Biologist Michael Schroeder and journalist Ashley Ahearn scour the freshly fallen snow for the footprints of Greater Sage-Grouse in rural Washington State. With fewer than 1,000 of the birds left in the state, they are a rare sight. Learn more about the history of the most controversial bird in the West on Grouse, a series on BirdNote Presents.
Written by Ashley Ahearn
This is BirdNote.
I’m Ashley Ahearn. Two years ago, I moved from the city of Seattle to sagebrush country and became obsessed with a funky-looking bird known as the Greater Sage-Grouse.
But I had never actually seen one of these birds. Which is not surprising. There are fewer than 1000 left in Washington State.
So last winter I tagged along with biologist Michael Schroeder to track some down.
[getting out of car ambi in background]
MS: 22:10 Anyway, let's see if we can find some tracks.
We scour the fresh snow for tracks. At first, all we find are coyote footprints. But then…
23:01 AA: Oh! What’s this one? Is that more coyote here? These guys?
MS: Doesn't look like coyote. Yeah. What are those? They're close together. Just a sec. Not a very distinct track, but it looks like it could be. It could be a grouse. Definitely grouse.
AA: Wait, did I just beat the scientist at finding a sage-grouse tracks?
MS: Well, not surprising, I'm not wearing my glasses. Everybody can see it better than me now.
We follow the small, triangular tracks through the snow for a few minutes and then they disappear.
And just as I’m about to give up hope… there’s a clatter of wings about 25 yards ahead of us…
35:06 MS: There we go.
AA: Oh my god.
MS: Well, there you go. There’s your sage-grouse. In flight over the horizon. It's alone.
Join me on the adventure of a lifetime as I chase after this rare bird on our new series, Grouse. Find it on the BirdNote Presents podcast or at BirdNote.org.
Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. GRSG ML50119 recorded by G Keller.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2020 BirdNote September 2020 Narrator: Ashley Ahearn
ID# GRSG-04-2020-09-15 GRSG-04