I've been wanting to get out of this valley for a while, so off I went, for a ride up on the ridge to see a sunset. The treeless, open landscape seemed so barren, all covered in white snow drifts. Miles of pastured farmland that doesn't offer much to see, as far as wildlife goes. A few crows here and there, some starlings and English sparrows in a farm yard. A good-sized flock of pigeons and a single Kestrel, perched high on a high-line. I was convinced that there was plenty to see if you just kept your eyes open.
Then, a flock of 12 Prairie Horned larks flushed up along the side of the road as I passed by. I watched them speed away so quickly, like little darts in the wind. One mile later, a second, even bigger flock burst into the air as I passed. I hadn't seen them in any numbers the past two winters, both of which were mild. Years ago, I was amazed at seeing these true survivors of the Prairies. Prairie Horned larks spend their winters on barren, snow-covered landscapes where no other bird would want to be. They must be super-resourceful when it comes to finding food where none is visible. They seem oblivious to wind and sub-zero weather, standing on the cold ground, day and night. Proving even further how tough they are, they begin their courtships in early February. That makes them one of the first wild birds to start nesting in Wisconsin each Spring. Oh, did I say Spring, already? Well, it is Spring now for the Horned larks.
I found an abandoned Horned lark's nest with eggs once, the third week of February. The mother had to dig her way out after a heavy snow had covered the nest. My understanding is that she will find another good spot, and make another little grass nest to lay her eggs in. It always seemed odd to me that a ground nesting bird would lay her eggs when there was still a good chance for more snow. Oh, so many mysteries!
The pink to purple sunset alone was well worth the ride up here, even if I hadn't seen a single bird. We all need to see a sunset once in a while. It always makes me realize that the Sun will eventually set on my life, and I'd better enjoy it while I can.
I've known for a long time that in order for the natural world to heal, humans must first be willing acknowledge that something is wrong. Now, finally, there is no denying that Nature is out of balance, and our activity is the reason why. For a whole society to change their lifestyles may sound like an impossible task, but thinking about the consequences if we don't change is heartbreaking. It's time for each of us to search our hearts and find a way to contribute to making Earth a healthier place.
Of course, the ultimate answers lie deep in the hearts and minds of our children. They are the ones who can turn this mess around, if we give them the opportunity to develop the knowledge and compassion they need to heal the Earth. First we must look to the power of compassion in ourselves. I find the answers to these questions and doubts can be found down Nature's Trail.
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