One new photograph, almost every day of the year

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2018—Just a Little Out of Step

Life isn’t always easy especially when you’re just a little out of step with the rest of your world.   And, when you’re a hybrid Sharp-tailed Grouse/Greater Prairie Chicken, life on the lek can be awkward.  The bird on the right is a hybrid of the two species.  It’s been around a while.  We saw it last year, too.  It hatched with the grouse so it identifies with the grouse but it has much of the appearance of a prairie chicken.  I posted a photograph of this bird a few days ago here facing off with the same purebred grouse, if you will.

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2018—Got A Screw Loose?

Well, I had a screw loose.  Actually I had three screws loose.  And then, they were screws lost because I didn’t know they were loose.

When I got home from Nebraska and removed gear from my camera bag, the lens collar for my 300mm lens fell apart.  Two screws were gone.  Then, I checked the lens collar for the 80-400mm lens, and one of those screws was missing.  Although I clean and examine my gear often, it never occurred to me to check the tightness of screws, especially screws on the inside of a lens collar.  This short-sightedness could easily have resulted in disaster for me.  Had the collar failed while on the tripod, the lens and the camera would have plummeted to the ground.  The missing screws were not in my camera bag nor were they in my “tiny screws” box where I put odd small screws that I find and don’t know where they belong; they’re usually from eyeglasses but I was hopeful.  They were  nowhere to be found.  The screws are so tiny that if they fell out on a trip, I’d never notice one on a carpet or floor of a vehicle or on the ground where we’re shooting.  The head is about 1/8 inch in diameter and the length of the screw is about 1/8 inch with only a couple of threads, obviously the reason they loosened in the first place.

Fortunately, the folks at Really Right Stuff    where I bought the lens collars helped me out.  They don’t carry these tiny screws in inventory but were able to get them from their supplier at a tiny cost to match their size (25cents each) which they passed on to me.  I bought 8 screws, four for each lens collar (they’re different sizes of course) so if I fail to check tightness again and lose another screw, I’ll have extras.  It cost as much to ship the screws to me as it cost me for the screws but $4.00 is a small price to pay to insure that my lenses are safely attached to their collars.

 

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2018—Windmill

This windmill was quite a distance from the blinds where we were photographing Greater Prairie Chickens in Nebraska.  But, my 600mm lens with the 1.4X teleconverter made it look as if it were right outside the door.  We were in Nebraska, but they got their windmill from South Dakota, as the markings on the blade indicate.  The sky was bald and I felt the photograph needed a little more interest so I added a sepia tone with a paper texture from Luminar 2018.

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2018—Smoke in the Sand Hills

The smoke from the control burn in the Sand Hills of Nebraska last week created that atmospheric depth that intrigues me.  It seemed more pronounced when I converted the photograph to black and white.

 

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2018—Surveying the Fire Line

The Stetson wearing fireman at the control burn in Nebraska last week left his truck for a few minutes to survey the fire line with his dog.  He turned the truck around a few moments after I took the first photograph, and the fire flared up so they both ran back to the truck to drive down the hillside to douse the flames before the wind whipped them out of control.  The heat shimmer from the flames is quite pronounced in the upper half of the second photograph, where it is absent from the first.

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2018—Skirmish on the Lek

A skirmish  between a couple of Greater Prairie Chickens ended in a tie…neither chicken scored with a female.

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2018—Dance on the Prairie

The Sharp-tailed Grouse is aptly named.  Here, a male Sharp-tailed Grouse dances in hopes of attracting a female grouse.  He bows, spreads his wings out stiffly, raises his pointed tail straight up, runs in spurts, turning with short, thumping steps, and chirps his song.

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2018—The Lady of the Lek

The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
Where danced the moon on Monan’s rill

These opening lines of Canto 1 of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake have somehow been etched on my brain since high school when I read this poem.  I always loved the poem’s cadence but apart from those first two lines, I remember little else of it.   The title for this blog post came to mind as  I watched the female Greater Prairie Chickens strut about the lek, haughty and seemingly disdainful of the males.  None of the males appeared to be acceptable by the females and both days we watched, the females left without choosing a mate.

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2018—More Squabbling

Action on the lek is sporadic as the male Greater Prairie Chickens pair off to try to dominate each other.  The skirmishes never seem to last long although the staring stand-offs can be quite lengthy.  This pair exploded after staring at each other for a while.  Then, they settled down again to glare at each other until one finally walked away in search of another rival to challenge.

 

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2018—Nuts, Guts, and Feathers

The dance of the Sharp-tailed Grouse is a little different from the dance of the Greater Prairie Chicken but the competition among the males is very similar.  They face off, hunkered low then suddenly explode into the air, feet and talons threatening, all nuts, guts, and feathers.

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