Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nebraska Part II


This post will contain a brief trip log of the Nebraska portion of the trip thus far. Tom and I arrived in Nebraska after driving 21 hours straight from Virginia and arrived at a blind location (5:00 AM) in southeast part of the state. Our goal was to photograph prairie chickens. The sunrise was awesome and we did see a number of birds, but unfortunately they were on an adjacent ridge, a 1/4 mile away. So we scouted some and located more birds on another lek on a piece of private property. Tom was invaluable as a Nebraska guide, having grown up in the state, so he knew where to locate birds. After speaking with the lek landowner, we had a location for the afternoon and following morning shoot.

Both prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse are found on leks. A lek or booming ground is a place where males and interested females gather. The males conduct mating displays on leks. This occurs during the breeding season. They usually meet at the same location every year. In the above photo you can see some sharp-tails on a lek displaying for the girls.

Having never observed this behavior it was absolutely thrilling. The males stomp their feet rapidly, blow up their pouch and make an incredible cooing sound that can be heard from quite a distance. As you can see from the above image, the yellow pouch is quite a dynamic sight.

Also, the males often jump in the air and often attack charge each other like the top photo.


The females watch all this and some males get lucky, like the second photo above.

Next, we headed to the western side of the state checking other potential wildlife locations. The Sandhills of Nebraska was especially interesting country. Basically, rolling sand dunes with a grass layer on top. I ended driving the truck 12 miles off a hard surface road onto a sand lane to a sharp-tailed lek. You can see how desolate it was in the photo above, where I parked the truck for evening. When I arrived, I hiked 1/2 mile to the potential lek location. Stayed till 8:30 PM and did not see any birds.

Up at 5:00 AM and on my way back to the same location, I was almost tripping over birds. Birds gathered quickly well before light and were dancing all around me, some even landed on top of my blind. As you can see from the above photo, the sharp-tails do a lower profile dance than the prairie chickens, with their wings outstreached. They do a similar rapid foot stomp.

As you can see the sharp-tails do have a different colored pouch.

Leave tomorrow for the Tetons and Yellowstone. Been great spending some time with my son and wife in Colorado. Hope to post again soon.

Blue Skies.

17 comments:

kjpweb said...

You're killing me. These shots are breathtakingly beautiful!
Top notch and keep 'em coming!
Be safe!
Cheers, Klaus

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

This has got to be one of the most astounding posts I have ever seen Ken. The way you have captured the mating displays and your action shots are incredible.

Fantastic. Thanks for sharing and as Klaus says, keep 'em coming!!

Salty said...

I'm speachless Ken! This is amazing, excellent action and superb photography...WOW!!!

Willard said...

An amazing action photo! One of the best I have seen.

Twisted Fencepost said...

Wow! you got some really great shots. I know you are enjoying visiting and seeing all these new things.
Can't wait to see more!

fishing guy said...

Ken: Now that is a serious fight, thanks for sharing.

Jose's World said...

How did you get these Rhode Island chickens to fly? Another trick of the so called "retired game warden." Thanks for your comments regarding the swans, done with the 50D.

Tim Rucci said...

Wow, Ken. Great stuff, as always.

Natural Moments said...

Wow, these are just awesome photos Ken. They tell a great story of what they are experiencing at this moment at this time of year. I love the action shots where they are flying and jumping into the air and the display photos of both species is simply beautiful. It must have been a blast to see these wonderful birds!

Ivar Ivrig said...

Excellent shots. And what a colorful and cool chicken. Well done.
Have a great weekend :-)

Adrian_O said...

Great picture Ken! Hope you enjoyed the stay in Big Red country. You might still catch the Sandhill Cranes migrating North.

Atanasio Fernández García said...

Hi Ken! A excellent series of this curious species of praire. The third picture, with the male nuptial plumage, I feel great! The action scenes are really good. Greetings!

Juan C. Aguero said...

Hi Mr. Ken!!
Amazing photo, good composition!!
good trip .

Stacey Huston said...

Great shots. Sage Grouse also drum on leks. heading out myself in the a.m. to see if I can find a sharptail lek, If your coming through Cody area, I know where the sage grouse are!

Philip said...

What Action shots Ken what we men do for females :) as always great photography !!

juan carlos sanchez said...

una toma ,preciosa en el momento justo y muy dinamica
saludos

Andor Marton said...

Amazing action series Ken! There is only one picture from this series, that I don't like ... that one with your car ;-). Pretty desolating landscape. But the 1. and 4. pictures are outstanding!