enjoyed hearing how you managed these, very well executed plan and beautiful results. Thanks so much for sharing these, incredible birds.


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Restless ­ legs ­ man
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Apr 26, 2010 10:47 |  #5

Well worth peeing in a can to get images like that!


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monk3y
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Apr 26, 2010 10:56 |  #6

wow...I didn't even know there is something called like that and with an appearance something like that hehe


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rw2
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Apr 26, 2010 12:21 |  #7

Great effort brings great results!


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canonloader
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Apr 26, 2010 13:16 |  #8

Great shots. That's quite a bird.


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Shar824
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Apr 26, 2010 13:30 |  #9

Amazing birds and a great story to go along with them Shawn.....wonderful shots.


Sharon

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Trap
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Apr 26, 2010 15:56 as a reply to  @ Shar824's post |  #10

While all grouse put on amazing displays at breeding time, the Sage Grouse is in my opinion the most spectacular.

Always amazes me how they instinctvely now where to gather and usually in the same spot every year.

Great Shots and thanks for reliving the adventure.


Trap


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jay_l_a
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Apr 26, 2010 16:00 as a reply to  @ Trap's post |  #11

Great shots. Could you share your setup? I suspect either a f/2.8 or f/4 prime due to the shallow depth-of-field.
J


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mattlev12
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Apr 26, 2010 16:05 |  #12

Awesome story, and beautiful pictures! I amy never get to experience a moment like that...thanks so much for sharing...well done!


Matt
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popeshawnpaul
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Apr 26, 2010 16:55 |  #13

jay_l_a wrote in post #10069659 (external link)
Great shots. Could you share your setup? I suspect either a f/2.8 or f/4 prime due to the shallow depth-of-field.
J

It was a lot of work by my friend Tom Reichner to get permission and get it set up. I'm certain he had help from Bob, aka Snow Goose from this site. Many thanks to them for their help. I have since done some research and located 2 other leks and will work on permission at those leks for next year. I have leads on many others but it's like an easter egg hunt.

The setup was good but I can envision how it might be better. There was a slit in the blind and I was using a 400mm f2.8 L IS with my 7D. I also had a 5D when reach wasn't needed. I shot most shots at f2.8 and had a teleconverter but it wasn't necessary really. The lens stuck out of the blind at the pivot point on a whimberly so you had to move it slow so as not to spook the grouse. They did notice when it moved.

Shooting the grouse was a bit of a challenge. They moved a lot and the cramped position and low angle was a challenge. At first light there are lighting issues and you start at high ISO and drop it down to ISO 400. You pretty much have to focus on one bird. Keep the lens as low as possible to be at the grouses level. Even 2 feet off the groud would be too much.

If I had to do it over again I think a few more holes in the blind would be good. I would utilize a 70-200 and try and get more group shots. Getting shots of a grouse coming at you in enough light to stop the fast action of their dance was difficult. Thanks.


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patlannon
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Apr 26, 2010 17:41 |  #14

That's some amazing shooting Shawn. Those Leks are beautiful.


Pat,
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popeshawnpaul
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Apr 26, 2010 20:12 as a reply to  @ patlannon's post |  #15

Here is another.

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www.shawnmccully.com (external link)

  
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