Spring in the Great Basin

First day of Spring!

Even though our world is anything but routine right now, nature’s rhythms continue to turn on the rotation of our planet.   The northern desert is awakening from it’s winter slumber. Tiny flowers poke through our most recent snow and animals follow their inner clocks and begin their spring activities. For larger mammals it is nearing time for females to give birth. For birds, courtship and nesting are about to jump into full swing. In the high desert, on healthy sage brush steppes, the Sage Grouse have begun their ancient courtship ritual of Lekking.

Male Sage Grouse Courtship Display

lekking

[ˈlekiNG]

NOUN

  1. the practice by males in certain species of birds and mammals of engaging in a communal display during the breeding season on a patch of ground known as a lek.

“from 5,000 to 50,000 males may congregate during lekking”

ADJECTIVE

  1. (of males in certain species of birds and mammals) engaging in a communal display during the breeding season on a patch of ground known as a lek.

“in comparison to other lekking animals, the great snipe show very little sexual dimorphism”

Male Sage Grouse

Weather permitting, I try to visit several Leks in northern Nevada and California in the Spring. It has become a Spring time ritual for me observe and photograph these amazing courtship displays. It takes some dedication as the dirt roads can be iffy with mud and snow. Couple that with needing to be at the Lek well before it gets light in often 20 degree or less temperatures, it isn’t for everyone.

Sage Grouse start lekking the end of February and will continue until the first week in May. They meet on the Lek where the males dance and strut for several hours before the sun comes up.  About an hour after sun up, they all fly off. The responsible observer gets there well before they do and hides in a blind or stays quiet in the vehicle until the birds have left. Disturbing them may cause them to abandon the lek forever. Many of these leks have been in use for thousands of years.  

Pronghorn frequently visit the Leks

11 thoughts on “Spring in the Great Basin

  1. Wonderful captures! And such dedication to catch them! 😀

    I’ve heard the booming drumming sounds they make at a distance up in the hills beyond our house. It’s quite a thrill.

  2. I’ve always wanted to see this in person. Maybe one day I’ll make that a real goal and try and get out there

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