Monday, April 11, 2011

Prairie Chickens

My trip yesterday to Attwater NWR to see Greater Prairie Chickens was partially successful. I did get to see Prairie Chickens, a life bird for me. Just after dawn I saw 8-10 of these impressive and highly endangered birds. Most stayed quite a distance away but one male was close enough to allow me (and the 20 other people on the Attwater tour) to watch him inflating the air sac in his throat and generally doing his mating ritual. He was even close enough for me to take some (just) recognizable photos.

Unfortunately, the morning went down hill from then. It was extremely windy and this, together with the fact that the refuge is in a state of drought, meant that other birds were few and far between. 

I joined in a 90-minute birding walk but even this produced only a handful of sightings. The birds I did see were either very common species (e.g., Northern Cardinal, American Crow) or were raptors seen far off in the distance (e.g., White-tailed-Hawk, Northern Harrier).

As thw wind had clearly settled in for the day, I decided not to wait to take a van-based birding tour that was scheduled for the later part of the morning but instead headed home.

So my visit to Attwater didn't work out well. Still, I did get to see Prairie Chickens and two other new-for-2011 birds (White-tailed Hawk, Northern Bobwhite), taking my year list to 200. I also enjoyed walking on the prairie and looking at the many wildflower and insect species that live there. I'll report on some of these tomorrow.

On my drive home I stopped to grab photos of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, one of my all-time favorite birds. The photos weren't great but they're the first I've ever managed to take that show the wonderful body and under-wing coloring of this remarkable bird.

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