Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tis' the Season for Chicken Love

That's right ladies you heard me, chicken love.  If you know anything about anything,  you know there ain't nothin' like it! How can you resist the temptations of the male cock strutting, stomping and cackling it's way into your heart? Well if you think you can resist just read on and you might think differently afterwards!

Eye combs swollen and air-sac vibrating.
"There's a female somewhere, I just know it!"
photo by: Susan Hammerly
Okay, so maybe I went a bit far, but seriously it is time for some chicken love.  Lesser Prairie-Chickens are gathering in the southwest, the hills and prairies of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. The sand-hills will be filled with the peculiar sound of cock Lesser Prairie-Chickens doing what they do best, puttin' on for the ladies! There will be feathers lost, air-sacs punctured, close calls with coyotes and the occasional raptor. If the boys are lucky there will also be the occasional successful copulation.

I am currently cruising the country roads of NW, Oklahoma in search of leks or mating grounds. Working with and for the University of Oklahoma, and the G.M. Sutton Avian Research.  The goal of the surveys are to assess habitat, and determine the number of leks in the region. I'm sure the data will be used for plenty of other things, but I'm not completely sure what those other things are. So am I seeing birds you ask? Well of course, as a matter of fact two days ago held two leks and a total of fourteen birds.  Even with less than favorable conditions the birds are out and are really kicking up the scratch..

Two males squaring off for a confrontation, it's time to get serious!
photo by: Susan Hammerly
So, as I sit in front of a nice little fire I've built for myself this evening, I figured I could show you some photos to wet your appetite; just in case you were thinking,  "Hey, I still need that dang bird on my life list."  I've included some shots taken by Susan Hammerly.  She was just one of three wonderful ladies that visited the Selman Ranch this past Saturday for a chance to view grouse in what they called a "scenic setting". Of course they were right on target.  So excuse me while I throw in a little festival promotion quickly.  The Oklahoma Audubon Council with the help of numerous supporters are holding their third annual Lek Treks & and More Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival this year in Woodward, Oklahoma.   There's too much going on to try and summarize it here, but we are going to have one heck of a time! Just click the link and take a look, and then send in your registration because there is still lots of space!

The three researchers/students were from the University of Northern Texas and all have traveled a great deal and shared many stories with me that got my blood pumping for new life birds again.  I dropped them off Saturday morning, wind starting to blow and the heavy fog releasing a dense mist that made observation pretty cruddy. But, they kept the faith through the weather and came up with some great shots. After a morning of photographs and videos, some of which they have allowed me to share with you, I spent the better part of the afternoon showing them around the ranch.  Our list pushed up to around forty species, highlights being the grouse of course, but we also managed to dig up a few lifers for everyone, well except for me that is!

Some highlights for the day, either a life bird for someone or just a fun observation!

Marsh Wren
Vesper's Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Harris's Sparrow
Rock Wren
Greater Roadrunner
Snowy Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Semi-palmated Sandpiper
American Golden Plover
Baird's Sandpiper

After an afternoon of birding and some short lessons on sparrow identification they went on their way.  They left behind some goodies they had gathered up for me: cookies, sweets, muffins and a homemade Chocolate Chip Pear Cake which I had never heard of but quickly learned to appreciate, all in all and weather aside it was a great day to be afield in Oklahoma! 

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