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.

Week 11

Posted on 05/31/2011 at 9:27 AM

23 May 2011 – 27 May 2011

This was a bad week for weather. There were storms almost every day and night with flash flooding and tornados all around (poor Joplin I feel so bad). With all of the rain the fields were muddy and a lot of the roads were impassable.

 Though I did manage to make it out into the field this week, the work was slow and limited. The fields were muddy and wet which made for some slick hills and river banks.

Once in the field I had a wonderful time. I flushed about 8 pheasants (7 chicks and a hen), which made me jump, as they always wait until you’re about to step on them before they take off. I found tons of bird nests (it is amazing that such a small creature can survive such powerful storms) not only with eggs but some were already hatched out with chicks. There were nests from Bobolinks (some had Brown-Headed Cowbird eggs in them), Grasshopper Sparrows, Meadowlarks, Red-Wing Blackbirds, Dicksissels and many more. I saw caterpillars and a whole slew of moths and butterflies, I even saw a Luna Moth as it tried to get into my house one night. At one point I looked down and saw a fawn curled up into a tight ball laying not 5 feet away hoping that I hadn’t seen it. The fawn laid completely still except for the ears that were twitching desperately to hear my advancements.

Week 10

Posted on 05/31/2011 at 9:06 AM

16 May 2011 – 20 May 2011

My week started out with my first bit of field work in 4 weeks. It felt good to get back outside and walk around and the weather was absolutely perfect. Unfortunately the fields are a little behind (I couldn’t tell what was planted in the fields) and most of the forbs and other food sources for Prairie Chickens were too small to indicate how much of my survey plots contained adequate brood cover, so we pushed the start of the second survey back one week.

The rest of my week was spent researching Prairie Chickens. I was looking for the effects of weather on their survivability and other reasons that might cause a decline in population (outside of habitat loss). I learned a lot about some other issues that could be effecting the Iowa population of Prairie Chickens and can hopefully come up with some management strategies that might help stifle those causes.

I wasn’t in the field much this week but I did get to see a great deal of wildlife. I found my first nest of the season, I think it is a sparrow nest but I don’t know the species. There were a lot of Kingbirds and Bobolinks displaying and defending their territory as well. I even saw an Indigo Bunting, some Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and found a Kestrel nest. ]


Week 9

Posted on 05/10/2011 at 8:33 AM

2 May 2011- 6 May 2011
High winds kept the temperatures at bay this week along with some scattered showers. However, by Friday, even the wind couldn’t keep the temperatures down.

I am still doing a lot of little things around the office. Going over my data one more time, making sure that it has all been entered correctly. I have also been reading some more papers regarding the Prairie Chicken to help me better understand its situation and analyze the data.

On Wednesday I went out and gave a presentation, along with 5 other folks from the DNR, to some 5th and 6th graders, from the local schools, about the Prairie Chicken and the Prairie itself. I had a lot of fun that day. It was nice to get out of the office and the weather was extremely cooperative.

I am starting to see more birds starting to build their nest. A couple of Eastern Kingbirds have started to build a nest in the bushes just outside my house. All the while a pair of Eastern Phoebes have decided to use my house and built their nest under my overhang. The bees and wasps have also started to make an appearance buzzing around all of the wild flowers.

Week 8

Posted on 05/02/2011 at 10:48 AM

25 April 2011 – 29 April 2011
What started out as a rainy week ended rather nicely. It was chilly start to the week with rain and thunderstorms making the grounds soggy and muddy. By mid week, with the ground brimming with water, the sun started to break up the clouds. The sun finally made an appearance and with the wind rushing across the lands, it didn’t take long for the roads to dry and the temperatures to rise.

As for the work at hand, I was not able to make it into the field this week. However, there is always something to be done. The main priority, getting all of my data entered from the nesting survey. After a couple of days inputting data into GIS, I started to analyze the information at hand. Though it’s still early in the season and not all of the data collected, I can start to see areas that hold potential for sustaining Prairie Chicken populations.

Week 7

Posted on 04/25/2011 at 12:32 PM

18 April 2011 – 22 April 2011

With the first round of surveys done and the second round not coming up until May 15, I don’t get out into the field as much as I would like. Fortunately, I still had one lek survey and a few reports of Prairie Chicken to investigate.
The lek survey was the second one in Adams County. I was up at 4 and on the road by 4:30 so I could start my survey on time. It was a wonderful day for listening to birds with almost no wind, but there was a constant threat of rain that I was hoping would hold off. The rain did hold off and I finished my second round, but unfortunately, like the first round, there were no birds observed.
I also investigated two reports of Prairie Chicken. One out in Adams County just North of Corning and the second one in Decatur Country a little Southeast of Garden Grove. In Garden Grove I went out with the observer that called in the Prairie Chickens. He pointed me right to the spot that he had seen them, but they were not there and he admitted to not having seen them in a while. Hopefully next year they will be found there again. As for the one reported in Adams County, I drove out to the approximate site three times at different times of the day and was unlucky all three times.
I am seeing more butterflies and I even saw my first garter snake of the year. A lot of the migratory birds have moved out of the area up to the recently thawed North and the local birds are becoming more vocal and visible.


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