Thursday, June 23, 2011

recent hatch

Was out this morning with Riley and couldn't wait to report my findings. We hiked for just over an hour and found four coveys of little ones. All coveys seemed like they were between 10 and 15 birds each. The first three coveys flushed and flew quite a ways so I thought they were about four weeks old. But after finding the fourth covey I think maybe they were only a couple of weeks old.

Riley pointed this baby. I could tell he was right on top of it but it took me three or four minutes before I found it. This chick could have fit in the palm of my hand.
I reached down to pick it up and take a picture in my hand and it and a dozen or so more took off and flew about two hundred yards just like the previous coveys. I was amazed how well they flew.
In captivity the chicks usually don't fly until about four to five weeks but I guess things are different in the real world. My boys and I are satisfied that we are having a good hatch so we will be spending the rest of the summer in the high mountain parks and drooling over the thoughts of being back on the chukar mountains in September.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

last day of spring

Just thought I'd add a few pictures taken this last week of the spring. Hopefully I'll be seeing some little fuzzy chuks and huns in the next couple of weeks. If so I'll be savoring the opener of upland season.
There are still some Tom's left and I did see some real young turkey chicks (less then a week) but couldn't manage a picture.
The big game animals had a great spring

I'm sure the predators will help keep the thousands of birds that are about to hatch in check so that we don't run out of shells this season.

They could have made home a little more accommodating.

While out this week I saw lots of singles as far as chukars and huns go. I believe that's good news and hopefully in about two weeks I'll be showing pictures of fuzz balls. Have a great summer and let's hope for a great upcoming upland season.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Still looking good.

Went out with Riley to one of my favorite chukar spots and was pretty happy with what I saw. We saw no fewer than 20 different pair of chukars and one pair of huns. We didn't find any babies yet and couldn't find the nests. Most of the birds didn't fly far and by the way Riley did a lot of relocating, the birds were leading him away from the nesting area. The other positive sign was no birds were talking. With the number of birds we saw you would think they would be chatting some. Until the little ones are big enough for their first flight chukars don't talk as much. They, like other wild life don't want to attract attention to their nest or young ones. After their initial flight they start talking much more and forming bigger groups.
The really interesting fact is what my records show. The last time it was this late before I saw my first chukar chick was 2005. It was a great chukar year.
Also of interest. Lot's of insects out there.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Spring 2011.

Well, I've been having a great spring despite the weather. Actually, because of the weather it's been a little refreshing walking the hills. Rather than telling a long story I figured it easier to just show some pictures and let you figure the rest.
Big male grouse strutting his stuff.
Blue Grouse nest late in May
Fox leading me to her den. I wasn't quick enough to get pictures of the young ones running under the rock into their den.

This rough grouse hung around on the ground for quite a while before flying into the tree indicating she had a nest close by but we never found it.

Always unwanted company.

Female grouse trying to encourage me to follow her. The wet little one had just exited an egg and it was time for me and Riley to leave mom to her duties.

Lot's of baby deer and elk around. The fawn pictures didn't turn out very good.
A little R & R.

Proud mom.

Doubly proud
Fighting over ownership.
Wheres my mom?
Riley pointing turkey on June 10. She reluctantly flew off, once again leading me to believe there was a nest or little ones close by. We looked briefly and then left to see her fly back five minutes later.

And last. Riley pointed this hun, who pulled the crippled bird act right down to me. I caught her, took a picture, took a picture of her nest and then vacated with Riley. This was also on the 10th of June. These eggs could be hatched tomorrow or in the next 23 days. Do the math and hopefully we're on our way to a good season.
Have a great summer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The hatch

With the cooler and wetter weather we have had this spring I've been getting a lot of calls from hunting partners and other chukar hunters wondering what I think the hatch will be like. I, like every other chukar hunter, am very interested in what conditions make for the best survival of nests and babies. I have incubated and raised pheasant, chukar, huns and quail and know what changes in temperature, humidity and other factors can do during this artificial process for survival of chicks. I graduated from the great Boise State University (Boise State College at that time) with a minor in biology. I spend much more time in the field than the average guy. With that, I can say I don't know diddly squat about the hatch. But I have my beliefs so here goes.
Once in a while mother nature throws us a curve. But she is pretty forgiving. All creatures have basic instincts for survival and upland birds are no different. They do not no how to read a calendar so have no idea of what day they should start nesting. Certain weather patterns and conditions get the ball rolling.
Chukar eggs take 23 days to incubate. The hen will lay an egg a day or every other day until she is ready to sit the nest. Each day after laying the egg she covers the nest for protection. She does not sit on the nest until the final egg is down. Like in artificial incubation process the egg must be stored at a cooler temperature until incubation begins. By covering the eggs she is regulating the temperature. When she has laid the last egg she sits on the nest constantly beginning the 23 day incubating process. She gets off the nest only to turn the eggs occasionally and to eat and drink. Mother nature has given her the instinct to know she must keep the eggs at a constant temperature in order for them to hatch. In the artificial process that temperature is 99.5 degree. If you let the temperature fluctuate too much or not turn the eggs survival is compromised.
So here is where my theory comes in. The mother knows she needs help keeping the eggs warm during the times she is not on the nest. If the temperature is too cool she will put off laying eggs until it begins to warm. On years like this year upland birds may nest two to four weeks later than normal years. My guess is the majority of the birds will hatch between June 15 and July 1 this year instead of June 1 to June 15.
The curve ball I was speaking of is when we get that early false spring. We have two or three weeks of above normal temperatures which start the laying process followed by a big cool down and wet weather. The chicks are then hatched at a vulnerable time and survival will be tough. Also, eggs are more vulnerable to these conditions because the hen must get off the nest now and then to eat and the egg temperature may drop too much. In this case the eggs have been lost. In both cases the hen will renest especially if she has just lost the nest, but the clutch will be smaller.
This year's spring has been cool from the start and has warmed slowly. So, as I stated earlier, I think we will start seeing chicks running around in the next week or two. I've spent many hours in the chukar hills and my observations tell me that chukars are still sitting. But the only positive scientific explanation I can give is my HOPE for another banner chukar year.