Ian enjoys working with trees. Our new property in Smiths Cove needed some tree-pruning, partly to improve visibility for the new store. The resulting wood would be used to produce heat in our combination wood-oil furnace.
One warm winter day, he was trimming some trees on the east side of the property when he noticed that a curious bird had come to check him out. He recognized the bird as a ruffled (or according to most sources, ruffed; but we’ve always known them as ruffled) grouse.
The last time we had seen one of these birds was along the dirt road leading to our farm in Ontario. A mother grouse with tiny little ones. The birds reminded us of our guinea fowl. The grouse makes her nest on the ground, as does the guinea hen, and when the chicks hatch, they are relatively independent (not naked, blind and totally dependent as some baby birds are). They are able to follow their mothers on the hunt for food (mostly buds, seeds, insects). It would have been easy to scoop up those grouse chicks, but we helped them follow their mother back to the other side of the road and into the relative safety of the dense underbrush.
This Nova Scotia grouse seemed to have a strange affection for Ian. We both assumed this was a female grouse. “She” was not at all afraid of the loud noise of his chainsaw or tractor. In fact, “she” seemed to have an odd fondness for it.
It was uncanny how this bird would show up whenever Ian worked with his chainsaw or tractor. “She” seemed to become bolder with each visit. Ian was even able to pick “her” up and hold “her”, which “she” did not think much of! But it didn’t stop “her” from coming back for a visit each time Ian worked at the back! We assumed that “she” had been raised by and grown accustomed to people.
Over time the grouse became more aggressive, diving at the chainsaw, so that Ian would have to push “her” away for “her” own safety. This sent us to the computer to research ruffled grouse behavior.
We concluded that this grouse was male not female. And that he was not being super friendly because he had a “thing” for Ian but was protecting his territory. Obviously the noisy chainsaw and tractor were two intrusions that he did not like and was determined to fight.
We hadn’t seen this type of combative behavior on the part of a male bird for years, not since we first started out as farmers back on our two-acre property along County Road 46, Lyn, Ontario. Both our single rooster and our single Muscovy drake had a habit of being downright aggressive with especially me. The rooster would fly up and attack the container I used to sprinkle their chicken feed. The Muscovy drake lunged at my legs, so that I often carried a broom when I went out to work with our few critters. Luckily this behavior stopped as soon as we added more males to the menagerie. Then the males fought amongst themselves.
We are hoping to see an entire grouse family this spring – father, mother and chicks! With such a bold and fearless patriarch, the family is bound to be well protected. (Although according to most sources, the male grouse doesn’t spend much time with his new family. His main concern continues to be protecting his territory! So the bold and fearless member of the family as far as the chicks are concerned is the matriarch.)