Friday, March 23, 2007

Grasslands Thoughts and Recent Birding

Steve Bodio recently posted a link and short quote from a Kansas Wildlife and Parks Magazine article concerning burning and the ecology of grassland systems by Randy Rogers. This is an excellent overview of grassland systems and the challenge of managing to mimic historic disturbance patterns that prairie inhabitants have evolved with. As Mr. Rogers states:

"At least since the last ice age, the prairies and prairie wildlife of the Great Plains adapted to a cycle of perpetual change. Of course, this included sharp variations in weather — daily, seasonally, annually, and even over decades. But probably the key driving force to which prairies have adapted was what ecologists call the fire–grazing interaction. "

I might argue the relative importance of these disturbances depending on where you happen to be on the North American prairie, but these certainly are the main disturbances that shape these grasslands. I would also add the Rocky Mountain Locust to the traditional Bison as an important grazer that shaped the grasslands.

As we move into spring and my thoughts start turning to upcoming grassland bird surveys, one of the blog entries that that keeps coming to the top of the stew of ideas is a discussion on the grassland bird surveys that we have been doing in northern Valley County for the last five years and broader thoughts on grasslands, grassland management, and the disturbances that have shaped and some that continue to shape what is left of our North American grasslands.
This post would also include a short digression on grassland conservation (or lack thereof) in North America and my thoughts on a recent proposal to reintroduce Pleistocene mammal surrogates into the North American plains (we can't even find enough room for prairie dogs and Sprague's Pipits or Bison, let alone a camel or elephant - what we have left isn't as big as many seem to think). Check back.

Anyway, birding has been picking up as temperatures have warmed up and ice starts to come off the water. Northern Pintails have been moving through and the bulk of them have moved further north already.

I still have a fairly large number of Common Redpolls coming to the feeder and the American Robins are staking out territories in the back yard.
I also have a number of Antarctic photos I will be posting and at least one story to two left yet to post.

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