Earlier this winter, on a day when it was absolutely brutally cold out, a friend and I visited Kellerton in Ringgold County. We even drove a few miles outside of town to check out the Kellerton Grasslands, which is home to Iowa's only population of Prairie Chickens. The windchill was way below zero, the wind was blowing, and it was miserable. We stopped for just a few minutes but vowed to return sometime when it was warmer.
Fast forward a few weeks.
On Saturday morning in April, this same friend and I departed the Des Moines area early in the morning and made the 75 mile trek down down to the Kellerton Grasslands, which is down a gravel around a few miles to the west of town.
They were celebrating their "Annual Prairie Chicken Day" and representatives from the Ringgold County Conservation Board and Iowa DNR were on hand to help the multitude of visitors better understand these native birds and their very unique mating rituals. By unique, I mean that the males, with their bright orange coloring, make "booming" sounds and then hop, leap, and strut around in an attempt to impress the ladies.
Thus, the Kellerton Grasslands are often referred to as the "booming grounds" because every spring for a few weeks, especially early in the morning, you can hear these birds engaged in their very entertaining and somewhat humorous (at least to us) attempts to woo a mate. I included a lot more detail, including some videos and other articles, in my previous story about this truly one-of-a-kind spot in Iowa.
Just based on a quick scan of license plates, it was quite evident that visitors came from all over - including from places outside of Iowa.
There is a small parking lot and a permanent wooden viewing stand. Additionally, there are a couple of educational signs in place. Thus, you can stop year-a-round though you might not see the booming and strutting unless you arrive in early Spring.
On this particular morning, the birds were a couple hundred yards away from the viewing stand. However, with the right binoculars or telescope, you could actually seem them pretty clearly and yes, they were hopping and leaping around. The DNR and the Conservation Board set up some telescopes for the public to use. My friend was kind enough to let me use a pair of his binoculars. More serious bird watchers brought their own sight enhancements.
Coffee and doughnuts (quite delicious) were provided and my friend and I stayed for maybe 45 minutes before we needed to get back on the road.
It was fascinating to see these creatures do their thing. By now (later May), the "booming" season is probably done for the year but you will definitely want to add this to your calendar for next year. It's quite a site to see (and hear).
However, the grasslands viewing stand is open year-a-round and so if you are in the area, be sure to make the stop. If nothing else, it's a very beautiful area to stretch your legs.