Growing up in rural Manitoba where and when I did, I called Sharp-tailed Grouse "Prairie Chickens". There were real Prairie Chickens that owned that name, but I didn't know that. They were a bird I never knew.
There was a time though, when there were many of them in the area I grew up in. Even when native Prairie gave way to farmer's fields the agricultural methods then, the grain harvested in stooks and then threshed, were much kinder to Prairie Chickens than modern methods. As that style of farming gave way, the native prairie already gone, the Prairie Chickens disappeared.
These days Greater Prairie Chickens are on the verge of disappearing. The native Tall Grass Prairie they rely on is almost gone, and modern agriculture is not kind to them. The remaining birds are scattered in pockets in a fraction of their former range. I have never seen one. It is likely, the way things are, that I never will. They do have a their champions though, and given half a chance they could be saved.
I first met filmmaker (and ATV stuntman, a story for another time) Timothy Barksdale in 2006. He was one of our first clients at the B&B. He, along with his producer and a second unit cameraman, had come up to Arctic Bay to search for and film Ivory Gull for an upcoming series on rare birds. People like Tim were the best thing about running a B&B, and we had long conversations from everything from Ivory Gulls, to Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, to hollondaise sauce. I also got the chance to see great film, film that shone even before it had seen any editing. He has mad wildlife cinematography skills.
Tim's current project, a film on the plight of the Greater Prairie Chicken, is almost done. It is in the final stages of post production, geared to be shown on PBS. But its not there yet, and Tim's company needs help in getting it finished.
Battle on the Booming Ground on Kickstarter, has been set up to find backers for the final push on the film. If you can spare a few moments, and more importantly a few dollars, check out Tim's work on Vimeo and then get on over to Kickstarter and give him a hand.
I'd like to see a Greater Prairie Chicken some day.