Saturday, May 02, 2015

Why Is THAT Called Prairie Smoke?

It had always been a mystery to me why this plant, Geum triflorum, was called Prairie Smoke or even Old Man's Whiskers by the European pioneers.    The story goes, as this plant often grew in mats on hillsides that from a distance it looked like smoke...hence the name.

Out trekking through the prairie remnants of Wisconsin  with the great botanist Galen Smith there was so much to absorb beyond Early American minutia I never asked.  Periodically when I'd see the plant in early Spring looking just like the plants above, later in life, I'd wonder again.

Today after seeing the plants above, I decided enough was enough.  And thanks to the internet, which didn't exist back in my serious botany days, and an unknown photographer from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, now I know.

It is their SEED HEADS that look like smoke.

A bit later in the process all the sepals will flatten out, fall away, and the "hairs" become even paler, floating back and forth in unison on the breeze.  

Why did it take me sooooo long to look it up?  Well it might have been something to do with hawks...

Happy Hawking!
Donegal Browne

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kestrels and Eagles and a Bull...Who Knew?

A Kestrel sits on a wire and stares at me. Ordinarily they zip off immediately on eye contact.
And he' UP!
 And off he goes into the woodlot.
The next thing not on an agenda was a lot bigger and impossible not to see.
Yes, it is a very large bull (note the large sunlit scrotum) chomping grass OUTSIDE the fence right next to the road.  The appropriate behavior of a person who sees this sort of thing is an attempt to find someone who will get Mr. Bull back in the pasture.   Not only might the animal be hit by a car, but a car running into 1400...1600 pounds of bovine is no joke either for the driver.  I look car, or truck at the farm house.  No signs of life.
Then Bull's head turns slowly, ever so slowly toward me.  He stares.  I don't think he likes me.  Actually bulls often don't like much I'm told.  He keeps staring.  I decide to move the car forward very slowly, find a place to turn around and check the farmhouse up the road for a human who deals with this sort of thing.  No luck there either.  Okay plan two.  Call the sheriff....I don't know how to call the sheriff.  It isn't as if I have him on speed dial.  Just  then a pick up truck comes down the lane... they slow and stop.  A guy gets out with a rope.  I wave, he waves and I head down the road....back to the conservation land and wild animals that I understand...and also aren't a jillion times my size.
I park the car on the verge, get out, and something flies over my head and into the treeline.  Can you see it?  That dark spot left of center towards the top of the trees in the distance
It's a Bald Eagle! I've never seen one this close to town.  And when he lands just shy of a pond full of geese and a marsh with several Sandhills in it, you would not believe the the honks and calls that build into a chorus.
Eagle preens a little and then looks off in the opposite direction from the avian cacophony from the pond
Eagle then appears to be just staring off into space.  The honking and quacking continues.
Then Eagle does look over at the pond and it's varied wildlife, sits there looking around for about 20 minutes and then flies off to the North, conceivably this is one of the eagles from the TenEyck nest. 

Happy Hawking!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

FLASH! Pale Male has a HATCH!!!!!

I just received a call from longtime hawkwatcher Stella Hamilton, Pale Male and his mate have done it again! 

6:16 PM Octavia observed feeding on the Fifth Avenue nest!!!!

The hawkwatchers are starting to gather at the Hawk Bench as they have for going on two decades.  As I spoke to Stella another longtime hawkwatcher, Margaret had also arrived.  

The gathering of the Hawk Clan for 2015 has begun!

Donegal Browne
Happy Hawking!