This morning I got up early and drove to the Taberville Prairie conservation area to watch the prairie chickens. Turns out, the current booming grounds are on private property across the road from this lovely piece of prairie. I saw six Greater Prairie Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus). I even got one photo with a streak of sunrise and a dark spot that only I can positively identify as a puffed up male Greater Prairie Chicken doing its thing. Yep, sun flares, a splash of early spring wheat, and a brown blur with a white tail fan. Oh well. I'm still excited about my first opportunity to observe this native grouse species in the wild. I stood for a half hour on top the pickup truck toolbox, watching them through the telephoto lens and listening to the thrumming sound the males make when they're trying to impress the hens. It was a successful scouting trip. I have great hopes for future excursions with a better lens, better light, and maybe I'll luck into a viewing spot that doesn't require me to focus directly into the rising sun.
For more information about the Greater Prairie Chicken, check out the Missouri Department of Conservation's website. The Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society has great photos here. Photographer Joel Satore has stunning photos of lesser prairie-chickens booming in Oklahoma on his site. (Search on 'prairie chickens')