What a difference a day makes on the vast steppe we so affectionately call the Llano Estacado. On our morning hike Cooper and I revel in balmy breezes and warm sunshine, 40°F above yesterday’s bone chilling excursion.
The short-grass prairie echoes with the sounds of its denizens. The crackling crepitation of Red-winged Grasshoppers advertises readiness for courtship and mating. In the distance I hear a high-pitched, repetitive kee, kee, kee and attribute the calls to courtship rituals of Northern Harriers I had observed on past outings. They’re normally quiet in flight. I surmise the ruckus comes from a nesting site. However, most prominent are the melodic trills of meadow larks.
Inspired by primal urges I decide to kick the old ticker into a higher gear and change my walking gait to a slow jog. I head into the 25-30 mph northwesterly winds. A few minutes into my run I execute an instinctive blink-duck maneuver, just as one of the Red-winged Grasshoppers hits my sunglasses. It glances off and gets stuck between my hat and forehead. I free the critter. It flies off.
I’m fascinated how the prairie ecosystem will adapt to our extreme drought conditions. How will the flora and fauna respond over the next several months? The Siberian Elm seems to be the only tree showing any spring greenery.
Down the trail, we have another encounter with Cooper’s Alaskan Malamute buddies and their human. While we humans talk and walk they exercise their freedom to roam, albeit much more sparingly than a few days ago--one word, heatwave.
© Ilija Lukić 2011
|Winged Seeds (Siberian Elm)|