Meet the PA State Bird: Ruffed Grouse
It was as fine a day in June as I can remember. It was warm in the sun and comfy in the shade, with a lovely breeze, and the sky was a perfect color of blue. A great day to get outdoors!
When I first started dating the guy who eventually became my husband, and he lived in Philipsburg, we used to go hiking a lot on Sandy Ridge, parking at an access point between Port Matilda and Philipsburg. We hadn't been there in a while, so that's where we went on this day.
We walked out a long, dusty road, and headed off into the shady trees, where we set up our chairs and sat for much of the afternoon, listening to music on our little tunes box and enjoying a plethora of green ferns.
When it was finally time to walk back out to head home, we spotted a large bird along the edge of the road. From its size, my first guess was a juvenile hawk of some kind. But a closer glance revealed a rounder frame. You are looking at a ruffed grouse, the Pennsylvania state game bird.
Note that it is called a RUFFED grouse, NOT a RUFFLED grouse. This bird is famous for two things. One of them is that when you walk up on one sheltering in the underbrush, it has the tendency to explode out of its hiding place, nearly giving you a heart attack.
The other is that the male bird of this species is known for the drumming sounds it makes. In the deep woods, you will sometimes hear what sounds like a tiny helicopter getting ready to take off, with the pitch rising and the beat becoming more frequent. You may hear and see the drumming of the ruffed grouse at this link.
Tiny Tiger made another odd find. There was an old gate along the road, and inside it was tucked a very nice bone. You may see T. Tiger with his bone in the extras.
He insisted it was the jawbone of an ass, just like in the Bible story, and he muttered something about needing to raise it up against the Philistines once again, "as prophecy had foretold." *head-shake*
T. Tiger wanted to bring the bone home to add it to his Natural History collection, but I did not think that was a good idea. Who knows? It might have had germs or something! So the bone stayed right where it was, and poor little T. Tiger pouted all the way home.
And I have yet a THIRD photo for you today. When we got home, I went outside to sit in the car with the cat, and a bird with a spotty belly was making a very loud racket in one of the bushes in the yard. I took the cat inside and went back out with my camera, and I actually got some decent photos of the bird. You may see one in the extras.
I thought at first glance that the bird wearing spotty pajamas was the very same wood thrush I had seen a few weeks ago. However, in posting a picture of it on Facebook and labeling it as such, I had my misconception corrected.
The bird is actually a brown thrasher. Apparently, brown thrashers are sleeker, have streaks rather than spots, and have a longer bill and a longer tail. So I have learned a thing or two on this day!
Some people also call ruffed grouses partridges. So for my soundtrack tune, I'm pulling out a favorite Partridge Family song for this day: I Think I Love You.