Ruffed Grouse Drumming Log

Habitat view of a potential ruffed grouse drumming log

Although I’m not personally very familiar with ruffed grouse habitat, I have read some materials which discuss it.  The wildlife management literature contains many articles, papers, and books presenting what various investigators have observed, and I’ve read enough to be slightly dangerous and/or semi-confused.  I just haven’t pursued the bird enough to formulate my own bank of mental images to use in understanding what I have read.

Closer view of the drumming log

In the fall of 2010, I participated in a foray for ruffed grouse in the North Woods country of New Hampshire.  While there, I took a few photos and enjoyed the beauty of the woods, all the while appreciating the boon companionship of a very close friend.

Grouse log tucked among the trees

The photos in this note depict an old downed log and some of the habitat surrounding the log.  I offer these views as potential examples of a ruffed grouse drumming log.

View of the fern-filled portion of the habitat from one end of the log

This is a grouse’s eye-level view of some of the surrounding habitat conditions in the immediate vicinity.  Although the ferns currently provide a lot of ground-level cover, they might not be present or so robust in the early spring.

Habitat view in the other direction
A grouse’s eye-level perspective of the same habitat view as above

Between the fern-filled view and this view, some things are beginning to clarify for me.  Items to note are the conifers in the area and the relatively sparse woody stem cover (i.e., trees and shrubs) in the zone immediately surrounding the log.

            According to the accounts that I have read, both of these features are undesirable for grouse when they are drumming.  The lack of thick woody cover would expose a drumming grouse due to a lack of adequate concealment, and the conifers apparently would provide concealed perches for potential avian predators. 

Log surface conditions

As this view shows, the log seems to provide a wide and relatively flat surface for a potential stage.

Another view of the potential stage

A male ruffed grouse would have a lot of room to work with on this log, as it could use either end or the middle to conduct a drumming performance.

Another view of the log’s surface conditions

The surface of the log looks a little worn as the bark is missing and the wood is somewhat roughed up.

Where’s the moss?

Given the shaded conditions immediately around this log, it may be significant that the log surface has very little to no moss and/or lichen cover.  Presumably something has created enough activity here to have eliminated and/or prevented this moss cover from developing.

            This might indeed be a ruffed grouse drumming log, but I would guess that it is a marginal site.  The features of the log and its immediate surroundings seem desirable (e.g., clear surface, overhead cover, etc.), but I suspect that the nearby conifer cover that provides favorable perch opportunities for hawks and owls would outweigh the desirability of the log itself.

            These conditions may or may not suit the discriminating male grouse, but they looked pretty good to me.  If the black flies and other critters would permit, I could envision sitting on this log and contemplating the world with a pair of binoculars and a watercolor paint kit.  Life would be good.

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