Finally! Orange County RUFFED GROUSE!

~I have this as an Acadian Flycatcher. It was only doing half of its call (the “peetz” in  the “pizza!” call), but it sounded good to me. Black Rock Forest, 06/10/18.~

RUFFED GROUSE is a bird that I have been trying to get in Orange County for several years now; it’s a bird that, for some reason, really captured my imagination and one that I’ve put in a concerted effort to try and find in the county. So, imagine how pleased I was when I saw Ajit Antony’s eBird report of a RUGR at Black Rock Forest in my “Year Needs Alert” email from eBird on Friday. I had a work obligation yesterday, but I got up early to try for the bird this morning.

It was frustrating start to the morning for me. I don’t know Black Rock Forest at all, so I originally went to completely the wrong place. Then I went to the Black Rock Forest main parking area, where I had a Hooded Warbler calling as soon as I got out of the car.  I looked at the map trying to locate “Jupiter’s Boulder”.  An obliging local hiker helped me out and told me it would be best to drive to another trailhead, on Old Mineral Springs Road. So, I got back in the car and drove there; I walked nearly half a mile and realized I’d forgotten rain gear for my camera – it sure felt like rain, so I walked back to the car to get it (thus guaranteeing no rain). Then, I was finally ready to take a hike. I’d never birded that area before and it was a nice hike with a beautiful waterfall (no pic, my cell phone died!), and good amount of birds – mostly the usuals but with a couple favorites of mine – Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and a couple of Acadian Flycatchers. You can see my eBird report here.

Ajit’s report stated he heard the drumming of a RUGR “to the SW, a little way from Jupiter’s Boulder”.  As I was nearing Jupiter’s Boulder (I didn’t know it at the time, having never been), I came around a bend in the trail and about twenty-five feet or so off the trail, to the left of me,  2 RUFFED GROUSE popped straight up – and like bats out of hell, one flew to the left and the other to the right. They made such a ruckus, it really startled me. I followed the one that headed to the right, hoping to see it put down, but it just kept going until it disappeared into the brush. I continued on the trail, hoping to get lucky and relocate that bird, but it was always going to be tough. Jupiter’s Boulder was only another 100 yards or so up the trail, so I sat there for a while and had some breakfast, hoping to hear or see something. Of course, I never saw either bird again, but wow was that exciting. Huge thanks to Ajit for reporting – Ruffed Grouse is my 250th Orange County life bird. Now, let’s see how many years before I get a GOOD look at one…

~My ONLY other photo op of the morning – a Brown-headed Cowbird. This has the look of a young bird to me. Black Rock Forest, 06/10/18.~
~I took this shot a couple weeks ago at the Bashakill and I’ve wanted to post it – two Bank Swallows displaying courtship behavior; they just looks so sweet to me and Bank Swallow is not a bird I get to photograph very often.~  

10 thoughts on “Finally! Orange County RUFFED GROUSE!”

  1. Hi Matt,
    Ajit recalled that we had hiked there 30 yrs ago with our kids and had seen a ruffed grouse hen with 4-5 chicks on the flat section of the trail (50 yds long) before the trail climbs to Jupiter’s Boulder. Ajit had walked the trail a few days ago because on our Mearns checklist RUGR is classified as a former breeder, we are attempting to remedy this and Ajit has orchestrated ( with help from club members )a limited breeding bird survey. Great you saw the RUGR!

    1. It’s amazing that you went out for RUGR and got it, in the same spot. Even more amazing is that I had a pair of them EXACTLY where you had the hen with chicks 30 years ago! I’ll be curious to see what the limited breeding bird survey turns up. Matt

  2. Now that you’ve finally seen this bird, you’ll see it again! Happy for you. We heard one drumming this morning and another one yesterday, I think. Amazing sound!

    1. I hope you are right, Karen! I’m assuming yours were in Sullivan County? Do you remember when you and I had one at the Deli Fields – drumming – maybe 4 or 5 years ago? Matt

  3. Great news Matt – I grew up in Bellvale and grouse were common then (through the ’70s at least), but I haven’t heard or seen one since about 2000-2001 on Durland Hill near Sugar Loaf. Excellent photos as always!

    1. Sadly things sure have changed for the RUGR population in Orange County; it’s hard to believe they were common back then. Glad you like the photos. Matt.

  4. Great find. The last one I saw was about 25 years ago. During the 70’s they were very regular in south Jersey along the Garden State Parkway. Where did you get the bank swallows? They were not at my regular spot on Staten Island. May get up to Orange and Ulster Co this weekend.

    1. I had the Bank Swallows right near the bridge on Haven Road at the Bashakill. There is a spot in the black dirt that I haven’t check this year yet – I’ll check this week and let you know. Let’s stay in touch this weekend- in case there are any good sitings while you are up here.

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