Awakening to the spirit and beauty of the northern Great Plains
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Grass, Sky, Song Illustrated, "Birdline"
Dickcissel image with the kind permission of Pete Grube
The fourth chapter of GSS is in part about a radio show I do once a month for CBC Saskatchewan. We call it "Birdline" and to many CBC listeners I am "that bird guy." Once I was out for a walk with my youngest daughter in our neighbourhood and found an elderly couple on a walking bridge over the creek talking about a pigeon that was resting on the railing. It seemed to be in distress so they were concerned. I stopped to talk to them and the man said maybe someone should call that bird guy on the radio. "No need," I said, "I am he!" or something like that. The story ended with me catching the pigeon, taking a number from its band and using the web to track down the owner who told me it would be fine because it was just resting and on its way home from a race that began in Brandon, Manitoba!
Birdline is one of the great pleasures in my life (here is link to the photo page CBC Blue Sky keeps for Birdline listeners)and as I say in this chapter it is a privilege to be the one who receives these dispatches from the field, where it always seems to me that birds are doing their best to bring us to our senses.
The chapter ends with a story about the dickcissel invasion that happened in Saskatchewan a couple of summers ago, giving us a sense of the motion and dynamism in grassland bird distribution. I never got to see one, but kept my ears and eyes out for them all that summer.
On another topic, Cheryl Pearce sent me a link to a good article on the effects of fire and grazing regimes in the Kansas Flint Hills. The article focusses on species that like taller grass--eastern meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow, and dickcissel, and it shows that it is never enough to think we can manage for grassland biodiversity with a single approach. We need economically viable ways for cattle producers to raise their animals on native grass while maintaining a patchy diversity of habitat: some areas burned or grazed while others are left ungrazed and unburned, and still others grazed lightly or recovering from a fire the previous year.