Near Death Experience

A pair of grasshoppers sit on a plant next to a sooty grouse on the Deadhorse Creek Trail in Mount Rainier National Park in September 2014

I wonder if these two grasshoppers thought their end was near when this sooty grouse suddenly loomed large, as they are one of the insects grouse like to eat, but the bird paid them no heed as it sauntered through the mountain meadow. Taken in the fall of 2014 on my last visit to Mount Rainier National Park.

Fall Grouse

A sooty grouse on a rainy fall day on the Sourdough Ridge Trail in Mount Rainier National Park

I had just arrived at the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park and was taking a quick exploratory hike on the Sourdough Ridge Trail late in the day, as I had never been to that part of the park before. It was cold and raining but I found first a hoary marmot and then a group of sooty grouse on the way back to the car. My hands were soaked and cold so I was fumbling with the camera, but I watched them for as long as I could stand before continuing back to the car.

Shake It Off

Raindrops coat the back of a sooty grouse

Water drops coat the back of a sooty grouse on a rainy afternoon, but it has shaken most of the water from its head. I wish Canon would build teleconverters into all of its telephoto lenses like they did with their 200-400mm lens, as it would be very helpful on days like this. I was photographing multiple grouse who were moving all around me as I sat on the trail, sometimes walking right up to me as they fed, but I was also keeping my eye on a marmot that was feeding nearby. I would have preferred to switch my teleconverter in and out as my subjects moved about, but given the heavy rain I was hesitant to take the lens off the camera.

Birds of a Feather

A close-up view of the feathers of a sooty grouse

I’m amazed by how diverse the feathers on a single bird can be in size and shape and color and function. The feathers in the upper left are wet with rain, it was pouring up at Hurricane Ridge when I came across a handful of grouse that were huddling near some trees for a little protection from the elements. I had on a full complement of rain gear and was nice and dry, and thankfully my camera and lens had enough weather-sealing that they shook off the rain as well.