Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Greater Prairie Chicken, Prairie Ridge State Natural Area, Illinois

Northern Harrier chasing a Greater Prairie Chicken

On March 27, I was able to join the Indiana Audubon Society for a field trip to Prairie Ridge State Natural Area to witness the rare Greater Prairie Chicken. This particular property is in the State of Illinois just 2 1/2 hours from my house. I could not believe it!

Greater Prairie Chickens... doing what they do. Although I wanted to see a much more aggressive display of land ownership, the short disputes were still cool!

We arrived to the property about 5:00a in the morning where we were escorted by a great property associate to two blinds that were set up just for the opportunity to witness these great birds displaying. It was important to get in the blinds prior to the displays starting so not to disturb the birds. After about 30 minutes of our arrival to the blinds, we began to hear the birds calling and could see their faint shadows moving closer to us. By the time light arrived, their were Greater Prairie Chickens everywhere no more than 25 - 50 yards away. Some moved as close as about 20 feet from the blinds. It was absolutely amazing watching the males strut their stuff to the few rather non-caring females. Periodically the males would squabble with each other but the fights were normally short and non-violent.

In all, I believe we counted 17 males. I can't remember the female count but I believe there were no more that 3 or 4.

As a bonus, we were able to witness the birds being disturbed by a very rude Norther Harrier that seemed to be having a great time stirring up the chickens.

Other highlights during the day were Short-eared Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Loggerhead Shrike. Not too bad!

Our hotel rooms the night before the big event! Thank goodness for Walmart. I did not bring a sleeping bag and it got cold but inside the sleeping bag it was great.

Greater Prairie Chicken in full display

Indiana State Bird

Indiana State Bird
Northern Cardinal