Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dreaming of Emiquon

My favorite place to be right now is Emiquon. I love every minute that I spend there. God's own nursery; man's reluctantly surrendered hostage to corn; land returning to its original configuration. It is a wonder to behold.

Last Friday, February 8, 2008, I drove down to Emiquon for my first look of 2008. As I left TNC headquarters, I stopped to photograph the many sparrows in the tall prairie plants. Most were Eurasian Tree Sparrows and American Tree Sparrows with a few Song Sparrows and other unidentified small brown birds. Just as I was thinking about what good harrier food the little birds would make, I spotted one of the Northern Harriers that I regularly see there. She was far out across the prairie headed in my direction. I think it was a female, because it had much streaking on the underside. She flew low over the prairie with her owl face peering intently on the look out for prey. Two Red-tailed Hawks were also hunting the fields and prairie along the Emiquon Prairie Road. One flew high above the prairie and landed in a tree near the road. He didn't stay long. He flew off as a truck drove past his perch and disappeared over the ridge. Not far from Dixon Mounds I spotted another Red-tail flying towards the flooded and frozen field. It landed in a tree near the road, just as the road makes a sharp turn towards IL SR 78. There wasn't any traffic, so I drove on around the curve and stopped the car for a better look, with the sun shining on him instead of behind him. He didn't seem too concerned about me. I took a few photos and then left him to his business.

I found a third Red-tailed hawk flying over Pumphouse Road (Path 2). Hundreds and hundreds of American Tree Sparrows hid in the thickets of mullein, sedge weeds, thistle, and other tall grass-like plants that surround Thompson Lake. As I left path 2 and rove north on IL 78, I spotted a fourth Red-tailed Hawk perched on a power pole. He was near the one area with a shoulder, so I pulled over and took a couple of photos through the passenger window before he flew to the next power pole. He was safe there, since there is no shoulder anywhere else along that highway.

Next I drove down Clark Road where a fifth Red-tailed Hawk flew from a tree on the side of the road and disappeared in the prairie.




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