Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Thunder in April"

April is one of my favorite months, especially the last two weeks.  Not only is it the start of the bird migration, but it heralds in the familiar  sounds of thunder, echoing throughout the ridges.  

The April thunder I love, is not the rumble from dark rain clouds.  It is the magical, rhythmic thumps and sound of wings beating against the soft feathered bodies of the Ruffed Grouse.  The "drumming" of the Ruffed Grouse is a harbinger of spring for me.  It is difficult to describe in words, the thrill of hearing the first drum beat of the Ruffed Grouse.  I guess to me, it is like a starters pistol at a track meet, signifying the start of a race.  A race to find and photograph the first drumming grouse.

Today was the start of the race, a race that closely resembled a marathon, because it lasted 6 and 1/2 hours.  I heard and followed the drumming sounds of three Ruffed Grouse.  It was a long and tedious day, wading in wet cedars, crossing creeks, impossible brush and deadfalls... and  I loved every minute of it. 

Ruffed Grouse are not the "sharpest tool in the shed", but they are at times wily and easily spooked.  The first two were just that.  I followed them for a couple hours, slowly sneaking through the noisy underbrush, trying to locate their "drumming logs."  The male Ruffed Grouse finds an old log, usually moss covered and rotten.  He stands on the log, as my wife Mary describes, "Like a drum majorette", erect and with perfect posture.  He then begins his drumming antics with slow beats of his wings, then faster, until the final crescendo of blurred wings.  It truly is a sight to behold.  

This male Ruffed Grouse is desperately in contest with a ridge full of male grouse, trying to lure the female to his drumming log.  I have never seen the outcome of the amorous drumming.  I assume some good looking female eventually shows up to witness this spectacle.

The photos I am posting were taken of the third Ruffed Grouse... I followed his sound cautiously and slowly.  It took me a hour to find this very large and beautiful Ruffed Grouse.  When I found him, it took me at least 30 minutes to sneak close enough to photograph his drumming routine.  What has happened each year I find a drumming grouse, is that once he gets used to seeing me, he loves to perform.  I have had Ruffed Grouse do 360 movements in their drumming routines and some even follow me when I quietly back away from their drumming log.  This guy left his log twice and when I moved closer, he hopped back on his log and gave me an encore.

Anyway.... I hope you that are looking in, enjoy the following shots.


"Those old enough to recall the starting up of the two cylinder John Deere tractor... then know the sound of the drumming Ruffed Grouse." ~ D. Brislance

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I love winter, but the last few weeks have tested the spirit of true northern Minnesotans.  A fierce ice storm and an April Fools Day blizzard capped off a "hundred inch" total snowfall. Enough is enough I say... and the melt is on.    

Spring is officially here when a few things in the Arrowhead fall into place.  First on my list is the beginning of the bird migration and second is the appearance of the hibernating butterflies. The third is the advent of the first spring flower.  

Last Sunday the first sparrow arrived on time.  A beautiful Fox Sparrow flew into our yard and promptly started his two footed scratching on the forest floor.  The Song Sparrows and American Tree Sparrows followed close behind, along with the Purple Finch.  The hibernating Compton's Tortoiseshell and Mourning Cloak butterflies appeared within days of each other, brightening up the drab spring landscape.  It is hard to believe they endure the below zero temperatures, holed up in logs and such.

In the Grand Marais harbor, flocks of ducks and Canada Geese were whistling in each day. Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks and Red-breasted Mergansers adorned a half frozen harbor.

I am now awaiting my third criteria for spring; the beautiful, fragile, Canada Violet.  When that happens, I know it truly is spring.

Most of you that read this blog, know that Mary and I have recently been blessed with a grandson.  His name is Will Ogden Brislance and he is a joy in our lives.  Of course I have to post some photos of the handsome addition to our family... 
The following photos of Will and the spring migration were taken the past few weeks... a few of thousands.

Until next time....



"If spring came but once a century instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all the hearts to behold the miraculous change."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~