Monday, June 29, 2009

Grass, Sky, Song Illustrated:
"Pathways of Complicity"

this McCown's Longspur image courtesy of Alan MacKeigan

The McCown's is a bird of the open plains where grass is sparse at best. It flutters and teeters on the air like a small kite as it lets out it's jumble of tinkling notes. In the 1990s we still had a few of them near Regina on summerfallow but now their range has retracted severely to the south. This chapter of Grass, Sky, Song brings the narrative around to the question of who we can blame for what is happening to the birds of the this continent's grasslands. When I started writing the book, I was more certain of who to hold responsible, but that changed as I spoke to ranchers and biologists.

Part way into this chapter, I talk about our property and looking down on it from a hilltop view. Here is one view from a slightly different hilltop, looking down on the land in late fall. Click on it to get a larger view of the panorama.

This land, like other remnants of native grass throughout this region, is in better shape than the ploughed fields beyond, but it is still suffering, awaiting the day when the right mix of grass, grazers, and fire will restore it to health. If we want to participate in this restoration and stop the birds from dwindling away, we will have to set aside the question of who to blame and begin the honourable work of connecting our economies and agriculture to this ancient dance between soil, climate, grazers, and fire.

shot of plains bison in Grassland national Park, by James Paige, Parks Canada

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