Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Grass, Sky, Song Illustrated, "Prairie Dance"

[Photo with the kind permission of Bluestem Studios]

For this week's installment of GSS Illustrated, I chose to lead with an image of the grass that represents tallgrass prairie, the rarest of the prairie eco-types. Big bluestem is among the tallest of grasses on the Great Plains and remnants of it survive in south-eastern Saskatchewan. I've found several stretches of it in the area where I watch birds.

"Prairie Dance" is a chapter about the dynamic of prairie as a kind of dance choreographed by fire, climate, grazing, and soil. Local habitat in grassland shifts depending on grazing, fire, and climate in paricular. Birds have always responded to that dance and, now that the roaming herds of wild bison are consigned to preserves and ranches, they are one of the last elements of plains ecology that attempts to remain faithful to that dance.

Toward the end of the chapter I refer to American writer, Aldo Leopold and his love of the upland sandpiper, a bird I see every summer in the pastures I visit south of our place. Here is a image of Leopold in front of his cabin in Wisconsin followed by a picture of an upland sandpiper.

photo with the generous permission of Marty Jones

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