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5034Sooty Grouse at Cooley Ranch, southern Mendocino County

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  • emilyeheaton
    Apr 30, 2012
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      While backpacking with LandPaths last weekend at Cooley Ranch, I heard a Sooty Grouse booming; this was on the morning of April 28. I had to hike up a ridiculously steep ranch road to get near the bird, but I was very grateful for that road as it led me straight to the grouse. It did take some effort to find it, but I was eventually able to see a male grouse about 30 feet up in a Douglas-fir. I could see the beautiful yellow comb over its eye and a yellow air sac, and I could see its chest pump as it boomed (a soft "whoof, whoof, whoof, whoof, whoof, whoof"); the tail was partially fanned. It was so cool!! I wasn't able to get a good picture because I wasn't willing to lug my spotting scope up the hill, but I did get a video that captured the booming. It's available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NLb_PrL5cI.

      Interestingly, the habitat in the surrounding landscape was primarily oak woodland/hardwood forest with some Douglas-fir mixed in; as well as some patches of grassland. In the immediate area, the habitat was composed of black oak, madrone, and Douglas-fir. Other birds heard in the area were Acorn Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, European Starling, Mountain Quail, California Quail, and American Kestrel - not the species I'd expect to see a Sooty Grouse hanging out with. The grouse was booming on a northwest-facing slope, approximately 400 feet above the canyon below. It was in the Elk Range in the Dry Creek watershed, 2 drainages north of Morris Peak and about 1-2 miles from the Sonoma County border. Our trip leader called the drainage Soda Creek, but I don't know if that shows up on any maps.

      Cooley Ranch is a large, privately-owned ranch on the border of Sonoma and Mendocino counties. It can sometimes be accessed through events/hikes led by LandPaths.

      Emily Heaton
      Healdsburg, CA