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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.
27 June 2011 – 1 July 2011
It was another hot week. While the temperatures were only in the upper 80’s and low 90’s, the humidity and lack of wind certainly made it feel warmer. On Thursday the heat index was around 110 causing me to drink water like a fish and dream of air conditioning.
While it was a hot week it was also productive. I nearly finished my surveys, leaving only about one day worth of field work for next week. Then I will be able to sit down, enter the data and begin actually assessing the habitat that is out there.
There were still quite a few animals roaming about. I saw all the staple animals, such as Bobolinks, meadowlarks, and a variety of sparrows. I did also manage tosee some other birds and animals such as Indigo Buntings, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, bullfrogs, a couple different caterpillars, a whole bunch of dragonflies and damselflies and I even managed to flush out another skunk.
20 June 2011 – 24 June 2011
This was a cloudy and gloomy week. There were scattered rain showers throughout the week and very little sun. Once you get past the weather, it turned out to be a fantastic week.
Early in the week I helped the DNR band geese. That was a lot of fun and something that I had never done before. We drove around a few predetermined lakes/ponds (ones that were known for having 20+ geese on them). Once the geese were located, a couple people would flush geese off of the beach and into the water. After the geese were swimming, three small boats would corral them to keep the geese from splitting up. Then the boats would herd the birds to a funnel trap. To keep the geese from the going ashore before they reached the trap, one person would walk the shore line making sure the geese stayed in the water. When the geese were finally pushed to the trap, the person on shore would back off and the boats would herd the geese into the funnel trap. Once the geese were in the corral it was like an old fashion cattle branding (instead of a brand we gave the geese a USFWS band). With a couple people in the pen catching the geese by hand then passing them to the people outside the pen so that the goose could be aged, sexed and then banded. After a goose had received a band it was released unharmed.
When it was all said and done over 100 geese had new bands. These bands are important for the DNR to understand migration patterns, population trends and helps determine bag limits.
When I wasn’t banding I was back in the field collecting more habitat data for the Prairie Chickens (using the new protocol). With it being such a cool week, there were a ton of animals that were active during the day. I saw a short eared owl, some bobolinks, eastern kingbirds, dickcissels, jumping mice and some voles. With the fields filled with flowers, the bees and wasps were abundant.
13 June 2011 – 17 June 2011
It was a nice week, one of the nicest this year. Temperatures were in the 70’s with light breezes. There were a few scattered showers, but nothing significant.
Most of the week was spent doing more research on prairie chickens. The rest of the time was spent making maps and finishing up the protocol for the second survey. By week’s end the protocol was finished and maps printed so that next week I can get back into the field and start collecting more data.
6 June 2011 – 10 June 2011
It was an extremely hot start to the week. I was starting work as early as I could (ie sunrise) in order to finish my work before the heat of the day arrived. The bugs also started coming out in force causing my face and neck to become a food supply for the swarms of biting flies and mosquitoes. My only saving grace was the wind, giving me a breeze to take away some of the heat and forcing the bugs to lay low. After a few rain showers and thunderstorms midweek, it started to cool down.
Unfortunately, two weeks into the second survey, my supervisors and I decided that the data we were gathering wasn’t giving us the information that we need. So we halted the data collection and started to brainstorm some new ideas about what data needs to be collected and how to go about collecting it. After a couple days of thinking a new protocol has been written and hopefully a return to the field will follow early next week.
I heard a rustling of grass and shrubs in the early Monday morning dew and being a curious person, started to investigate. To my shock and horror I kicked out skunk. Fortunately, I managed to escape without being sprayed. On Wednesday I heard a bunch of squeaking at my feet. After a couple of seconds of searching I found a nest of baby mice. Once I uncovered the nest, the poor little guys tried to scurry blindly away from the unknown danger.
30 May 2011 – 3 June 2011
It was a hot and humid week, but it went by fast. The grasses have started to pollinate, which is causing my allergies to misbehave, as yellow puffs of pollen fill the air as I walk. I found two more fawns this week hiding in the grass and a whole bunch of bird nests. There seems to be more variety of butterflies and moths every day and a lot of flowers are in full bloom.