Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Great Lakes of Palmetto

After record rainfalls inundated the Ozarks, I couldn't resist heading out to look for shorebirds in one of our most adversely affected areas, the Palmetto meadows east of Springfield. Road closures were abundant in this sinkhole pocked area east of Springfield. Water rose to roof levels in many places. I even witnessed one of the many recent rescue efforts that have been successfully retrieving crazy people that think motor vehicles can double as watercraft in rushing and/or deep waters. I tried to beeline for the intersection where American Golden Plovers were seen in heavy rain yesterday. Unfortunately, I was repeatedly sidetracked by barriers and flood waters. Even the four lane Highway 60 was reduced to two lanes as a result of high water. In a yard along the way, I spotted my first of year Hairy Woodpecker.

When I finally arrived at FR 166, I approached the flood water barriers and scanned the fields. Nothing interesting except the water itself. I headed back to the highway and closed in on FR 241 from the north. Ah, the strategy worked!

I was greeted by a beautiful mature male Northern Harrier soaring overhead. It slender wings, long tail, and white and black underparts combined in a moment of grace against the brilliant blue sky. I felt a rush of adrenaline. I glanced to the field on the east side of FR241, and there they were. Amid hundreds of Killdeer, I spotted my first of year American Golden Plover. As I scanned the far reaches of the field, I counted over 30 more plovers among the plentiful Killdeer flock.

The biggest treat of the day, however, was the wonderful view of a Short-eared Owl hunkered down in the the bright green new growth of a wheat field along FR 166. I spotted the bird only 50 feet from the roadway, and quickly grabbed my camera to get off a few shots just before it lifted to the air and with ease twisted and turned before returning to the sea of green.

"We have received an inestimable gift. To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe—to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it—is a wonder beyond words." - Joana Macy

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