Yesterday I mentioned that our subdivision was built on the Bingham Farm. This land, according to old timers in the area, was once the best agricultural land in the area, even known for growing corn. To put that into perspective, you have to know the Ozarks. The Karst topography of our bioregion is dominated by chert and red clay from the surface downward. There simply is no top soil, but the old Bingham farm is an exception. I have actually dug into the ground in my back yard and not hit a rock. That fact shocks most natives. Actual topsoil is something we took for granted in my native Kansas, but the rocky Ozarks forced me to redefine gardening.
In spite of the fact that most of the area is now dominated by housing developments, there still is some decent sparrow habitat whereever development gives way to steep terrain or city limit signs. I can easily walk to my favorite of these areas 1/4 mile north of my house. Along the way, agriculture meets development, as a lone bull stands in a one acre field surrounded by lots destined for cookie cutter homes.
In the distance the Finley river bluffs rise and remind me that this is still an active riparian zone. An immature Bald Eagle soars overhead. Turkey vultures also catch the thermals on this breezy day.
I walk up one of the Finley's small tributaries to find my sparrow habitat. It is where the forest meets the pasture that the birds congregate, where buckbrush and greenbriar dominate. Brushpiles remain where the forest has been pushed back toward the creek. I am in search of the Harris's Sparrow, which I've seen here for the past 2-3 years. This time, however, he does not make an appearance. I'm hoping that it is the mild weather that has delayed his return and not the ever present destruction of habitat in the area.
Many other species made the day worthwhile. I tried my built in Screech Owl call. The first to appear was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-throated Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Juncos, soon arrived to check out the threat. A striking Rufous-sided Towhee then peaked out of the brush. As the action was dying down, two Hermit Thrushes passed through and headed southward.
In the new development across the road, Goldfinches and House Finches clustered to feed on the seeds of annuals. As I turned toward home, a single Song Sparrow hopped up to the crown of a ragweed, a fitting testament to the evolution of this habitat. And so it goes.....From deciduous forest to rich agricultural land to fescue pasture to scarred chert and clay landscape to annual invaders to manicured lawn. It's the most commonly repeated story in this neck of the woods........ or shall I say in this neck of the lawns.