Friday, October 28, 2016

Dispatches from the field!

I had an uneasy feeling about the goings-on at our local park where I take my daily bike rides last Spring. Just before our last arrival in May they had done some controlled burns, evidently taking out large patches of what looked to be native prairie. And then those fears were confirmed when I arrived this trip - what had come up in its place appeared to be foxtail and water grass - what we call weeds back on the farm! Seemed to me that humans were attempting to tame nature and put in street-to-street grass and take out every hint of diversity and nature! Check out the picture of the cranes taken on my first bike ride this trip at left, and what it looked like just over a year ago last August at right - I assume you can detect the difference??? The vantage point of each were literally a few feet apart and instead of milkweed, Queen Anne's Lace, goldenrod and coneflower, there was a monoculture of grass.

And what REALLY pissed me off were the new sets of signs they had posted, shown at left. How could they consider themselves conserving pollinators if they slash/burn and plant weeds in their place?

It got me mad enough that I wrote a letter to the Kane County Parks Department and was surprised to get a response 2 days later that made me feel better. Evidently they had brought in experts that recognized some invasive species, so they "started over". Ms. Rudow, Superintendent of Parks and Planning notes: "The area had a prescribed burn take place in early spring 2016 and a cover crop of grass was put down to choke out annual, biannual and perennial non-natives. Seeding it with turf allows us to apply a broad leaf herbicide to the areas being restored as the different life cycles of the non-desirable plants occur yet leave the grass behind. The grass will also provide some fuel for future burns.  Once we have the non-native plants choked out, the intent is to reseed with  a native mix with all the plants you previously spoke of. In addition to seed, some areas will have plants and plugs installed to provide diversity and interest. I realize that some parts of the park aren’t picture perfect as they were in your blog (loved your pictures and your observations at River Bend!) but we have every intent of bringing back a beautiful native landscape that promotes pollinators and a healthy ecosystem. The park is in a bit of a renovation and recovery stage right now." So evidently I rushed to judgement, but they are on the right path! I feel better!


Speaking of the sandhill cranes above, I've seen them a few times in River Bend Park, and in other locales in the neighborhood. I suspect that they are two adults and two nearly-full grown chicks from this season that nested in the area. One day I spotted them as my ride was ending - getting quite close to them in the parking lot at left (they seem easy to approach while on a bike or in a car). I had time to go the mile home and come back with my real camera (other than the iPhone6 that took those at left and above). At left is a shot with the Canon 6D and 300mm lens. Still amazingly close for on foot - they are much more wary of humans on foot! Click on the image to load it full size - eye pupils easily resolved, as is the little see-thru hole in their beak. Note too that these are reduced in resolution to meet the 1600 pixel-wide maximum blog image...



I think my favorite one of the cranes though show a little of the fall foliage in the background too. About the best I could capture in the minute or two they allowed me to stalk them is shown at left. Shortly after, when they were in front of more colorful trees, they were mostly in full flight from me displaying only their rear ends... Oh well! Will try for more down in AZ where they over-winter if nothing else, though will likely be a LOT further away - no sneaking up on 20,000 cranes at Whitewater Draw!



And speaking of foliage, there are some beautiful trees here in the wooded areas. Some spots are more colorful than others, and yesterday's rain might have knocked many leaves off, but there are some really bright trees. I think the local winner for pure color is a maple about 2 miles from the house that has just the purest red leaves shown at left. Unfortunately it is in an industrial area surrounded by power lines and a wide shot isn't very photogenic! There are a number of trees you pass every day on the route out of the neighborhood. These yellow ones are always eye-catching in the Fall and were at about their peak here, but are pretty bare today after the rains...

And sometimes, just looking down at the leaf-covered ground is photogenic! I've been making the traverse over to the neighbor's to feed her cat while she is away this week and while there are still plenty leaves still in the trees, the ground is well-covered already. It reminds me I should clear the gutters of leaves and acorns someday soon... Anyway, the shot at left shows how you should always keep your eyes open for an image... One of the things that is striking visually, but have not captured satisfactorily is when a brightly-colored tree loses most of its leaves, there appears a "puddle of light" under it. Will continue to look and try to capture that...

Some of you might have heard that the Chicago Cubbies are still playing baseball!? Keeping my eyes open for impromptu displays, I bring you the following artwork made out of 12-packs of soda cans at a local grocery! "Flying the W" is a reference to when the Cubs win a game and they raise a "W" flag. Seems like most vehicles are sporting smaller versions off antenna, and all sorts of licensed paraphernalia are available at most outlets from liquor to convenience stores! I caught a larger but similar display of Olympic rings a few years back - sometimes fun to see what the store staff can do with what they have on hand...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

there's nothing more serene and nearly pastorale as a wild natural meadow. I'm glad they gave you a plausible explanation but the image differences between the 2 photos is heartbreaking. not sure about their "strategy" in the AG world the more long term successful ventures exert the "least control" now that is a major dissertation in and of itself. you might guess I'm not a fan of the mega maniacal Mon----o who now have 155 acres in Avra Valley. they are no friend to our neighbors to the south or global micro economies. just saying'

on a lighter note i discovered an amazing not commonly known secret about mt lemmon, some of the locals didn't even know what it was until i brought it to their attention. I have made more trips up that mountain than any other anywhere else for much of my life an never before noticed this before this year. many folks trek up and down the mountain for whatever intended activity on their agenda, and that is just fine. I made biweekly trips up the mountain in July, August and September and on one occasion as the sun was fully past the horizon, and all the windows were down and the moonroof open an amazing heavenly smell blew through the cabin of the acura. What Was That? a sweet mixture of pine and soil and something else. it was strong like jasmine but no, not jasmine not as sultry as jasmine it was slightly softer, so.... what was it?

it was noticeable on breezy cool evenings near the steep hills and canyons as one made the hairpin turns. I asked some folk i know there they had no idea what i was talking about. told them where and when the fragrance was strongest. and in my own research i discovered it was arizona wild honeysuckle shrubs in full bloom. and when the breezes of morning and evening mix this heavy fragrance with the fresh scent of the ponderosa, spruces, cedar, aspen, western oak, and hemlock well it is something to experience over and over again.

on one trip, after piquing the interest of some of the locals i got some interesting feedback. a couple approached me and said they noticed that fragrance for the first time and agreed it was an unexpected delightful surprise. they said you know, we drive up and down here all the time and have never noticed this before. they mentioned how frequent the odor of skunk often makes them roll up the windows. and with the windows up you won't catch this breath of heaven. mt lemmon has a list of native vegetation that they encourage folks to maintain on their property instead of introducing non native competitive plants. there are many many varieties of honeysuckle that are adapted for their various places of origin. the common garden store honeysuckle is not wild az honeysuckle and some varieties could choke out the natural flora. none the less the scent of heaven exists on mt lemmon. roll down all your windows and let the wind whip through your cabin and mess up your hair at dawn and dusk it is absolutely amazing!

Andrea Johnson said...

Love the cranes! Why the hole in the beak! Great closeup of the birds. No W last night. Boo hoo

Dean said...

The holes in the beak are called nares and are connected to nasal cavities and respiratory system of the bird... -Dean