Over twenty years ago, I visited the Greater Prairie Chicken lek in Attwater, Texas.As I watched their displays, subtle, intricate,I realized something very fundamental . This was another nation, one which had developed its own set of rules over hundreds of thousands of years, and thousands of generations.And while I was lucky to catch a glimpse into this society, I was never going to fully understand it.
I was reminded of this recently when I was able to visit one of the Sharp-tailed Grouse leks which is situated on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. Since the car ferry doesn’t operate this early in the year, getting to Manitoulin Island from my home in southern Ontario involves a seven hour drive around Lake Huron, picking up the Trans Canada highway at Sudbury, to reach the island itself. It is, however, a beautiful route at any time of the year, the scene of thousands of blue lakes and rock formations spread out amongst a vast stretch of forest.
The display area is located on the Gore Bay airport. It has been known of for over ten years and its had the good fortune to be looked out for by some dedicated local volunteers, as well as The Friends of Misery Bay. Each year an excellent blind is set up for visitors.
Manitoulin Island has many other attractions for the photographer and nature lover. Raptors are well represented, including Rough legged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Bald Eagle and Osprey. Sandhill Cranes are common. Fox and Coyote are joined by the occasional Timber Wolf. White Tailed Deer are very common, perhaps even a problem. The area also has a couple of accessible waterfalls, High Falls and the Bridal Veil.
Accommodations are close by and reasonable, and they are used to catering to birders. I stayed at Gordon’s Lodge in Gore Bay, 10 minutes from the airport.The best time to visit for the Sharp Tails is April and May.
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