For the record, I did see other birds besides lesser prairie chickens in Oklahoma. As a matter of fact, while I was focused on a pair of male chickens in the middle of a stare down, a yellow blur moved in front of them. I adjusted the focus of my scope to reveal a meadowlark. I’m not sure which one this is. We heard both eastern and western meadowlark singing around the prairie chicken lek and I’m not bold enough to call it based on plumage. The bird did not sing while I got its photo. I love this shot of the meadowlark with the chickens blurred in the background.
If you are new to birds and have never heard a meadowlark call…or not sure if you have, check them out at Xeno Canto. Here is the western and here is the eastern. I grew up with eastern meadowlarks in Indiana (a beautiful evening song) but the westerns are quite striking.
I have to say that there was quite a bit of adventure to our birding–one day about 4 different vehicles toting participants to birding spots got stuck in mud along the minimum maintenance roads. There had been quite a bit of rain beforehand. I heard through the grapevine that many vehicles got stuck on the way to the lesser prairie chicken leks. A tractor was required to get the vehicle out. Since that road was blocked, the field trip leaders cut a barb wire fence (with the fence owner’s permission and the understanding it would be repaired) to get the vehicles to the blind–that’s dedication to get birders to the birds! And what a great adventure to see the bird.
I really dug the sparrow action at the festival–check out this feeding station. Harris sparrows (dudes with the black beards) and a white-crowned sparrow. Harris sparrows are just amazing little birds. First, they look cool with the beard, but second, I was just reading on Cornell’s newly revamped All About Birds site that they are the only sparrow that breeds in Canada and nowhere else. Here I was in Oklahoma watching these little brown birds, they still had thousands of miles to go to the breeding grounds.
Another incredibly common bird in Oklahoma was the equally striking lark sparrow. Just about anywhere there was a barb wire fence, you could find one of these guys perched nearby. Lark sparrows have an interesting nesting history. They are capable of building nests, usually in a shrub or tree, but they have been documented nesting in old woodpecker cavities. This species has also been known to reuse old nests of mockingbirds and some notes suggest that there is a bit of nest sharing going on–perhaps unintentional. Field studies have found eggs and young of both mockingbird and lark sparrow in the same nest. Oh, lark sparrow, please do not go the way of the cowbird.