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Dusky Grouse

I took some representational portraits of this dusky grouse showing off its maroon air sacks, fanned tail, and orange eyebrow combs, but this shot is my personal favorite for its aesthetics, and because it captured a pivotal moment. When I first came upon the grouse, I was trekking through the Gore Range to scout landscape compositions. As I hiked past the bird, it gave itself away with a startled wing flutter and guttural squawk. I proceeded to stalk it up and down the mountainside, imitating its booming call as it kept a frustratingly safe and hard to photograph distance. What I like about this is image is that it captures the precise moment when the grouse's fear gave way to intrigue and curiosity. You can see it cocking its head to the side as it sizes me up as a possible rival or mate. I also like the blurred pattern of the tangled pine branches that surround its head. Shortly after I took this photo, it walked toward me and perched on a rock about five feet away from where I stood. So I sat down and spent about 20 more minutes photographing. What an honor it was to be allowed into the presence of such a shy and unusual creature! Serendipitous encounters like this one are the reason I always hike with my camera and telephoto zoom around my neck. It's inconvenient and cumbersome, but worth the trouble when I can return home with shots like this one.


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