​ Wisconsin Behind the Scenes Blog Series: Ruffed Grouse and Lumberjill

Monday, December 23, 2019

 

Wisconsin Behind the Scenes Blog Series: Ruffed Grouse and Lumberjill

 

“The autumn landscape in the north woods is the land, plus a red maple, plus a Ruffed Grouse. In terms of conventional physics, the grouse represents only a millionth of either the mass or the energy of an acre yet subtract the grouse and the whole thing is dead.” -- Aldo Leopold

 

Thump, thump, thump… that’s the territorial sound of the male ruffed grouse beating his wings on his “drumming log” in northern Wisconsin.

 

The male birds make this sound by beating their wings quickly and forcefully to create a small vacuum. The bird beats his wings faster and faster - and end up sounding something like a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

 

EMBED: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVfiIp3QGs4

 

Ruffed Grouse are widely distributed across the country, and have been observed in 38 states and all Canadian Provinces. They are a popular game bird for hunting enthusiasts, and primarily live in wooded habitats.

 

Chuck and the crew met up with Jon Steigerwaldt, 3rd generation tree farmer/forester and Regional Biologist of the Ruffed Grouse Society, a nation-wide non-profit organization that promotes education and conservation of this curious bird. Jon knows that ruffed grouse actually prefer a forest that is diverse, young and frequently harvested. As a private landowner, he and his family have made a priority of managing their land to create habitats for the ruffed grouse and a wide range of other forest wildlife species.

 

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

 

Jon’s property, thick with aspens, is home to a host of ruffed grouse, who will do most of their noisy drumming this spring. We filmed Chuck and Jon in his truck, chatting about Jon’s family history of tree farming, as the truck trundled through narrow paths deep in the Steigerwaldt property. Walking deeper into the woods, Chuck and Jon talked about aspens...We heard the rustle of the quaking and big-toothed aspens, which Chuck (and our sound recordist) loved.

 

We also met Kate Witkowsi, an actual “lumberjill” and Stihl Timbersports Champion! Kate taught Chuck how to axe-throw, a competition where the lumberjack or jill throws a double-bitted axe at a target from about 20 feet away. The trick is to use the right amount of force to line up the rotations of the axe just right, to hit the target dead-on. After missing the target once, and severing a ratchet strap, Chuck nailed it on his 3rd try! No cameras were hurt in the making of this scene.

 

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

 

Then Chuck, Jon, Kate, and our crew ventured off the path to fell a spruce tree that Jon has decided will make a great “drumming log” for the ruffed grouse on his land and further enhance the quality of wildlife habitat.

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

Sources and further reading:

https://ruffedgrousesociety.org/grouse-facts/

https://www.audubon.org/news/see-and-hear-ruffed-grouses-haunting-air-drumming

 

 


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