I awakened this morning, and as is my habit, I first peered out my upstairs window. Below, at the foot of the carousel bird feeder, there pecked away a pair of ruffed grouse. Black, white, mottled brown, and gray, I did not see them until they moved, because they blended so well with the dark leafy patches of the forest floor which had just reappeared as the snow had retreated from several days of mild temperatures. Like a plump duke and duchess, they strutted and bobbed, pecking away at the smorgasbord of seeds scattered beneath the feeder.
Then I remembered the thumping and drumming in early spring. A lone male grouse had announced his presence, and broadcast his bold invitation miles around. I remembered hearing his prolonged, persistent call for companionship–and no seeming answer. This was his second or third spring alone, and he had survived a particularly long and brutal winter. I had wondered if the hearty fellow would find a mate this time, and felt sad at the thought his drumming might somehow be defective–dooming him to a solitary life, the woods his hermitage instead of his home. Throughout the summer, he had drummed. Frequently I trespassed his territory when walking in the woods, to be startled by his sudden, unexpected, and noisy launches right at my feet. Every time, I wordlessly wished him success in his quest.
This morning he brought her with him. I think to show me his pride at having prevailed. In his strutting steps, he told me persistence pays and patience is, after all, a virtue. I silently thanked him for his message of wisdom, as I watched him and his lovely mate peck and pirouette into the brown thickets of their home.