Ruffed Grouse

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It’s been such a busy two weeks and it’s good to be back to share some of my adventures. Each year I travel to Shenandoah National Park with the Mountain Club of Maryland. Our true destination is to hike up Old Rag Mountain. An arduous nine-mile hike that includes over 2,000 feet of elevation gain and a wonderful boulder scramble.

I’ve been going to the mountains with the club for seven years now, and each year is different. In all of that time, I search for the birds, and the season is usually cold and the birds are long gone. However, this year has been unseasonably warm and birds were everywhere. Not only were the birds around, but the bears were also busy enjoying the Indian summer.

I would stop and chat with other visitors during my explorations and several asked “Did you see the bear?” It was just there 15 minutes ago. Nope..never did see a bear. On my last afternoon in the mountains I wanted to explore a new trail to me. The Stony Man Trail near Skyland Resort. It’s an easy, short hike that promised a stunning vista of the Shenandoah mountains and valley. While heading down the trail, I began the mantra…bear…grouse…bear…grouse. Please..let me see either of them.

Not realizing I had actually taken the turn for the Appalachian Trail and was heading north to Maine. Oops ! Wrong way, so I returned to the right path and just before I reached the overlook, I noticed movement in the leaf litter in the forest. It was way too small to be a bear.

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Could it be that after all of these years I’ve finally found a grouse? Excited about my possible find, I pulled out my iBirdPro App and briefly played their song. Before I knew it, she came out of hiding and peered at me with curiosity. Not only did she come closer, she then flew up to a tree to get a really good look at me.

I spent at least five minutes with her, talking softly to her telling her how beautiful she was. She looked on with such kindness and interest. A true nature connection. After a bit, she became bored with me and went back to foraging in the leaf litter. A true gift she gave me.

Upon my return, I shared my discovery with local birders and many told me that this is a quite shy bird. Not only hard to find but also quite elusive. I will always remember this special moment with this beautiful bird.

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