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Thread: Grouse and grit.

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    Member Hoyt's Avatar
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    Default Grouse and grit.

    In another thread, we discussed where and how grouse got grit in the winter. A number of places were discussed such as river banks, hill sides, roads, and large spruce trees with long over hangs. I remembered that I found evidence of grouse getting grit from the ground by the side of my house last winter, so I walked around back to see if they were utilizing the same area again this winter.......you be the judge!

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    Member Hoyt's Avatar
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    Another question.....I see grouse and their tracks a lot on and near trails that I see them on in the fall (and summer). In the fall they are obviusly there for the grit. In the winter,there is no way they are getting grit from these trails (lots of snow). Sooooo, why are they there? Is it the edge cover, food source, etc. I noticed Skinny took a spruce grouse recently on a snow covered trail. Seemslike they like trail systems all times of year.

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    Grouse love...actually, grouse require, edge habitat for many reasons, grit being one of them. In the dry months they will take dust baths in the soft, ground up dirt in the middle of a trail, or in the dirt found at the base of a upturned tree. When you find such a tree go over and check out the scrapings, small feathers and droppings left behind. Here, they will find both grit, and soft dirt to take their bath in. Studies indicate our ruffed grouse like light colored grit, as compared to the spruce grouse preferring dark grit. Interesting, I think.

    Hoyt, from what I can see in your photograph I don't think it's the grit the birds are after. I think the grouse are doing clandestine surveilance at your place and alerting other grouse in the area what you and the pup are up to. :-)

    Jim

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    I wonder if they might back up to a spruce tree and face the trail so as to be able to see predators coming from a distance (in at least two directions).

    Theory number two came to me while I was typing theory number one. Trails that follow any sort of topography have to be cut into the side of the hill. I was on the Twin Bears Mtn trail and there were lots of places where bare rock and dirt were showing. Erosion along the trails makes it a steep ridge right along the trail, even in the flatter areas, so I wonder if they aren't able to dig around and find some grit near trails even in deep snow. The ADFG grouse manual says they will snow roost, so it stands to reason that if they don't mind digging in the snow for one purpose, they might not for another.

    Now I'll sit back and let Mr. McCann straighten this out for us. After a whole season with me, you are well-aware that I don't know anything.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    In the time it took me to type my post, you had already solved the mystery. I figured I'd have to wait until tomorrow as you would be out in the birch woods today.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Member Hoyt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim McCann View Post
    Grouse love...actually, grouse require, edge habitat for many reasons, grit being one of them. In the dry months they will take dust baths in the soft, ground up dirt in the middle of a trail, or in the dirt found at the base of a upturned tree. When you find such a tree go over and check out the scrapings, small feathers and droppings left behind. Here, they will find both grit, and soft dirt to take their bath in. Studies indicate our ruffed grouse like light colored grit, as compared to the spruce grouse preferring dark grit. Interesting, I think.
    Hoyt, from what I can see in your photograph I don't think it's the grit the birds are after. I think the grouse are doing clandestine surveilance at your place and alerting other grouse in the area what you and the pup are up to. :-)

    Jim
    LOL thats funny Jim! This explains why they are hanging out in an area out back......... right under our kitchen window!!!!

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    Skinny,

    Each of the grouse species (and ptarmigan) will snow roost if conditions allow. It usually takes about 10 inches of a certain type of snow. If, when walking through grouse woods in winter your eye spies a grouse size hole in the snow, you may have observed the entry hole. The literature will tell you how a grouse will dive into the snow and that leads folks to believe said bird does this at Mach I speed, but I find that doubtful. Now, I've never seen a grouse, or a ptarmigan fly right down and into the snow head first, mind you, but I have watched them drop from a tree top where it had been feeding on aspen just before darkness, and within a few steps of where that bird landed it would dive down into the snow from a standing position.

    Beyond that entry hole you will likely find another hole, a smaller and much rounder hole, and maybe a foot or more beyond the entry hole. I enjoy conversation with other serious "grouse students" about why this second hole? Is it to make one last check for any predator that may have seen the bird go under the snow? Is it to allow some air to enter the tunnel that leads up to the final roosting cavern? Or is it to make one last check of the surface snow condition to ensure it does not pick a spot that will be iced over by morning and prevent proper evacuation of that roost? Just beyond the second hole will be that spot hollowed out by the grouse where it will spend the night. If there is no exit hole, with corresponding wing impressions and such around it, and maybe some tracks where the bird walked about after leaving the roost, than be prepared for that bird to burst through the snow and take flight...well, it may take flight. I've had ruffed grouse just poke their head through the snow at my arrival on scene, look around, and then pop up out of the snow and stand there looking at me before walking off. Not a smart thing to do, in my humble opinion.

    Regrettably, all of the images I have of such snow roosts are on 35mm slides, not digital, not yet.

    And, of course, if that grouse has left that roost prior to your arrival, than you will find considerable droppings in the bottom of that roosting cavern. The temperature under the snow keeps a grouse much warmer throughout a long winter night, and those droppings also add to the heat filling the roost.

    I like the snow drought we've had around the interior in terms of how my dogs and I get around after ptarmigan in winter, but I become concerned about the grouse when there is no roosting snow and the temperatures plummet. It's vitally important for a grouse, or ptarmigan, to enter the roost after a hearty evening meal in order to get through the night. It is believed that some grouse will go without breakfast and remain a bit longer in the snow roost, but there is no way the bird should go without its evening meal. I can just imagine what sort of difficulty a grouse incurrs when flushed in the middle of the night or during other critical times by a predator, or one of us on a snow machine or snowshoes.

    Got to run!

    Jim

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    Member greythorn3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoyt View Post
    In another thread, we discussed where and how grouse got grit in the winter. A number of places were discussed such as river banks, hill sides, roads, and large spruce trees with long over hangs. I remembered that I found evidence of grouse getting grit from the ground by the side of my house last winter, so I walked around back to see if they were utilizing the same area again this winter.......you be the judge!

    DSCN2015.jpg
    yes i have caught them around our house also and under the front porch eating rocks, also in the barn, makes for a quick easy meal for me.
    Semper Fi!

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