Lorna and Dale have just put up a new interactive map on the PGT Website
They’s also created a handout with the map on it. It’s at the printers now and should be ready in a few weeks.
With the new map and soon to be added metal signs it should be easier to find your way around the Prairie Garden Trust.
Please come out and enjoy a walk on the property.
Having a week with temperatures in the 70s is a treat and it’s bringing the birds back. Today we got a good look at an Eastern Phoebe. This is about a month earlier than I’m used to seeing them.
Last night at sunset we enjoyed hearing Woodcock’s giving their buzzy peent call and then launching up for their aerial mating display. From the PGT Center we must have heard at least 12 Woodcock all around us.
In the past week we’ve observed that each body of water at the PGT is now patrolled by Red-winged blackbirds.
We’ve also seen small flocks of Field Sparrows. They are the most common sparrow here in summer but I don’t remember ever seeing them in February.
Here is a list of the 30 different species we saw on the walk this morning:
40 Snow Goose (flying north)
2 Canada Goose
1 Red-tailed Hawk
12 American Woodcock
5 Mourning Dove
8 Red-bellied Woodpecker
3 Downy Woodpecker
2 Northern Flicker
1 American Kestrel
1 Eastern Phoebe – shown in the picture
12 Blue Jay
6 American Crow
8 Black-capped Chickadee
10 Tufted Titmouse
5 White-breasted Nuthatch
8 Carolina Wren
21 Eastern Bluebird – checking out their houses
5 American Robin
1 Northern Mockingbird
3 European Starling
1 American Tree Sparrow
15 Field Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
29 Dark-eyed Junco
24 Song Sparrow
12 Northern Cardinal
10 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Eastern Meadowlark
16 American Goldfinch
Wild Persimon, Diospyros virginiana
Wild fruits and nuts are hard to find at the PGT this Fall.
Could hail cause a widespread crop failure?
Some of the missing wildlife foods are:
Wild Persimmon (shown in the picture)
Acorns (several species)
Osage Orange balls
Eastern Red Cedar
Lorna and I have been trying to understand the unusual lack of Fall food over the 600-acres here at the Prairie Garden Trust. It was a perfect growing year with plenty of moisture and no late frosts. However, we did have one bad hail storm right when the leaves were popping out in the early Spring. We think that the trees put energy into replacing the damaged leaves instead of making fruit.
It will be interesting to see how this lack of fruit will impact the animals. Many birds and mammals depend on acorns. Because hail storms typically only occur in small areas perhaps the animals can find food on neighboring properties.
Bald Cypress reflecting on the water provides some burnt orange colors to contrast with the greens and purples of the water lily pads. This picture was taken at the Lotus Ponds last weekend.
In general the color in the landscape this Fall has been very disspointing. It’s wierd how some years are fantastic and other ones are a dud. But even on the years with less color there’s always something out there.
Monarch butterflies paused on their flight south for a nectar break on our fall-blooming asters. The purple New England Aster stands out in the patches of prairie plants this time of year. But the white upland asters make a great show too. (Or maybe I’m wrong on the name of those white flowers.)
I was surprised to come across a Sedge Wren today as I was walking the prairie to check on the Oaks we’ve planted. Finding Sedge Wrens is hit-and-miss here. Unlike any other bird I know of they are most abundant in August.
I was happy to see that most of the couple hundred Bur Oaks and Swamp White Oaks are in very good shape. A few of them are taller than I am. Over the next 50-100 years they should begin to become majestic trees.
On our morning hike today Lorna and I stumbled upon three River Otters swimming and feeding in Hillers Creek. This is the first time we’ve seen them here since we moved to the property in 1970.
I wasn’t able to photograph them but I found this picture on Wikipedia.
How do you know when the wild black raspberries are ripe?
A short walk at the PGT makes it obvious. I’m not sure which bird(s) perched here, but clearly we’re not the only ones who think the new benches are a great place to pause.
On the paved trails, coyotes and raccoons left their own evidence in a lot of purple seedy piles. Who knew that animals would find such comfort on concrete? We’ll have to compare with what’s up next: blackberry season!
I could sit in this spot at the edge of the savanna bluffs at the PGT forever. Listening to the tanager and wood thrush, watching for herons, enjoying whatever flowers or trees happen to be in bloom…. If you walk just 10 minutes or so on the mowed path towards Hillers Creek you’ll come to this new Valley Overlook.
Henslow’s Sparrow, Ammodramus henslowii
If you aren’t a serious birder you’ll probably find the Henslow’s Sparrow boring. It’s small, drab and it usually hangs out in low clumps of dried grass. Cornell’s website
calls them “uncommon and famously inconspicuous.”
The fact that it is uncommon makes it appealing to birders who want to add it to their life list. Last weekend we had a couple that drove up from Texas just to see this bird. The guy said he’d been looking for this bird for 30-years.
Henslow’s Sparrow are steadily declining in number because their grassland habitat is being converted to crop land. The only reason we are lucky enough to have them is that we’ve restored 200-acres of prairie.
I took this photograph this morning. I think we have 4 or 5 nesting pairs of Henslow’s Sparrow on the Prairie Garden Trust property right now.