Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mating Rituals

Lately, everywhere I turn, everything I do, I see pairings. Nature all around me is courting and matching up. Maybe it’s just the season, spring springing and all that. Maybe it’s because I’ve written a few romances and my mind is attuned to that sort of thing. Whatever the case, spring seems to be the season for love. Just yesterday, I learned of an engagement in the immediate family.

I'm smiling. ‘Tis the season.


Lately, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time observing the mating rituals of the Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido). I manage to look pretty ridiculous while I’m doing it, too, but there’s rarely anyone else around to see me. Occasionally a farmer drives by on the dirt road behind me at a slow, polite pace that stirs a minimal amount of dust. Or a conservation agent stops a moment to observe the action and note that I’m as careful as I should be about keeping my distance so the birds aren’t disturbed.

As yet, nobody’s commented on the fact that I have a tripod and camera perched on top of the pickup cab roof, and that I’m standing with one foot on a built-in toolbox and the other on the ladder rack. I’m not disturbing the birds, and that’s what counts. Or maybe word’s gotten out about me. Don’t disturb the middle-aged crazy woman with the camera. She’s odd, but probably harmless.

I’m not much of a threat to the professional bird photographers either.



Prairie chickens prefer expansive grasslands like the tallgrass prairie on the west side of the road where I set up my observation post – or the big wheat field with its emerging carpet of green to the east of the road, which is where I usually find them. They’re usually several hundred feet from the road, so even with my 500mm telephoto lens, the results aren’t impressive.



Here it is, cropped and blown up. If you squint just right, you can see two males dancing to attract the attention of a single hen.


Back at the farm, we’ve all sorts of romantic entanglements to observe. There’s Winifred the goose, who lost her mate a year ago. After a period of mourning, she took up with a strapping young rooster. They’re close companions, but she also has a conjugal relationship with Ferdinand, our male goose. His mate, Ingrid, doesn’t seem to mind. She and Winifred both laid eggs in the same nest. Two weeks ago, Ingrid settled in for a month’s setting to hatch out the eggs she thought were there. (I swiped them and replaced them with egg-shaped gourds so we didn’t risk losing the whole batch to a skunk raid like last year.) With Ingrid occupied, and Winifred cuddling up to her rooster, poor Ferdinand now must spend his days alone. Ferdinand apparently wasn’t wired for a solo existence. He’s taken up with a white bucket. Here he is singing love songs to his bucket. He does this several times a day.



To escape the madness of the barnyard soap opera, I headed out to the greenhouse for some weeding and harvesting. And what did I find?

4 comments:

mark said...

I'm intrigued by the "buddies" relationship between Winifred and the anonymous rooster. Is that common? Do you have pics?

PS: Thanks for the Prairie Chicken pics - even at a distance it's good to see them, since their population in MO is threatened.

seasonseatingsfarm said...

If all of this keeps up you're going to have to put a rating on your farm! PG 17?

The goose and bucket are amusing. Poor guy!

pablo said...

so, wait! You've written romances????

LauraP said...

mark - I don't think the goose/rooster relationship is usual. I've been trying to get a good pic of them, and will post one when I'm successful.

pablo - yep. Had some published, too.