Monday, June 10, 2013

Sand plain, sandhills

photo of two sand hill cranes
© harrington
Hi! I hope by the time you're reading this it's sunny and warm wherever you are (even if you're south of the equator). The two brownish blobs in the picture above are sand hill cranes walking across a broad, flat, sandy farm field. On the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web site and you can find a page on the "Anoka Sand Plain." Once there, you should be able to locate, at the bottom of the page, a link to a PDF titled Tomorrow's Habitat, with a subsection on the sand plain. Much of what you're going to see below comes from there.
 A broad, flat, sandy lake plain dominates the majority of this area and forms the eastern and northern boundaries. Historically, the predominant vegetation was oak savanna and upland prairies surrounded by varied wetland complexes.
... Urban development and agriculture (primarily sod and vegetable crops), which occurs in about one-third of the subsection, has resulted in the loss of prairie and savanna and drainage of peatlands.
This subsection is well-known for sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, bobolinks, and lark sparrows. Other important species are badgers, Blanding’s turtles, and gopher snakes.
• Important habitat features include dry prairie associated with scattered wetlands, rivers, and streams, which provide excellent habitat for Blanding’s turtles, both species of hognose snakes, and bullsnakes.
• Some of the best examples of dry oak savanna in the state occur in this subsection.
•    Carlos Avery WMA and Sherburne NWR are important stopover sites for migratory birds.
So, you can see why we feel very lucky to live where we do. However, despite seeing scarlett tanagers and orioles, we don't recall ever seeing a bobolink (near here or elsewhere). The other thing about bobolinks, is that the good folks at Cornell don't seem to think that a yellow headed blackbird (which we do see on occasion) rates as a "similar species" to the bobolink. Maybe their definition of "similar" isn't based on appearances? Finally, for now, the lark sparrow looks (to me) a lot like a chipping sparrow. I may need to do some more watching with a book in my hands. Thanks for the visit. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here dail.