On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
This series was created by Alain Chamot (1971-2020).
Good morning everyone,
Have a good weekend, we’ll see you Monday.
Actually being On The Road suddenly has become a thing of the past, and hopefully the future. In this plague year, in a country ruled by incompetents, it may be a while before travel is prudent, especially for those of us (like me) who are 60+ years old.
But it is spring in the heartland, and the birds are returning, or leaving, or passing through. Birdwatching and bird photography, especially here in flyover country, are actually excellent social distancing tactics. So I plan to continue to seek our birds and images here in north-central KS, and share them with Alain to use as he sees fit. For most of you, I’m sure, this part of the USA is almost like visiting a foreign country!
We were supposed to go to the AWP conference in San Antonio TX in early March. AWP stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs (I know, you’d think a bunch of writers would actually generate an accurate acronym…), and a book that Elizabeth co-edited was going to be launched at a big party sponsored by her press (Trinity University Press). San Antonio had a coronavirus case early (a true study in incompetence, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-grand-princess-evacuees-texas/2020/03/09/9bf9e360-6142-11ea-b3fc-7841686c5c57_story.html), the conference was not cancelled outright, but sponsors pulled out, attendees stayed away, and the press cancelled the party because really, who wants to put on a party that nobody will go to. So we were halfway there, somewhere On The Road in Oklahoma, when it became obvious that it was really not a good idea to continue. We turned around. But the book is still ready to go, available on Earth Day 2020, and might appeal to a lot of jackals. Here’s some more information – https://www.terrain.org/2020/news/dear-america-anthology/
All royalties will be donated to organizations who are doing good work in this time of Trumpism (Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the ACLU.
Needless to say, that was tremendously disappointing. But this conference was apparently the first harbinger of the waves of cancellations and life changes that we are now facing. Life goes on, and it is, as I mentioned above, Spring in the Northern Hemisphere!
So here are some images from the last week or so. More to come as spring progresses, and as we navigate through the disaster that the election of 2016 has bequeathed us.
Springtime in the Flint Hills of Kansas is a time of destruction, and then renewal. The tallgrass prairies of this region evolved with frequent fires, and depend on frequent fires to maintain a grassland ecosystem. Fire suppression leads to shrubby invasion, and then cedar tree invasion, and then no more prairies. So our ranchers here burn the prairies in the spring, and in a few weeks this darkened landscape will be brilliant green and productive.
One of the earliest passerine birds to return to Kansas is the ebullient Eastern Phoebe. There will be a phoebe nest in every state park potty, and in every bridge or culvert, very soon
Springtime in much of North America is accompanied by the songs of Red-winged Blackbirds. That song epitomizes spring for many birders, and this one serenaded me for many minutes in a local wetland.
Some of our winter residents are not thrilled with the return of the Red-winged Blackbirds. This dark-morph Harlan’s Hawk, who will soon be headed to the Yukon or Alaska for the summer, does not look thrilled with the attention he is getting from a testosterone-fueled Red-winged Blackbird.
Another bird that will soon be leaving us for points north is the Harris’s Sparrow. A bird with a unique winter and summer range (see this amazing migration map animation at eBird for the details – https://ebird.org/science/status-and-trends/harspa/abundance-map-weekly). This is strictly a flyover country bird, although some vagrants do show up every year on the east and west coasts.
Some of our local Red-tailed Hawks are year-round residents, like this lovely representative of the eastern (borealis) subspecies. Hawks like this one are common here in the summer and east of here all the way to the east coast.
I’ve never seen this before, so I had to take a picture. It’s a raccoon, sleeping apparently comfortably on the crossbar of a utility pole 25 or so feet above the ground. It was there all day; I checked on it twice and it had shifted positions, but never descended. Perhaps it was also practicing social distancing…