Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spooky mornings.

Don't watch this video. Just listen. Listen to those strange, ghost-like and spooky hoots and cackles. Just as first twilight breaks the blackness of night, strange sounds haunt the morning. Imagine if this was your first experience at a prairie chicken booming ground. What if someone blindfolded you and brought you out to this prairie chicken lek without you knowing where you were? Its as if some little gremlins are out there mocking you, laughing at you. There is a plethora of outstanding videos and photographs of prairie chickens doing their amazing booming ground displays. But I wanted to try to share the amazing experience of hearing the strange noises of the lek in almost total darkness when the birds first arrive. You have to get up pretty early to beat the prairie chickens to their dance floor. They fly and walk in and almost immediately start cooing, cackling, whistling, and fighting. They hope for a chance to attract a hen and mate. Its a ritual played out in the prairie for eons. Few people get the chance to experience this fantastic phenomenon--a magic that starts way before dawn for a full two spring months. If you get a chance to experience any of the magic, don't pass it up. You'll never regret the fantastic experience of some of nature's best prairie drama.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The "Late" Bird

This is my kind of bird. Not an early bird at all. Doesn't get up as early as our noisy robins. Hangs in Kansas into early May--not in a hurry. The Harris's Sparrow migrates waaaaaaay up into the Canadian Northwest Territories, into the sub-artic boreal forest, to begin nesting. I wouldn't be in a hurry to go up there either until nearly summer! The Harris's Sparrow was named by John James Audubon in honor of his 1834 traveling companion, Edward Harris. These birds, along with their wintering companion, the White-crowned Sparrow, grace our yard all winter with their soul-comforting whistling. Kansas is in the heart of their winter range--a somewhat limited range. Folks on each coast flock to Kansas to help "tic" this beautiful sparrow off their life list. The Harris's Sparrow, just one more natural aspect of our prairie state that makes it so special. This male greeted our Easter morning along with a horde of his hungry companions.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fire--friend of the grasslands

A neighbor’s burn on a beautiful evening today was a backdrop to the wonderful reclamation of the prairie. Fire goes with prairie like an old blues song, red beans and rice. The crackling of a prescribed burn is as comforting to a grassland man as chocolate syrup to vanilla ice cream---or red beans to rice. To those who appreciate the prairie, and it would be a magical dream if all Kansans appreciated this fairly unique state heritage, fire is a rebirth--that is if it is a controlled burn. There is a strong distinction. The two are juxtaposed between total disaster and total reclamation—the first regretted, the second celebrated. This short video represents the latter.

Publish Post

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cory, Hoppy, Him, Her

My first blogging was your introduction to Cory our "pet" roadrunner. He actually turned into a she as I was able to discern subtle differences in the calls and appearance with a mate which showed up this winter. Cory first appeared in our yard three winters ago at which time I started tossing pieces of deer meat to "him." Eventually, I'd coaxed "him" up on the deck and ultimately to my lap, eating ground trimmings of venison. The near domestication of roadrunners is well known in the southwest states where they've thrived historically. We have more showing up in Pratt County every winter. (I think roadrunners are telling us more about climate change then science perhaps.) Last summer, Cory was spotted by myself and neighbors limping. I renamed Cory "Hoppy" temporarily. However, as you can see in the picture, Cory exhibits a lame left foot which he carries like a club foot. I don't know what got to this bird but he escaped obviously--perhaps barely. How do I know this is the same bird which showed up three winters ago the first time? Cory responded to my whistle of which I had her trained to the first winter. I whistle, she comes running for a free handout. And she still does, even this week as I was using up the last of my winter's supply of deerburger. I'm still hoping for a nest. Next...the failed first nesting attempt.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cory the pet roadrunner

The Kansas Outback blog will be a celebration of life on the prairie, an exhibition of fascinating interactions between humans and wildlife. There will be stories, anecdotes and education from the wilds of country living to the urban backyard. Starting off will be a personal friendship I've developed with our "pet" roadrunner. Cory, named by my granddaughter, started showing up three winters ago. Just coming off his third winter visit, he's become habituated (by me) to coming up on my lap to feed on scrap deer meat ground into "deerburger."