It’s April 19th and I’m in a motel in Dodge City, Kansas. I started the day at 4:30 a.m. in a parking lot in Pawhuska, Oklahoma with my friends David and Tammy McQuade. We were headed to a Greater Prairie Chicken lek to watch the birds display at dawn.
We’d been so excited about this trip! We had booked a private blind from which to see the birds up close and photograph them. Our plans were derailed.
Oklahoma recently had some devastating fires that destroyed 300,000 acres of prairie and killed all of the wildlife. Our trip organizers scrambled to find alternate leks for our Greater and Lesser Prairie Chicken viewing but subsequent rains aggravated an already-tenuous situation. There would be no blinds available!
We were able to see 8 Greater Prairie Chickens this morning but as you can see from my magnified photos, they were far away. No blinds could be set up so the best we could do was to watch them from the van.
The news got darker as we were told that we may not be able to see the Lesser Prairie Chickens at all in the next couple of days.
We looked at our options and made the decision to drive 5 hours away to a ranch near Dodge City, Kansas where they were being reported more consistently.
We stopped along the way and spent a few hours birding Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area where we were all able to add Hudsonian Godwits and many other shorebirds. The day had shaped up pretty good.
At the end of the day, we arrived at the Lesser Prairie Chicken site just hoping to scope it out for tomorrow. Instead, Tammy found 5 distant Chickens in her scope and we were beside ourselves!!
I know that we were all nervous that we’d gone on a “wild chicken chase” but this time, everything fell into place.