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 great day and weekend; the alternatives are worse.
Here’s the next installment of images from the spring of social distancing in flyover country. We are now under a state-wide stay-home order starting on Monday March 30. There are two cases (so far) of COVID-19 in my home town, and apparently one of them was likely to be community transmission (the other was a professor who had been teaching a Study Abroad class in London). We can still go out and watch and photograph birds and landscapes, however, so that is what i plan to do. It is remarkable how other vexations can just disappear when you are trying to coax a bird into the right spot for a photograph!
When this part of the state was settled, there were no trees which could be used to build fenceposts. There were plenty of limestone rocks in the recently plowed fields, however. So the early settlers learned how to build dry-stone walls, separating fields and pastures from each other. Most of those were eventually replaced by barbed wire fences and imported fenceposts, but some relics still remain. Here’s one, with a winter Flint Hills pasture behind it.
During a dam-building boom in this part of the state in the 1960’s, the Big Blue River, which runs through my town of Manhattan KS, was dammed to create Tuttle Creek Reservoir. In recent years this reservoir has filled to the brim, keeping at least some water out of the Missouri River downstream to help with the flooding problems there. This last summer was the worst so far. This was one of my favorite birding spots; it was under about 25 ft of water for much of the summer and fall. There is a noticeable “bathtub ring” of dead vegetation and driftwood all around the reservoir; it will take years to regenerate the ground cover and shrubs that formerly made this place a hotspot.
You can also see the remains of another old dry-stone wall on the opposite bank.
We live on the very edge of town; you can toss a rock from our back deck and hit the city limit sign. That means we have some wildlife visiting the place. This coyote was checking out the backyard one foggy morning this spring.
The Wild Turkey population in this part of the state is doing quite well. These three toms were displaying to each other in a stubble field not far from town. The hens were across the road, ignoring their antics.
One of our winter migrants which will leave here in a few weeks, the Brown Creeper. This species is the only North American representative of the treecreeper family, a group which has many more species in Europe and Asia. They forage for insects, spiders, and insect eggs on tree trunks, and I’ve never seen one at a suet or seed feeder.
One of the earliest spring warblers to arrive here is the loquacious Louisiana Waterthrush, a warbler that is common along streams in summertime here. Their loud and ringing song carries well, and they are hard to miss once they have returned from their wintering grounds.
Bur Oak in a prairie, waiting for the fire.
There is a bird in this image too. The dot at the top of the tree was an Eastern Meadowlark, blasting out its territorial call from an unusually tall perch!