Jordan Rabon and Tracey Johnson are researchers at Rinker Rock Creek Ranch in Idaho, and they study how this threatened bird interacts with cows. As part of their work, they capture and band the grouse, and they have an unusual way of gathering data. They use … a boombox. “It just kind of masks our sound when we’re approaching birds,” Jordan says, turning up the volume. And some of their favorite music might just be country.
[Hear more escapades about this wacky bird on Grouse from BirdNote Presents.]
Sage-Grouse Two Step
Written by Ashley Ahearn
Ashley Ahearn: This is BirdNote.
Ashley Ahearn: It’s 3 AM, and Jordan Rabon (RAY-bawn) and Tracey Johnson are trapping sage-grouse. They’re researchers at Rinker Rock Creek Ranch in Idaho who study how this threatened bird interacts with cows on the landscape. And they have some interesting ways of gathering their data…
Jordan Rabon: So we play music when we’re walking around. It just kind of masks our sound when we’re approaching birds…
[Music rises] 🎵You spin my head right round, right round... 🎵
Ashley Ahearn: We traipse through the sagebrush for more than an hour. We’ve heard Will Smith, Christina Aguilera, some Beastie Boys… Still no grouse to be seen. Then Jordan puts on some country music — one of Tracey’s favorite songs — Two Step.
🎵 Do my two step... 🎵
And he’s scanning the sagebrush with his spotlight — and then he freezes.
Jordan Rabon: I got one. Ready?
Tracey Johnson: Yeah.
Ashley Ahearn: He spins the volume dial way up, and we take off at a run.
🎵 I’m gonna wear what I want to, ‘cause I want to, I don’t need no man 🎵
Jordan gets to the spot first and he’s flashing the light all over to confuse the grouse. There’s a clatter of wings and a black shadow takes off into the dark sky. And Tracey’s net misses it by inches as it flaps out of the glare of the spotlight and disappears.
Jordan Rabon: So yeah, that’s grouse trapping.
Ashley Ahearn: I really think they like the country music.
Tracey Johnson: Yeah, it’s the song man. That’s like one of my favorites. [Laugh]
Ashley Ahearn: You can hear more escapades in search of this wacky, wonderful bird on our new series, Grouse. Subscribe to BirdNote Presents in your podcast app, or listen at BirdNote.org. I’m Ashley Ahearn.
Field recordings by Ashley Ahearn
Music: Contains samples of You Spin Me Right Round (Like a Record) recorded by Dead or Alive (1984) and Two Step recorded by Laura Bell Bundy (2015).
Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2020 BirdNote October 2020 Narrator: Ashley Ahearn
ID# GRSG-06-2020-10-01 GRSG-06