Saturday, April 16, 2016

Meet the Rare Grassland Prairie Lesser Prairie Chicken


                                                             Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
                                                                    in lichen nest


                                                                       Wild Turkey


                                                                            Ditto


                                                                Lesser Prairie Chicken


                                                                       Horned Lark


                                                               Male Prairie Chicken


                                                                            Ditto


                                                                Eastern Meadowlark


                                                                   Male Prairie Chicken


                                                        Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel


                                                                Male Prairie Chicken


                                                                             Ditto

                                           
                                                            Deflated Sac of Displaying
                                                           Male Lesser Prairie Chicken


                                                                   Sac Filled with Air


                                                                          Ditto


                                                                         Full Display


                                                                            At Rest


                                                                   Jumping Display


                                                                Displaying and Calling


                                                  Territory Face-off Between Two Males


                                                                     "In Your Face"


                                                 Most Likely Owner of this Lek Territory


04-15-16

50-52 degrees F/partly cloudy/27-34 mph winds/45 degrees wind chill

Today was the best of all three days that I was attending the Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival.
It had been extremely arid, so much so that wildfires have been fought all over the dry
grasslands in the OK and TX area.  It did not rain today, but it was predicted for tomorrow
and Sunday.  Fire is not always negative for these birds, but it isn't particularly helpful at
their critical mating season.

At approximately 0545 hrs., just prior to sunrise, we were set up in a permanent metal
blind and within a half hour, we could hear approaching male Lesser Prairie Chickens
approaching the lek, which is an area where males gather to display to entice prospective
female partners.

It was most likely that females were on these grounds prior to sunrise, as the males were in a
state of frenzy.  No females were on the grounds during daylight, and we saw approximately
ten males.  They performed various rituals trying to entice females to come around and were
calling and cackling, as well as fighting with each other for the top position.  One male was
the owner of this territory, and was not prepared to give it up.

This is a very rare bird, even in its home states of both Oklahoma and Texas in the arid
grasslands with low shrubs, including sandsage and shin oak, as well as other natural growth.
They form flocks in the winter and may be found in agricultural land as well as natural native
prairie.

However, humanity is the boon of this beautiful bird, which is rapidly losing ground, due to
oilfields, wind turbines, and construction of homes and businesses.  An already rare, local and
declining bird like this will not be available for future generations if we keep taking their homes.

These birds have been a threatened species since March of 2014, and their population decreased
25% from 2014 to 2015 alone.   Help me help them through the National Prairie Chicken Initiative
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/programs/initiatives/?cid=nrcsdev11_023912