You may asking yourself, “What is a Lek?” right now. That and many more questions will be answered while you experience the unique mating ritual of these fascinating birds that exist in southwest Nebraska. The following are some guidelines that will make the event more enjoyable for you. All of these are designed to insure that the Prairie Chickens are comfortable with our presence and you are physically prepared for the adventure.
- Wear dark clothing. Brightly colored clothing, especially on shoulders and head, may be visible to the birds.
- Bring warm clothing. We will take the trip no matter the weather, unless traveling is too dangerous. You will be sitting still for quite some time in an unheated blind so as not to disturb the birds. Please understand that the cold can be extreme. We recommend ski-type clothing or coveralls. Gloves and hats are also recommended. Avoid “NOISY” outerwear if possible.
- Comfortable and insulated footwear is recommended.
- Please DO NOT bring cell phones, watches or anything that will make noise as it will disturb the birds.
- Cameras are allowed and encouraged, we just ask that you make sure they do not make any loud noises. A shutter noise is okay but some cameras play music when you turn them on and off. Make sure to turn noises like that off prior to going on the tour.
- NO flash photography is allowed. Flashes of light will disrupt the birds natural activity you are there to observe. There will be ample time after sun up to take pictures, be patient.
- You are allowed to bring a stand for your camera, but if you have a tri-pod you will be asked not to fully extend it. Room is VERY limited in the viewing blind!
- The viewing blind has a shelf in it that is ideal for table top tri-pods. This would be a good alternative to a full sized one.
- Once you are in the viewing trailer, you will be there for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. We will then head to breakfast!
- The trailer is set up with chairs. There will be seat cushions and blankets provided. You are welcome to bring extra blankets and extra cushions for added comfort.
- Be advised that there are no bathrooms in the viewing trailer or anywhere close to the lek! We recommend that you limit your liquid intake prior to the viewing tour. There are bathrooms at the breakfast site immediately following the viewing.
Mandatory Orientation Meeting
- You may be asking why the orientation meeting is mandatory. You will learn more about the Greater Prairie Chicken and get a chance to talk to a biologist about this intriguing bird and natural phenomenon that happens each spring. This education opportunity in advance of the actual viewing will enhance your experience.
- The other key factor to being there is that we will let you all know what time and where you will be picked up in the morning. This information cannot be given out ahead of time due to the weather and the sunrise. Therefore if you do not show up, you will not be allowed on the van the next morning. If you are not at the pick up location at the time that was given the night before, unless you have made prior arrangements, the van will leave without you. If this happens, you will forfeit your registration fee.
Other things you might consider to make the experience more enjoyable
- Binoculars for seeing the birds up close.
- Snacks—nothing worse than a growling stomach in a viewing blind, but be prepared to share with other viewers. ☺
- You can talk, but talk quietly for both the benefit of the birds and those viewing with you. If you are quiet and close enough you will actually hear their wings and tails spread out!
- It cannot be emphasized enough that once you enter the viewing blind you will be inside the structure for 1 1/2 to 2 hours and will not be allowed to leave. The time you are allowed to leave is determined by the Prairie Chickens’ behavior and cannot be precisely scheduled.
Bird Viewing Etiquette 101
Armed with knowledge and enthusiasm, you are now ready to head into the field and fill your notebook with dozens of new species beyond the Prairie Chicken. But don’t let your eagerness get in the way of basic birding etiquette. Additional information specific to the Prairie Chicken Dance Tour will be provided upon your registration but below are some dos and don'ts common to birding.
- Bear in mind that in order to find most birds you will be encroaching on their territory, so tread lightly and respect boundaries.
- Silence is golden. The keen senses of birds alert them to your presence, often long before you have a chance to see them. Whether alone or in a group, walk as quietly as possible and whisper. Take cues from the leader who might signal for quiet as the group approaches a bird.
- Take extra care when in a potential or active nesting area. It is hard enough for birds to compete with each other for mates and space; human interference causes additional stress.
- Make sure you are not trespassing on private property. Some bird sanctuaries are located on someone’s land, whose owners may not enjoy strangers with binoculars trekking around their backyard. Make sure you have the permission to bird beforehand.
- While some birders prefer solitude, others bird in groups and enjoy sharing their findings. If you are new to birding, don’t be shy; there is sure to be a more knowledgeable birder in the group willing to pass on tips and sightings.
- And most important, enjoy yourself! Don’t be too concerned about finding that rare bird, or spotting more species than last month. Birding is meant to be informative, but also fun.