Spring is a time for annual courtship displays for many birds. One of the most unique and easiest to observe and take photos of is the "dancing" of the sharp-tailed grouse. With tails erect, wings spread and air sacs on their necks inflated, the slowly twisting and turning grouse beat a courtship rhythm on the cold bare hilltops like nothing else in nature. This phenomenon of nature is very unique to the grouse and can be observed easily on the dancing grounds.
This grounds, also known as "leks" are usually situated on grassy hilltops. Each spring the males return to the leks and start to dance. The main purpose of the lek is to provide an area for the males to display their dancing abilities to females. The "stongest" and "fittest" males dance near the center of the lek. Each male has his own territory on the lek and should invasions of territories occur, fights will often develop. Shortly after the males start dancing, the females will appear, and after several days or weeks of dancing and courtship, nesting will occur.
Visitors to Upper Souris NWR have a unique chance to observe and photograph these birds simply by making reservations for one of the three blinds which have been set up near the leks. Reservations can be made by calling Refuge headquarters between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM Monday through Friday at 701-468-5467. Reservation requests can also be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Upper Souris NWR, 17705 212th Ave NW, Foxholm ND 58718. Please include name, address, phone number and blind number on email and written requests.
For more information on the sharp-tailed grouse leks and blinds please see our grouse blind brochure and map.
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While Lake Darling was originally intended as a water supply reservoir for downstream refuges, it has become a productive fishery and important fall staging areas for snow geese.