Today’s post features a few images I captured in 2008, while guiding for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and The Nature Conservancy, at the Greater Prairie Chicken lek located on the prairie at Dunn Ranch. Every spring, the males would gather on the lek. The “lek” is the short grass prairie, where the prairie chickens gather in the spring for displaying, attracting and mating. Habitat for the prairie chicken is critical. He needs both tall grass prairie (where the hens nest and raise young, protected from predators), and short grass prairie (for establishing a lek, from where they are able to display and mate, but with the short grass, can still keep a wary eye open for approaching predators). Here are a few images I captured of males, displaying on the lek, from the blind:
What it must have been like, a hundred years ago, when hundreds or maybe even thousands of these grand birds gathered on the spring lek to vocalize and dance! 2008 was the last year that the blind was used to allow residents to watch these incredible birds. Their numbers were down to only a few birds and it was decided to discontinue the blind tours, to prevent adding any stress to the dwindling number of birds. Since that time, numbers have continued to spiral downwards, mainly due to predators and to torrential spring rains that wiped out the spring brood of young birds. But over the past couple of years, the MCD has been working with neighboring Kansas wildlife people and have been netting and relocating some of the Kansas population to Missouri prairies, including Dunn Ranch. I’m hoping to receive a call one of these days, asking me to rejoin them as they once again offer tours to the blinds. Hopefully, their population at Dunn Ranch will stabilize and this will once again be a reality!
Photographic Equipment Used:
- Canon 1D Mark 2 body
- Canon EF100mm-400mm, f/4.5-f/5.6 IS lens + Canon 1.4x TC
- Handheld, with IS “On”, from blind
- ISO 250 (first 2 images) and ISO 800 (bottom image)
- Aperture f/8
- Shutter 1/250 sec. to 1/500 sec.