June 18, 2014

Stormy weather affects wildlife as well

My state of Nebraska has seen its fair share of stormy weather recently, with 'twin twisters' this week, a large hail storm a couple weeks ago, and a variety of other weather that is common on the Great Plains.

As we think about the effects of stormy weather to crops and personal property and human life on the Plains, I thought I would post a couple videos to show the potential for weather to affect wildlife as well.

These two videos were from a project led by Josiah Dallmann, an undergraduate research student, and Lars Anderson, a graduate research associate, at the University of Nebraska during the summer of 2011.  We put videos on greater prairie-chicken nests to document nest attendance as well as nest predators.  These were taken on private ranch land south of Bassett, Nebraska.

The first video's purpose is to show you where the nest is, in the second video.  In this video, you should see a cute little clutch of light-colored eggs in the middle of the frame.  Then, at about 30 seconds, a hen returns to the nest after leaving to find food.  You'll see her come across the top of the image, and you can see the radio-collar that she is wearing--which allowed us to find her nest.  She settles on the nest and 'disappears'.

The second video shows a massive hail storm--the nest is not as easy to see, but is in the center under the taller vegetation.  During this storm, two other hens that we were monitoring died while protecting their nests.  The hen in the video survived the storm, and the video lasts until a hail stone hits the video cable and the video feed ends at that point.  You can skip towards the end of the video to see the hail...it starts with heavy rain and lightening.  Hail stones in the video are about the size of ping-pong balls!

We know that wildlife face tough conditions as they battle the elements to survive.  I have to admit that I never thought about what it might be like to sit on a nest through a large hail storm.

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