We did not so much look for grouse in Manning Park as stumble upon them. They just stand around, quietly and unobtrusively, until you notice them. The one in the picture above is a male Sooty Grouse, with a bit of Dusky Grouse in his ancestry if I am not mistaken. Both species used to be ‘lumped’ together as subspecies of Blue Grouse until a 2006 decision by the arbiter of such ornithological niceties, the American Ornithologists’ Union. The Sooty Grouse is a darker, coastal forest bird, while the Dusky Grouse prefers the drier interior. However, in Manning Park these two habitats adjoin and some hybridisation occurs.
This particular grouse was seen quietly standing among the wild flowers and conifers of the alpine meadows on the north side of Highway 3, reached by a winding road opposite the Manning Park Lodge.
A stroll with the Delta Naturalists’ Casual Birders through the lower elevation forests around Lightning Lake produced a different species of grouse: the Spruce Grouse. Once again, the adult, a female, was standing very quietly at the base of a tree, her mottled plumage blending in very well with the surroundings. Close by was one of her well-grown chicks, and as we watched four more emerged and followed her as she walked calmly along the edge of the car park.
Other interesting highland species include Clark’s Nutcrackers and Grey Jays (both very tame in Manning Park) and various small animals, including yellow-pine chipmunks, golden-mantled ground squirrels and columbian ground squirrels and snowshoe hare. While black bear are often seen around Manning, the hot August day and the many visitors to the park must have sent them to higher, quieter altitudes.
The chipmunk and the golden-mantled ground squirrel can be confusing: the chipmunk is smaller and has a striped face. The cascade subspecies is the one found in Manning Park. I think it is a different subspecies in the Canadian Rockies, where they pester hikers at Lake Louise.