Applauding Leadplant

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Sometimes I think of leadplant (Amorpha canescens) as the ugly duckling of xeric shrubs. It’s just not appreciated. Consider this quote from the Missouri Botanic Gardens (MBG) webpage:

A somewhat ordinary looking, small shrub with an attractive bloom but otherwise with no particularly outstanding landscape features. Good plant for naturalizing in a native or wildflower garden, prairie or meadow.

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In Defense of Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dog_6038_filteredA huge new mall is being built about 40 minutes north of where we live. The site was formerly home to one of the largest prairie dog towns in the state of Colorado. In order to start construction, the prairie dogs had to go. The colony was poisoned and hundreds of prairie dogs died.

Public response to this mass execution has varied from demonstrations against the cruelty of a prolonged, painful death, to cheers that one more population of pests has been eliminated from the prairie. Some of my friends participated in the demonstrations. Others planned future shopping excursions.

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Fieldtrip Re-run

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I’ve gone on this same field trip every year for the past five years. It’s always the first weekend in March. A dozen or so of us follow a series of barely-used back roads out onto the plains, searching for hawks, falcons, and other birds. Some years the snow falls, the wind howls, and the birds hunker on the ground. We see very little. Other years the weather is delightful, and the sky is full of soaring raptors.

The lead car gets the best view. Red-tails and Rough-legged Hawks perch on utility poles, kestrels balance on the wires, and Northern Harriers skim the short-grass prairie. The rest of us eat dust and catch glimpses of the back-ends of startled birds.

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Family Birds

broad-tail-hummingbird-on-nest_bcnc_lah_6418If Spring brings courting birds, claiming territories and wooing mates with beautiful songs, July is the month of nestlings. Nature, in her efforts to reproduce herself, takes advantage of the abundance of food produced by a fruitful summer. A recent trip to the southwest parts of El Paso county (Colorado) confirmed that this has been a fruitful summer indeed. Everywhere we looked yielded an abundance of hungry nestlings and frenetic parents trying to keep up with the demand for food.

Our first stop, at Bear Creek county park, took us to a patient Broad-tailed Hummingbird, sitting dutifully on her nest. While the branch was over our heads—too high for a peek into the tiny cup-like nest—we guessed that the eggs hadn’t hatched yet. Perhaps this was a second attempt to reproduce, somewhat late in the season.

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