On Sunday, July 23, Lanny and I were birding in the extreme southeast corner of Hayes County when we heard something very strange. We were birding along a county road very near the area where Red Willow, Frontier, Hitchcock and Hayes Counties intersect. We were standing on the road just about to turn around, go back and get in the car, when we heard someone calling 'Yoo Hoo."
Swear to God, it sounded just like a person trying to get our attention. It certainly did. The call was faint but intriguing. We did not see anybody around. Not a person, not a vehicle, not a building of any kind. The habitat included short-grass prairie, gullies with small trees and a little cropland.
We walked down the road toward the call. Finally, we saw a shape in the short grass that may have been a bird. We looked with our binoculars and saw a grouse making the 'Yoo Hoo' call! It was standing on the ground with its head up as high as it could reach. Every couple seconds, it would call 'Yoo Hoo.' Have any of you ever heard such a thing?
We thought about approaching close enough to make the grouse fly but decided not to harass it. We were fairly certain that it was a Sharp-tailed Grouse. It had a very small crest on its head. The crown seemed to be a bit rufous-colored. Its upper breast was not barred but could have had chevrons. We saw it from the back and from the side.
Before we left the spot, a local rancher stopped to see what we were doing. We told him what we saw and asked him if he had ever seen grouse around there. He said that he has seen a small group living in a pasture not far away. Isn't this a bit south of their normal range?
Robin Harding northern Kearney County
September 15-17 birding event based in Ogallala, Nebraska Organized by dedicated volunteers of the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union http://www.noubirds.org Field trips are planned to Lake McConaughy and other great birding areas in the area.