The "vigil" of this chapter of Grass, Sky, Song refers to the annual effort in Canada to count the steadilty declining number of greater sage-grouse at known "leks" or dancing grounds each spring. In April, 2006 I took part in the count by joining with volunteer Chris Reed to count the grouse attending leks in the East Block of Grasslands National Park.
Here are some photos I took during that visit to the park. This is a shot of the Kildeer Badlands on the Eastern edge of the park.
This is Chris walking over the centre of the lek, an hour after the grouse had left in late morning.
Here is what sage-grouse scat looks like--the same grey/green as the sage brush they eat. Note the black, tarry goo in the middle--another kind of excretion that you find on leks.
Here is our campsite a kilometre away from the lek on open grassland.
We had to radio in each night to let park staff know we were ok, so this is Chris trying, and failing, to make contact with the nearest warden station.
And this last image shows Chris and I just before packing up to leave. The vigil over for that year.