[Tweeters] RE: RFI- Spruce grouse in August
khanhbatran at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 2 17:56:45 PDT 2007
Hi Alan and Tweets!
Before I answer, the road to Harts Pass is still closed at this time due to
a major rock slide. The status is still unknown. They originally
anticipated an opening date in mid-August.
Earlier this year, I traveled to the Freezeout Pass, Tiffany Pass, and the
Roger Lake area and found that the much of the prime habitat is diminished.
However, if you can find any lush vegetation or prime habitat remaining,
that small patch can reward you with a few birds. In a sense, it might be
easier. However, I will focus my suggestion as where to search for the
The elusive spruce grouse..... Ah, my favorite NW bird! A widespread,
compacted and but maddeningly difficult grouse to find. So here is a quick
reference to my two years of experience with these beautiful birds in
Oregon, Washington, and Northern British Columbia.
I have seen over 45 birds during this time frame with a high percentage of
sightings during the fall, usually early in the morning and a few hours
before dark. Rarely, have I seen them during the day except on a few
For some weird and lucky reason, I see them almost 70% of the time when I go
to NE Oregon, NC and NE WA, and parts of British Columbia. It helps greatly
if you know their habits and when to look. You can be in the right habitat
and walk right by them. I wouldn't say finding the birds are easy, but when
you find one after multiple attempts of walking and driving forest roads, it
They are extremely quiet and one of the quietest grouse. I have only heard
the hen cluck once and barely heard her from five feet away. The chicks
have an audible, high peeping call, which I heard for the first time this
June near Tumblers Ridge, BC. Very young, sprucie chicks are extremely
yellow with a very rich,reddish brown appearance.
Your chances of seeing one should increase towards the middle of September.
>From July to August, follow any stream, creek or drainages near a trail or
gravel road with any ground cover, fallen logs and a combination of hemlock,
cedar, Engelmann spruce, lodge pole pines, or fir. Near any water source
with the above habitat, you will more than likely encounter hens with chicks
as the mother often lead the chicks to this insect-enriched habitat. I have
seen the birds as low as 3700 ft to 9000 ft high. Recently, Paul Sieracki
had one male at 3200 ft in cedar hemlock habitat.
Prior to hunting season (mid August to middle of September), is the probably
the best time
as the families are out and about gathering grit. The young will be almost
as large as the parents but the coloration and markings are not as defined.
Males have blotches of dark gray.
During this time I have seen as many as 10 birds in one area during the
fall. Observing a variety of different sizes and coloration, I assume they
were from more than one family or a double brood. I also have seen multiple
adult males (up to 4 birds) within a few feet of each other during the late
The birds are still seen in good numbers during peak hunting season, but I
cringe and hope they will survive the dreadful gunshots.
I usually see the birds in the early morning from 7-10 AM or from early
evening to dark (6-8 PM). On a cold day with some sunlight, they will find
any ridges or areas west facing to get a little sun before dark, usually on
a gravel road. During the other times, you have to bushwhack a little and
look on the ground or even in trees. I have found several at varying
heights on spruce and fir trees. So they are not always on the ground.
However, I find this tactic to be very unproductive. You are just lucky if
you find one in a tree. Go buy a lottery ticket!
Wherever you search, I suggest a search pattern of two or more people moving
parallel to one another 30-40 feet apart. Walk slowly and look for the
birds on the ground in suitable habitat.
During the end of September and October, I have seen a few birds in trees
eating spruce needles. If you are within 20 feet, you can actually hear
them munching on the hard needles.
Out of the 45 or so birds I have seen from the past two years, most are
trusting while a few are skittish. They are much more approachable than the
duskies, sooties, and ruffed. They will rarely fly unless hard push. If
they do, they do not fly far or high. If they run away, they will scurry a
few feet and eventually stay still. If you encounter a skittish one, walk
slowly towards it and give it some time to get use to you and then get
On multiple occasions, I had birds 1-3 feet away from me and had to back
away to get the entire bird to fit in my camera focus. I think the only
other bird that is tamer, is a white tailed ptarmigan.
Also when you flush a spruce grouse, they have the quietest wing beats
compared to the
explosive pop of a flushed ruffed grouse and intermediate sound created by
flushed dusky or sooty.
During this time September to mid-October, I suggest you drive along the the
forest roads with any fine gravel and a combination of some dirt on the top
surfaces. If time permits, do this several times during early morning and a
couple hours shortly before dark. This is probably the most efficient and
easiest way without a lot of hiking.
Here is a short list of where I had the most successful or think it has
Salmon Meadows (near Conconully, WA): I saw two males early and late spring
of this year along the second, smaller campground (not the one with the
large open meadow) at MP 9 to MP 10.
Bunchgrass Meadows (near Ione, WA) From MP 5 to MP 12 is excellent during
the fall. I saw one male during my first visit at low elevation (3700 ft)
in cedar hemlock habitat. You need an SUV in areas past MP 7 or so.
Salmo Pass (Metaline Falls, WA) FR 22 a few miles before Pass Creek Pass is
ideal. FR 2220 once it splits from FR 22 to the top of Salmo Mt is
excellent. Excellent and well maintained road. A female spruce with chicks
was reported here last week. It might be a good year for White winged
crossbills, and I saw a Caribou there two weeks ago.
Albian Hill Rd (FR 2030) from MP 4-6 is great along with the trailhead at
Campground. Walk the easy trail for a mile or so. It is excellent habitat.
This road is excellent except for some spur roads. You can easily walk the
badly, rutted ones.
Togo Mountain (Near Orient, WA): Saw one female on my first visit along
FR9576 (northwest spur) along MP 8. From MP8-10 can be excellent. Excellent
road, no SUV need except for FR 300/FR 450 as the road ascends.
Cathedral Provincial Park (Near Keremeos, WA) . I saw up to 12 birds in a
one mile stretch along roads and trails during early September of 2006. Lake
of the Woods trail and trails leading to Pyrimad Lakes is excellent. Must
take provided transportation from basecamp that cost 90.00 roundtrip. You
must plan accordingly. Once you are up there, the trails are excellent. The
birds were quite common there.
McCully Creek (Joseph, Oregon) and Moss Springs CG (Cove, Oregon). Had the
most luck here. I see them at least one 8/10 times I go. McCully Creek
requires an easy hike. Moss Springs from MP 9 (pass the campground) and to
the end is extremely rough and requires an SUV. The Wallowas are
Hope you get a chance to see these special birds. Once, I saw my first male
displaying to two females, I developed an affinity for these beautiful and
Here is a gallery of my spruce grouse photos:
Good luck and good birding to you,
Khanh Tran (Portland, Oregon)
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