HERE. The place were I observed those furry little tunnel-dwelling prairie dogs is a massive Conservation Reserve Program grassland, smack in the middle of the former Pickaway Plains prairie. This site, which sprawls over 1,000+ acres, is just south of Circleville, the county seat of Pickaway County and home of the world famous Circleville Pumpkin Show.
This testosterone-filled rooster was really strutting his stuff, and didn't much mind when I stopped my car nearby to make some photos.This is a darn good-looking bird; impressive by any standard.
Although Ring-necked Pheasants were first released in Ohio in 1896, they didn't really take until the 1920's, and reached a peak around 1940 when an estimated 5 million birds roamed our landscape. Some authorities believe that the enormous pheasant population may have been a contributing factor in the demise of the Greater Prairie-Chicken, which once was common in Ohio's largest prairie regions.
Say what you will about pheasants, a lot of sportsmen love them and in 1982 a group known as Pheasants Forever formed. In the intervening 30 years, PF has grown ever more sophisticated ecologically, and although the perpetuation of Ring-necked Pheasants remains a core mission, their work fosters habitat for a great many species of native flora and fauna.
The grasslands where I made these photos is not a Pheasants Forever project, but they've helped create many similar habitats throughout Ohio. PF and CRP grasslands don't just support pheasants. Living among the prairie plants are birds such as Grasshopper and Henslow's Sparrows, Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls, Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks, Sedge Wrens and Dickcissels, and more.
So, in a way we can thank the fabulous Ring-necked Pheasant for spawning restoration of Ohio's hard hit prairie and grassland ecosystems and all that come with such places.