Prairie Chicken Blog - Blank Park Zoo

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Prairie Chicken Blog

Working in cooperation with the Iowa DNR, Chris Hansen is working to reestablish the Prairie Chicken in Kellerton, IA. Follow his adventures this summer with this blog.

Prairie Chicken Lunch and Learn

Posted on 01/12/2012 at 3:35 PM


Final Week

Posted on 08/22/2011 at 12:20 PM

8 August 2011 - 12 August 2011


It was a gorgeous week. The sun was shining with highs in the 80's and low humidity. A great week to be outside.


The week started off with a presentation and meeting of the data collected throughout the spring and summer. The rest of the week was spent finishing reports, organizing data and packing up the office.


On Friday, I turned in my keys and left the office for the last time. It was a great summer full of great experiences and I had a wonderful summer in southern Iowa.


Week 19 & 20

Posted on 08/22/2011 at 12:14 PM

25 July 2011 - 5 Aug 2011

It was a hot two weeks. There was a lot of sunshine and plenty of heat especially in the end of July. Rain did fall this last week. It was a much needed shower as grasses were turning brown and trees were starting to dry up.

July ended on a pretty slow note. I didn’t get out of the office for much more than a couple minutes a day and that was just to stretch. Every day was spent writing my final report and preparing for the end of my term.

August started out fast. I got back into the field for the first time in over a week. On Monday zoo staff, americore workers, Iowa DNR employees and Iowa State researchers all took time off to help volunteer to search for prairie chicken broods. In all 20 people showed up to help with the search on what turned out to be a very hot day. There were 5 chickens found in all that day, which was a surprisingly high number for the amount of ground that we covered.

 I also conducted another brood survey later in the week. This survey took place at sunrise on a dewy morning. I drove the roads around the leks and areas that I think would provide good brood cover in hopes of finding prairie chickens trying to dry their feathers.

During the brood surveys we saw lots of birds. Pheasant with chicks, bobwhite quail, eastern kingbirds, dicksiscels, a variety of sparrows, upland sandpipers, northern harriers, killdeer and of course some prairie chickens.

Thanks to everyone that came out and helped with the brood survey. You all helped a bunch to gather some really good data. I couldn’t have done it without you.


Week 18

Posted on 07/27/2011 at 9:43 AM

18 July 2011 – 22 July 2011

HOT, that is really the only word to describe this week. There was a heat advisory everyday with heat indexes reaching the 120’s. It was a good week to go to a lake and go for a swim, just about everything else was miserable.

In the mornings I would go out and help the DNR trap and band Mourning Doves. It’s not quite as exciting as the goose banding, but it was a nice change of pace. While we were banding doves, we would go and spay some more sericea lespadiza between checking the traps. It was so hot that we had to cut the trapping short everyday to keep from harming the birds. The DNR started to run the traps at sunrise and just before sunset to help avoid the heat. In all we caught mostly Red-Winged Blackbird and Brown-Headed Cowbirds but we did manage to catch a few doves as well.

After the mornings were through I would come back and work on my final reports. That is a slow process, but it is important to do it well.

There are still more flowers blooming, the prairie is looking good with all the flowers in bloom. Not as many birds flying around with the heat like it was. I did hear a whip-poor-will off in the distance while banding doves in the evening.


Week 17

Posted on 07/27/2011 at 9:42 AM


11 July 2011 – 15 July 2011

It was a warm one this week, with a lot of sun and little wind. It started out very nice, but gradually got warmer as the week went on. The forecast for next week is looking like it will only continue to get warmer.

It was an up and down week for me. Monday was not a good day. There was rain and some small thunderstorms in the morning. While continuing my data entry we lost power in the office. Though the power outage was short, it caused my computer program to go on the fritz. I lost all of the data that I had entered that day and I also lost the data that I had entered the previous week. Tuesday, I went into the field to help the DNR spray Sericea Lespediza, which is an invasive plant species. That was a nice day and very productive. Wednesday was spent helping the DNR again, this time I brought my camera with to document the process. Unfortunately, the vehicle that I was in happens to have the engine right beneath the passenger seat. With the seat broken, my camera fell onto the hot engine and actually got so hot that I couldn’t touch it. Needless to say it melted a little. Fortunately, only the outside melted and the inside remained intact so in the end the only thing that was lost was a fried battery. By week’s end things were better; my camera was working and I finished all of my data entry.

I saw a bunch of wildlife going out and spraying invasive plants. There was a large assortment of birds and insects; I even saw a moth that I had never seen in my life, too bad it was when my camera was out of commission. I saw some American toads, rabbits, sunflowers, quite a few juvenile American Robins, bobolinks, phoebes and Eastern Kingbirds.



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