On Sunday, the second day of the Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in Milnesand, NM, we again arose early and met at the community center to travel in vans to blinds on the lek.
On this day we went to a short grass prairie lek, which together with the improved weather made us hopeful of improved photography conditions. I had a blind to myself, which gave me more room for my equipment, but which also made the time in the cold and dark waiting for the prairie chickens to show up seem interminable. Finally the sky began to lighten, and I heard first a meadowlark singing and then the cackling and booming of the prairie chickens.
As it became light enough to see details of the lekking behavior, I was delighted to see females present on the lek. Although they had been present on the Shinnery Oak lek the previous day, they blended so well into the surroundings that it was difficult to see and photograph them.
Even though these may look like rather plain, drab birds to us, they are the embodiment of feminine perfection to the male Lesser Prairie Chickens, and they try mightily to impress the hens who generally look rather indifferent to all the calling, booming and dancing.
The males challenge each other on the lek.
The challenges escalate into sparring.
At last one Lesser Prairie Chicken submits.
In the next post I will show details of the sparring matches on the lek as well as what happens afterwards.