The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus
) is a master of camouflage. It takes a high-powered camera lense to zoom in and reveal the grouse hen that's nesting in this field in the Virginia Mountains of Nevada.
Starting with this vaguely dark spot in the thickets:
Zoom in just a bit:
Can you see an eyeball?
At last, the hen's head in view:
The USGS Western Ecological Research Center has ongoing studies on sage-grouse and sage-grouse habitat in Nevada and California
, to provide scientific analyses for other government agencies. Select areas of Nevada's sagebrush-steppe ecosystem are being considered as sites for renewable energy infrastructure, such as electricity transmission corridors. At the same time, the sage-grouse is a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act
Ecologists Mike Casazza
, Pete Coates
and colleagues from our Dixon Field Station
are tracking grouse with GPS tags to create detailed maps of grouse movement and preferred habitat corridors throughout Nevada, as well as monitoring predatory raven populations and fire-prone invasive plants that impact the sage ecosystem. These scientific efforts and findings will help other government agencies formulate optimal management plans for this important region.
Here are some more photos from the spectacular landscape of the Virginia Mountains, taken this July by WERC center director Steve Schwarzbach
Check out this field of mules ear in bloom (Wyethia mollis
Mules ear are a favorite habitat for sage-grouse, and these thickets sport nutritious fodder like this grub:
These steppes are home to brilliant summer wildflowers...
...and they're also where the antelope roam.
Meanwhile, research continues on this dramatic landscape, as WERC biologist Zach Lockyer is seen here with a tracking antenna searching for previously tagged sage-grouse:
Read more about this research at the WERC sage-grouse research homepage
-- Ben Young Landis
Image Credits: Steve Schwarzbach/USGS. Bottom-most Image Credit: Tom Kimball/USGS.