Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Field Trip to See Displaying Spruce Grouse!

Photo by Ryan Brady
 I’m writing this in Woodward, Oklahoma, where I’m attending the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival this last weekend of April. But already I’m looking forward to next Friday, May 2, when I’ll be on a wonderful field trip with my friend Ryan Brady looking for displaying Spruce Grouse in the Clam Lake area in Ashland County. The Spruce Grouse is one of those secretive species that most of us have to make some effort to see at all. I searched for them with my friend Troy Walters near Eagle River last spring for my Conservation Big Year, but we got skunked. Most of the Spruce Grouse I’ve ever seen were along Highway 2 by the Sand River north of Two Harbors, but I didn’t have a chance to do that trip last year—I got the only one I saw on my Big Year way out in the mountains of Vermont. And in all the years of birding I’ve done, I’ve never ever seen one displaying. So I’m thrilled about this opportunity!

 The field trip is part of a fundraiser for Wisconsin’s Bird Protection Fund, the premier way to donate directly to bird conservation projects in Wisconsin, so will be well worth the $62 participation fee. The money funds work on Wisconsin’s budding Kirtland’s Warbler population, Whooping Cranes in the state, providing stopover habitat for migrants, the state’s next Breeding Bird Atlas, and much more. So considering I get to help with all that AND will have an opportunity to see displaying Spruce Grouse—that is really quite a bargain. We’ll be setting out at 6 am May 2, and with Ryan Brady as the leader, even the time we spend without Spruce Grouse in view promises to be fun. Ryan is my ideal kind of birder—an extremely knowledgeable authority on Wisconsin’s birds, committed to education as well as research and conservation, but also darned fun to be around. I’ve co-led trips with him, and he’s great at not just getting on birds but helping everyone else find them as well, and at giving great information about them in a fun way. There are still a few spaces open for this exciting trip. You can get more information and sign up at Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Foundation website, at

 In addition to the exciting Spruce Grouse field trip on May 2, another northern Wisconsin birding great, Robbye Johnson, is leading a Lake Superior Birding Blitz field trip on Friday, May 23, also to raise money for the Bird Protection Fund. On that trip Robbye will be targeting a whole panoply of resident boreal species such as Black-backed Woodpeckers and Gray Jays, along with a splendid assortment of migrants at the peak of migration. Information about both trips is at

I did a really fun Big Day fundraiser with Ryan Brady a few years ago. He’s doing that again this year, again raising money for the Bird Protection Fund as part of the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. Ryan will be teamed up with Nick Anich and Betsy Bartelt on the Lake Superior Signature Team, trying to find as many birds as possible in a 24-hour period, and trying to prove northern Wisconsin’s superiority over the rest of the state in our birdlife. Whether or not you attend either field trip , it’s worth pledging a donation to Ryan’s Birdathon team. Our birds are vulnerable to so many environmental threats right now. The Natural Resource Foundation of Wisconsin’s Bird Protection Fund is doing absolutely top-notch work that conservationists in other states envy. Information on the Great Wisconsin Birdathon can be found at Here's a .pdf file about the great field trips being offered this year in Wisconsin.

Spruce Grouse