Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mind the Grassland Birds

One of the most troubled environments in the US and across the world are flat grasslands.  Why?  Grasslands are hard to maintain.  Grasslands are fertile spaces for growing and eventually trees colonize and take over.  This is of course a better alternative than when people buy the grassland and turn it into a development.  The Native Americans of the Southwest and other regions used to practice ritual burns of certain mesas to maintain the open grasslands.  Currently, open grasslands are threatened all over the world as people see them as easy spaces to convert into profitable projects.  That makes protecting them all the more important.

Every winter, we get Horned Larks visiting an opening grass parking lot in Hammonasset State Park.  I love finding these guys and seeing them fly around.  They have a great color scheme and super cool horns. Finding them in the open grass can be quite mercurial as they flutter, land, and often flutter again.  You have to look and understand the landscape and how it ebbs and flows before you can look for the birds.

Once you get a good feel for the land, you can find the birds.  Their motions will be easier to pick up once you know what's alive and fluttering instead of what's alive and being moved by the wind.  Grass after all is alive too.  Once you solve that, you can find yourself some Horned Larks and then some of the other residents of grasslands.  In the winter, that means Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs or other Longspurs.  In the Spring, Summer, and Fall, you can find migrating sparrows, Bobolinks, and Pipits.  Until the next time, get up and go outside!

Horned Larks in the open Grass

Can you find them???

A nice close-up

Easier to find them in the Snow!

A shot of a Horned Lark flying

Horned Lark - Click Here

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