Archive for April 19, 2010

Counting Cranes and Booming Cocks

This weekend was very birdful. I think I’m too exhausted to go into great detail, so I’ll try to let the pictures speak for themselves.

Saturday morning I surveyed cranes at Mirror Lake State Park for the Annual Midwest Crane Count. It was my second time at Mirror Lake, and I liked it so much that I went back for a third time today. I was lucky enough to steal my survey area from someone who had other commitments, but she claimed that her crane count survey area was the best in Sauk County, maybe the best in the state of Wisconsin. I believe her. It was gorgeous.

I forgot to set the focus to "automatic", but here is a blurry shot of Mirror Lake just fter dawn.

My last crane on the count, a female Sandhill Crane sitting on a nest at Mirror Lake.

Crane Count was incredible. Not only did I see 17 Sandhill Cranes, I also saw many other bird species, a muskrat, and a beautiful sunrise. I also helped contribute to citizen science. Crane Count data is continuously being compiled to add to our knowledge of crane populationt trends, which determines conservation efforts for North American cranes. This morning I found a second nesting Sandhill Crane at Mirror Lake. What a cool place.

Last night my friend Michelle and I headed to Hartman Creek State Park to camp before seeing the Greater Prairie Chickens leking near Stevens Point, Wisconsin. We had almost the entired campground to ourselves and picked a nice site overlooking a small lake. Before an amazing dinner of instant rice and Indian food, we took a slow walk around the lake. A solitary Canada Goose stood as still as a Ninja on a shoreline log, while ten or so Woodducks made passes through the lake and surrounding pine forest. A Rusty Blackbird male whistled and garbled near our campsite as we ended our short hike. After many s’mores (way too many) a Sora called once from the shoreline. My first of the year.

Four short hours of sleep and we started breaking down camp at 2:30 in the morning. We got to the meet up site near Plover, Wisconsin at 4:30, and set off to start viewing at 5:15. It was worth the earlystart.

Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) booming

Greate Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) cocks on the booming grounds

Michelle, my co-counter, and two Greater Prairie Chicken blinds next to each other.

In all we saw 15 Greater Prairie Chickens, consisting of 12 booming cocks (yes they are really called that) and 3 hens. The cocks were trying their hardest, leaping into the air, shaking and shimmying around the leking ground, lifting up their “rabbit ear” feathers, and of course, booming. The booming calls were constant for the two hours we were in the blind. Priaire chickens cocks boom by inflating their balloon-like orange air sacs and using them to resonate a low, haunting call The cocks also fought incesisently with each other, cackling and complaining and clawing instead of concentrating on the real prize, the hens. Michelle was lucky enough to witness one copulation, and she even got it on video! I can’t wait to see that. We filled out a survey form for our blind, which is another contribution to citizen science. Call me a nerd, but I love conducting bird surveys.

To say I had fun this weekend would be a huge understatement. It was phenomenal.

April 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment


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