On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

I’m back from my mad dash halfway across the country for some high-altitude mushrooms, Palisades peaches, Pueblo chiles, Pueblo Jalapenos, and some assorted trinkets and touristy stuff. I had a wonderful, if brief time, in a state I had the pleasure of living in for 9 years. I visited a number of places and did things I wanted to do in a mad dash of nostalgia and reminiscence. I also checked on my rental property, so there was a business component to my trip as well. I learned a lot about modern travel tech, and I’ll share some insights soon.

Monday and Tuesday, I have some canning and roasting, and sauteeing to do. Yes, I’ll be posting about my kitchen adventures, and am grateful to John for providing much helpful info and technique to remind my rusty ass on proper canning.  I’m pulling my canning stuff from storage tomorrow morning, the jars are in the dishwasher awaiting the morning, and I’ll be briefly visiting Walmart for fresh lids and Fruit Fresh, then hitting the local international/ethnic supermarket for some fresh herbs, spices, shallots, garlic, sugar, vinegar, and ginger.

The drive – to and from – was also a grand adventure. Luckily, no bad weather or issues.  I hope next year to do something similar, though not so fast paced (I drove when the rains hit, and when I could squeeze some time away from things at home), and for a few more days. Perhaps we’ll do a meetup or two along my route so I can drive 8 hours a day instead of 12.

On that note, today we see some gorgeous photos of birds (and prairie!) in Kansas. I really enjoyed driving through the state going West, but my eastbound route was different, and I missed the western third of the state on I-70, so missing most of the topography and prairie that I so love. I didn’t see any birds of note beyond hawks and some wonderful songbirds singing at a rest stop in the Western part of the state. I really enjoyed the Kansas rest stops – they were not fancy, but the space, layout, green, and general atmosphere were just relaxing. They felt like an oasis.

I have a cool 4k dashcam and had it running for the drive out, but a) I did not realize the microSD card was only 128 GB and so I overwrote my drive after 6 hours, and b) even though I had some of that Western Kansas footage, when I went to swap memory cards the next morning, it somehow popped up and hit something plastic on my dash/console and bounced who-knows-where. I suspect it went into the ac vent. So for now, I have lost footage, literally.

I’m busy copying footage from other days and adventures and hope to have a few clips or stills from them to share to complement the photos I took with my iPhone. All dashcam videos and stills show the windshield and top of the hood, but the wide angle and high quality are neat, and I hope to be able to share some small clips of things I saw that caught my eye or deserve a share and a story. Since the early part of this week is about canning and cooking and food preservation, I don’t expect to have my photos and content until next week.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

 

Today, pictures from valued commenter Albatrossity.

I do not live in a place with the variety of scenic opportunities that Bill enjoys in SoCal; I live in a place which is largely unknown and underappreciated, the Flint Hills of Kansas. This is the last stronghold of the tallgrass prairie, an ecosystem that once covered 240 million acres in the center of the North american continent, and which has now been reduced to about 2% of that acreage. In other words, the percentage of tallgrass prairie that is left is significantly less than the percentage of old-growth forests remaining in the Pacific Northwest, yet that ecosystem gets a lot more ink and angst.

The Flint Hills remain as a tallgrass ecosystem thanks to that eponymous flint; the soil is only a couple of inches in depth, thus it is too thin and rocky to plow, which was the fate of prairies in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and elsewhere. It is grazed for cattle, but since it was originally grazed by bison, that is not a radical change in land management practices, and much of the original biodiversity remains. That is not to say that it is pristine, or protected, or out of danger; it is, however, hanging on pretty well. Periodic controlled burns and grazing, which were historically part of the ecology here, are still used to maintain the grasslands here.

So I’m gonna submit a bunch of photos of this part of the world and some of its denizens. As you might imagine, lots of these images will be birds!

Taken on 2013-07-23 00:00:00

Konza Prairie Biological Station, Manhattan KS

The Flint Hills of Kansas, with a pale rainbow in the dawn sky.

Taken on 2017-06-05 00:00:00

Flint Hills of Kansas

Many sparrows can be found in grasslands, and the grasslands of the Flint Hills host some very fine sparrows. Some are summer residents only, like this Henslow’s Sparrow, which requires “old-growth” grassland, i.e. prairies which have not been burnt that year and which have some standing dead stems and understory. This sparrow was historically much more widespread across North America, but is not doing well in other regions these days.

Taken on 2019-07-24 00:00:00

Flint Hills of Kansas

Another iconic summer resident is the Grasshopper Sparrow, a diminutive but vocal bird in much of the Flint Hills. Like all sparrows, the closer you look at them the more you see; they are not just the LBJs (little brown jobs) that many birders and others dismiss without much appreciation.

Taken on 2013-11-10 00:00:00

Flint Hills of Kansas

Winter brings another sparrow from the far North back to the central prairies, the chunky yet handsome Harris’s Sparrow. If you look at the range maps for this species, you will discover that you might have to visit Nebraska, Kansas or Oklahoma to see one of these sparrows; their wintering range is right in the heart of the continent.

Taken on 2017-10-11 00:00:00

Flint Hills of Kansas

Another winter resident sparrow is the Lincoln’s Sparrow. This species is much more widely distributed across North America, but is not easily seen, since it is what birders call a “skulker”. Sometimes you can lure one out for a portrait, however, so that you can appreciate the fine details of its elegant plumage.

 

Thank you so much Albatrossity, do send us more when you can.

 

Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.

 

One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email






36 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    The pictures are beautiful 😍

    ReplyReply
  2. 2
    rikyrah says:

    I can’t wait to see your canning pictures. 😋😋😋

    ReplyReply
  3. 3
    Mary G says:

    Those are beautiful little birds. Thanks for showing us your native habitat.

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  4. 4
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Having driven thru them a number of times, I keep telling myself that some day soon, I will spend some quality time in the Flint Hills. Love the LBJ pics, more please..

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  5. 5
    A Ghost To Most says:

    Pueblo chiles? Why, it’s a scandal, a horror!

    /NM Hatch chile snob

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  6. 6
    Raven says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Fuck LB. . .oh wait!

    ReplyReply
  7. 7
    mrmoshpotato says:

    This place is well on its way to becoming America’s premier duck, dog, and canning blog.

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  8. 8
    JPL says:

    The pictures of the prairie are beautiful and so are the birds. Although Kansas isn’t listed as one of the states devastated by the winds in the thirties and forties, you have to wonder why not.

    ReplyReply
  9. 9
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @A Ghost To Most: It’s the right state for Pueblo chilies.

    Hatch are so New Mexico or Utah.

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  10. 10
    Alain says:

    @A Ghost To Most: I get my box of Hatch chilies from
    Wegmans in a week or so. Pueblos have a different flavor, and I miss them.

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  11. 11
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @mrmoshpotato: You are correct. The Hatch folk and the Pueblo folk have an ongoing fight over the best chile for green chile. I like them both, but draw scorn for putting poblanos in my green chile.

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  12. 12
    Jeannet says:

    Sparrows! Those are so beautiful: seeing them close up is fantastic.

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  13. 13
    Baud says:

    Albatrossity’s photography skills are too good.

    ReplyReply
  14. 14
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @Alain: Wegmans is great, but we can get fresh fire roasted peppers (Hatch, Pueblo, poblano, Anaheim) from several places, as I am sure you know. We buy a bunch, clean and freeze. Chile all winter.

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  15. 15
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @A Ghost To Most: Beware those Utahans. They’ll stick a chile up your nose if provoked.

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  16. 16
    Rob says:

    I love the sparrow shots, Albatrossity!

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  17. 17
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @mrmoshpotato: That’s a strange thought. I will be aware of this when we go to Moab.

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  18. 18
    debbie says:

    It must have really been something to see the tallgrass prairies before they began disappearing.

    ReplyReply
  19. 19
    Alain says:

    @A Ghost To Most: yeah I’ll be posting about cleaning and freezing them soon. I’m sure my technique will draw much critique and I look forward to it.

    ReplyReply
  20. 20

    It took me a long time to see the beauty of the prairie. I kept looking for trees.

    ReplyReply
  21. 21
    Sab says:

    @Alain: Please hurry.

    ReplyReply
  22. 22
    J R in WV says:

    We drove home from Arizona the last time via the Grand Canyon, then I-25 thru Las Vegas NM, where we totaled the F-350. We were OK, physically, even the dogs in the little back seat, and rescued by friends from Pueblo, which was our destination goal when we wrecked.

    After a few days with friends in Pueblo, bought a slightly used truck and headed east on two-lane roads. Took no photos, was actually somewhat dazed still from the roll-over. But did get to see Kansas from west to east. Wonderful little community museum, one side full of chalk formation fossils of all sorts, the other side full of settler vintage old equipment and crafts.

    Like Dorothy, I keep looking for the trees, none to be seen. But the prairie is actually quite beautiful, rolling hills and tiny gorges where a creek is eating away at the earth. Someday in millions of years the Flint Hills will look more like Appalachia than they do today.

    Thanks so much for the scenic views and tiny bird portraits!!!

    Hey, BillinGlendale, I have another internet acquaintance who does astrophotography, named Ollie Taylor, who blogs some of his stuff. So there’s a link to one episode of his photo blog. Do click on the photos at least twice to see them full size.

    ReplyReply
  23. 23
    Sab says:

    Our local county metroparks is trying to create a little prairie in NE Ohio, which is kind of weird. They have been at it for fifteen years and it’s a never-ending battle to stop the encroaching trees.

    Worth it though. Totally different collection of birds there from the rest of the park.

    ReplyReply
  24. 24
    arrieve says:

    What wonderful sparrows! I find all birds beautiful, and they always repay a closer look — if you can get one, that is.

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  25. 25
    Ken says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor: Instinct. You want to know where the tree is before the lion charges out of all that tall grass.

    ReplyReply
  26. 26
    zhena gogolia says:

    I was in the Flint Hills once — they’re breathtakingly gorgeous.

    ReplyReply
  27. 27
    nalbar says:

    For years a group of friends has migrated to Nebraska in Sept for a large (entries) Racing event. From our part of the country that means going east through Colorado. They would rave about the peaches every year. Then I made the journey and bought some peaches on the way. It’s a twelve hour drive from my door to Palisades, CO. It’s worth every minute. They are without a doubt the best fruit I have ever eaten.

    ReplyReply
  28. 28
    otmar says:

    @mrmoshpotato: as long as it’s canning and not caning.

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  29. 29
    otmar says:

    And btw, I’m on the road again: 2 weeks vacation with the family on the Greek island Kos.

    ReplyReply
  30. 30
    Spanky says:

    @otmar: Jeez, it sounds like hell living in all that European Socialism.

    ReplyReply
  31. 31
    J R in WV says:

    @otmar:

    And so how far is that from the Turkish coast? Looks way, way closed to Turkey than to Greece. Also looks like a great trip to close out the summertime with!

    Must have pics~!!~

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  32. 32
    otmar says:

    @J R in WV: so close that I had to put my mobile on manual network selection to avoid the outrageous Turkish roaming charges.

    Greece is part of the EU, roaming costs are strictly limited by law. (Hint to network operators: hitting members of the European parliament (who travel a lot within the EU) with astronomical roaming bills might lead to unwanted side-effects.)

    ReplyReply
  33. 33
    wvng says:

    Fifty years ago one of my first real jobs was working in a migrant camp picking peaches in Palisades, CO. The alliteration kept that item in my resume for decades. :-)

    ReplyReply
  34. 34

    @J R in WV: I like the bridge as a foreground, (looks at his course pricing….YIKES, I should do some courses).

    ReplyReply
  35. 35

    Albatrossity@OP: I like the sunrise(your bird pics are always the best, I can’t do birds well). We are blessed with a variety of great scenery(and dark skies) here in Southern California, but we do have to fight LA traffic to get there(still grumbling about the 4 hour trip to Joshua Tree, it should take 2 1/2 hours).

    ReplyReply
  36. 36
    Mohagan says:

    Wonderful pictures! I am in awe at how good the pictures are, let alone finding and seeing the birds in the first place. Thank you!

    ReplyReply

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