Saturday, May 19, 2007

More grouse and recording with the Nevilles

A 3:00 a.m. start began the week on Monday morning. I headed east to begin the last shorebird survey and found a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek at the beginning of the route. I delayed starting the survey a bit so I could watch the birds displaying. I hadn't been to a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek for a number of years and I had forgotten how entertaining these birds are. The displays are very active with plenty of foot stomping and calling. The most entertaining part for me however was the cessation of displays for short periods of time. At some cue all displaying would stop. It was as if there was a cosmic pause in time, with the birds frozen in mid-dance. The only clue that time was still proceeding was the background chorus of Western Meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows. Then, with another unknown cue, all the birds would begin to display again, stomping and turning as if nothing had happened. I will have to remember to get back to this lek next spring to take more photos.
The survey went well and I was able traverse some landscape that I hadn't explored before. It was still similar to the route I had done last week with much of the country tilled.
I also spent some time this week with John and Heather Neville. John records bird songs as a consuming hobby/vocation and has produced a number of CD's of bird songs, mostly with Canadian themes. Here is his website. His current project is a CD of prairie birds and I am eagerly waiting for this one to be done. I really like his recordings because he doesn't filter out all the background sounds and it is fun to figure out what other birds are present in the recordings of the target bird songs. It is also much more like really being in the habitats he is recording in and listening for birds. They are also a very nice couple to be in the field with. At last report John had gotten a number of good recordings of species that he needed out of his trip here and I hope that when he finally heads home that he gets good recordings of all of the birds he was looking for.

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Brown-headed Cowbird, mid display.

Tree Swallow at sunset

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