My Prairie Chicken journey

May 28, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

A year or so ago I saw a gorgeous image of two male Prairie Chickens fighting. That image inspired me to embark on my own Prairie Chicken photography journey. First, I started to research these birds. They fight during early Spring to gain mating rights with the females. The fighting takes place on a "lek," a mound with low grass on it. They return to the same mound every year. This was good news. Next I looked into where some of these known leks are and if any of them have blinds (hides) already set up. I was in luck.

But it was not this easy as I experienced a failure before getting this image. The journey took me on a four hour drive to get to where the lek is. I booked the blind and was set. You have to be in the blind and quiet with lights out at least an hour to an hour and a half before sunrise. The blind had plexiglass to look through. You can understand why. This is early Spring in Nebraska, so you have to keep the freezing wind out. However, we cannot photograph through a scratched and dirty plexiglass window and get good images.

          I received permission to erect my own blind, which I set up right next to the place's blind. Often in life, solving one problem creates another. On the morning of the shoot it was 16 degrees Fahrenheit with a healthy freezing wind to boot, making it feel like 6 degrees with the wind chill. I waited for about three hours and not a single bird showed up. I did not even hear them. When present, they make what is described as a booming sound but now I was "booming" from the cold. Getting up very early to drive from the hotel to the lek and freezing for hours without success was a little disheartening. So we had to drive the four hours back without even seeing a Prairie Chicken.

          Back to the research! I was not going to drive all that way for nothing again (even though this lek had the Chickens there on both mornings before I was there). This time I found a lek much closer to my home. I visited the place twice and got lucky both times. This is what my Prairie Chicken journey taught me:

  1. Do thorough research and planning to maximize your chances of getting good images

  2. Keep on trying until you are successful

  3. Endure the cold (or whatever)(as long as it is safe) because you have to be out there to get the image

  4. Be patient as these images took just less than nine hours of being out there to get

          In the next blog I will talk a little about what equipment was used to get these images.


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