Hay fields throughout the Kickapoo Valley are dotted with large round bales. Lots of these round bales arenít alfalfa hay, but are made of marsh grass (reed canary grass). Itís been years since Iíve seen so much marsh grass being baled up for winter food for cattle. Iím thinking there may be a shortage of winter alfalfa for the livestock, so the marsh grass will be there if needed. Itís been a hot, dry summer, and the pastures and hay fields have suffered because of it.
Whenever I pass by a field full of these big round bales, I quickly glance over them to see if there are any birds perched on top of them. You never know what kind of birds may be standing on top of the bales. Over the years, Iíve seen all kinds of birds this way. It looks a little strange to see an eagle, sandhill crane, great blue heron or turkey standing on a round bale, yet there they are.
Today I spotted a hawk on a bale and I stopped to get a few pictures, even though he was a quarter of a mile away. With the camera, I can zoom him up for a closer look. It gives me a chance to identify the hawk species, sex and age. A closer look told me he was an adult male red-tailed hawk in fine plumage. I could see his healthy yellow cyre and legs and I could see he wasnít wearing a leg band. Cameras sure make watching wildlife a lot more fun.
It was a banner year for weeds. I wish I had a penny for every wild parsnip, thistle, daisy fleabane, Queen Anneís lace, goldenrod and ragweed I pulled this summer. And oh yeah, donít forget the other 50 kinds of unwanted weeds Iíve pulled or cut to keep them from going to seed. Then there are a few invasive plants that I can hardly do anything about because they are so terribly aggressive. The first one that comes to mind is crown vetch. Its seeds are spread along the roadsides by the county mower. The vetch then creeps into areas where there is a more diverse community of plants and completely takes over. Crown vetch is the ultimate nightmare for anyone who is trying to set aside a plot of land for a native prairie.
This morning I took a picture of a plant I call the purple widow or purple loosestrife. It is one of the most beautiful of all the invasive plants and grows in large, purple clumps three to four feet tall. Nearly impossible to control, this beautiful but nasty plant will completely cover a marsh for miles. Nothing else can compete with it, and every other plant will be crowded out, eliminating all the natural diversity. It saddens me to see such thoughtless devastation of the land. By the way, itís rumored that southern kudzu is slowly moving north because of climate change.
As a young boy I became infatuated with native wildflowers and plants, and I have spent a lifetime looking for them on my walks down Natureís trail. As I grew older, I realized I was spending more of my time dealing with introduced, invasive plants than enjoying the wildflowers.
The little robin Iíve been caring for is slowly making progress and is flying about in the yard, enjoying the sunshine. I got a picture of him taking a bath in a bath pan. I always keep fresh water for him to drink and bathe in. I have to give the little guy credit for his brave fight to survive.
Late summer flowers are putting on a beautiful show as the yellow daisies and bush sunflowers are in full bloom. The phlox was as pretty as Iíve ever seen it, even as it is now starting to fade. Phlox makes a colorful backdrop for yellow sunflowers. The long, double row of zinnias is also in maximum bloom and butterflies are taking advantage of them, especially the lovely orange fritillaries. Sometimes I wish that August would last all year round, but I say that about most every month.
I love the songs of crickets and katydids at night. Itís another of the million things I like about August. Their gentle music lulls me to sleep every night. Well, almost every night. Last night I had to get up and catch a large katydid that was singing his love song as he clung to the ceiling above the bed. All of a sudden I realized that his intense buzzing calls were going to keep me awake. He spent the night in a jar on the porch, and I took his picture before I let him go in the morning.
The nights have been coolóit was 43 degrees Friday nightóand itís always foggy along the river bottom in the morning. While itís never the same, itís always mysteriously beautiful as it drifts and flows, rises and falls, then finally just disappears. Living in the river valley is like being on the back of a living, breathing animal. Itís always moving, always changing, always setting the example for life.
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