Friday, March 28, 2014

Pic of the Day

Greater Prairie-Chickens, Tympanucuhus cupido; Calamus, Nebraska
     This week I was in Central Nebraska to view and photograph the great congregation of migrating Greater Sandhill Cranes.  For almost a month the cranes stage on the Platte River, and feed in the surrounding grain feels before continuing northward.  The spectacle was amazing, thousands upon thousands of cranes concentrated along the Platte.  But that is for another post.
     I also had an opportunity to visit the ranch of Bruce and Sue Ann Switzer of Calamus, Nebraska.  Bruce and Sue Ann are conservation ranchers, managing their ranch for both livestock and wildlife.  Their ranch contains about 30 active Greater Prairie-Chicken leks, and I was fortunate enough to be in a blind this past Wednesday to photograph the courtship ritual of these beautiful birds. 
     I cannot adequately describe the experience of watching these birds on their leks.  They were amazing!  Males confronted each other, rapidly stomping their feet on the ground, and filling the golden air sacs on their necks with air to boom a deep oo-loo-woo sound.  The National Geographic guide to the birds describes the booming as a sound created by “blowing across the top of an empty bottle,” a description that is very accurate. 
     At the height of the confrontation, a pair of males would jump into the air with feet and claws toward each other.   But the spat was brief as the birds fluttered back to the earth.  All of this activity started before sunrise and lasted until the sun was an hour above the horizon.  With little warning the birds one by one flew from the lek to feed among the prairie grass.  The next morning the birds returned to the lek, and began their dance all over, with the hopes of attracting a hen.

Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f4, Exposure 1/2500 @ f4


  1. I'm 'impressed with your photograhpy! I remember when you wrote about the puffins of Maine. I have been on that same trip...and think the puffins are so beautiful. You sure get around visiting all these wonderful places taking pictures of birds!! This weekend I'm headed to The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine , Fl. I could care less about alligators....but wild birds fly in ...and make their nests and hatch their babies there in the alligator swamp. A boardwalk runs through the swamp...and you can get really close to take some neat pictures of the wild birds. The birds that nest at the Alligator Farm...are great white egrets...little blues, woodstorks...cattle egrets, roesate spoonbills and tri-colored herons. Adele Jennings
    Thanks for your wonderful pictures!

  2. Hi Adele, I love the alligator farm as well. I plan on being there in a few weeks myself.

  3. I went up there this past some really really nice photos...of the roseates building their nests....of the great white egrets in several nests with their newly hatched babies...busy busy snowy egrets making nests...the little blues were quite hidden in in the palm trees... so I didn't get any photos of them. I plan on going back again in May...there should be LOTS of babies then....Adele!

  4. Thanks for the update. I'm looking forward to my trip.