One of my favorite things about photographing greater sage-grouse is the sound they make. It’s an indescribable other-worldly popping sound created when they inflate and deflate their big yellow throat sacs.
What I love about the experience is the anticipation of the greater sage-grouse arrival. It’s pitch black with another hour before the sun even begins to rise. The only sound I hear at that time of the morning is the blind being rattled occasionally by gentle morning wind. I wait and wait in the tight space of the 4’x4’x4′ blind. It isn’t long before, my leg or foot starts to tingle and fall asleep. Suddenly, I hear, but still can’t see because of the darkness, the first sage-grouse announcing its presence on the lek. Usually, that bird is the dominant male who typically is the first to arrive and the last to leave the lek. He does this to claim and protect his prime spot located at the center of the lek.
A few more minutes pass and the flapping of wings announce the arrival of more sage-grouse. Once they join in the vocalization there is complete audio chaos.
If I’m lucky, I’m treated to a ‘symphony’ made up of sounds from not only the greater sage-grouse but animals like song birds or coyotes.
Here is a one-minute recording I made at a greater sage-grouse lek in Wyoming that captured a portion of this symphony. I call it Sage-Grouse Symphony for the Coyote. To appreciate this recording, YOU REALLY need to listen through either earbuds, headphones, or desktop speakers. Trust me — your mobile phone speaker isn’t going to cut it. Enjoy!
(Recording © 2016 John L. Dengler)
ABOVE: Greater sage-grouse gather on a lek at early sunrise in south-central Wyoming.
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