Sunday, June 24, 2007

Prairie Alive

According to the phone book, there is a county park with a nature trail, a woods, a pond, and a stretch of prairie, not far away. As the extended family is here for a visit why not go take a look?

We got more things to look at than we ever thought possible.
Three, what I take to be Northern Rough-winged Swallow fledglings, wait for the arrival of their parents who's beaks will be stuffed with insects.

A Red Admiral Butterfly feeds on a thistle.

Yet another Swallow Fledgling waits for yet another incoming mouthful.

Speaking of life. This is what is often called a nuisance, an old stump, something that's ugly and just in the way. Time to get some Stump Be-Gone and get rid of that old thing. What is it really? A treasure. The base of a tree going back to the earth. It supplies nutrients for all that specialized vegetation. It's the raw material that many fungi love that are useful or beautifully colored or fantastically shaped, or sometimes delicious.. And look at those cavities. Homes for all sorts of beasties to have young or get out of the weather.

Far out in the pond, a Mallard Hen swims with her nearly grown ducklings still trailing along behind her for company, safety in numbers, and last minute lessons in duck-ness.

Wait, there's another Red Admiral, there seem to be quite a number.

The prairie is being surrounded by new development, sub-divisions of the upper middle class with their minutely manicured lawns, zero "weed" tolerance, and wood chip immured plants, where not a bee buzzes or even a sparrow chirps, the antipathy of the grassland which is utterly bursting at the seams with life.

These fledglings sit on twigs in a disturbed construction area on the fringes of the grassland. Interestingly, I see that though parents make very frequent visits with food, these guys nap right until the last few seconds of a parents arrival at which time they are begging completely a quiver. Someone gets a mouth full, the parent leaves and they immediately drop back into sleep.

Black-eyed Susans, Bull Thistle, Fleabane, Wild Indigo and much, much more.

I'd been watching the maturation progress of the thistles in the countryside as Goldfinch need their down in order to properly fashion their nests. There are no Goldfinch chicks until there is mature thistle down. Suddenly I see what looks like a fledgling zipping after his Goldfinch mother. Wait a minute, I haven't seen any mature thistle. Wait a minute indeed. Here where the thistle's place of growth isn't marginal, where it gets a full days sun, there is mature down.
I'd always heard that Goldfinch only raise one nest full of young because they must wait for down. If down were available longer, would they raise more than one brood?

Now there are five awaiting their parents massacre of insects for hefty lunches in the Swallow Nursery.
Though it has been a dry Spring, there is a bumper crop of insects here creating muscle in more baby birds.

Now what is that? A little house for some kind of beastie. I've no idea. The entrance is only a couple of inches, far too small for a rabbit.

Any ideas?

The tiniest of tiny toads hops by. He's less than an inch though he may not look it. The hand holding him is of a very small boy.
Hey, there's another Red Admiral, and another, and another and I realize there has to be literally thousands of them in this 87 acres.

Seconds before, little eyes closed, napping at their ease, their lids pop open at the sound of wings. In a moment every single cell in their bodies will be infused with energy, as alive as anything can possibly be--just like a prairie.
Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

I love this posting and the photos.

Thanks for bringing the prairie world to us!

John said...

For the nest - how about a ground-nesting bird, like a meadowlark?