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She’s back!! Welcome to your new home….

Sunday, December 12th, 2010
As Bart was finishing up turnip harvest I was  driving back from the post office, across the west bottoms yesterday AM and saw the same incredibly large female Bald Eagle I'd seen round these parts late last winter (early 2010)  as a 3- 4 yr immature - checking out the local bachelor. This time she was in full feather (white head and white tail) feeding on some chunk of meat in the field ~ maybe 100 ft north of 79th St (west of the massive Oak). She is strikingly beautiful...much, much larger than the other female of the pair just north of our farm (who we've named 'Kiowa'(f) and 'Konza'(m), respectively). I stopped a few moments to observe her feeding, and looked for the male (not in sight). Great news is that they have most definitely started building a permanent nest (east of his original practice nest)! So it is likely he could've been working on the 'house' while she was feeding up ahead of their first breeding season. So very exciting!! It convinces me further, this newly formed pair were in their initial meeting/introduction phase when I observed some clear courtship behavior of these two in the field late last winter ...the male had his full white tail (mottled head), and was bobbing his head & tail up and down to show her his white tail feathers...while she was still mottled with initial white on her tail as well. They hung around in this valley together through March, with various sitings in trees and on the wing...flying together (pairing up). They must've had a great summer vacation in the Tetons!!! I sure hoped she would return as the mate for the young male we've observed these last few years. I look forward to seeing the male any day...in full feather. We'll keep you posted. Thinking we'll call these two 'Quivira' (female) and 'Comanche' (male). May be a great time to observe some nest building in the next week or two if any of you can make it out. They are hanging out a couple miles east of our farm (east of Sunflower Rd and north of 79th street). Happy Winter birding!

Meadowlark Igloos (Margit)

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
A cold snowy winter has settled into the landscape here in Kansas... and across most of the northern states. Since Christmas Eve a foot of glistening white snow blankets the folds of the fields. While temperatures are dropping to zero through the week, everything else is tucked in beneath the blanket of snow. Usually I get out for a quick x-country ski by mid-afternoon, after tending to our pre-season office work. The sunshine and cold air are a refreshing break from the indoors. So yesterday afternoon, I set off across the fields to the east...time to cut another trail, and follow a familiar path for the dogs. Nico dog had run ahead and crossed the other side of the waterway...looking to rustle up some fun. In August and September the waterways were full of tall shimmering toffee and bronze-colored Indian grass, blooming with tiny bright yellow flowers. Now they have slumbered and succumbed to snow. Soon enough Nico bounded back across the waterway and flushed out a meadowlark which flitted south to the edge of the field. A little farther along, he flushed out another meadowlark that lighted on some grass ahead of me. This one had a small glint of yellow on it's breast as a faded memory of summer...and looked at me with a little consternation for having disturbed it's rest.Nonetheless, I was delighted and surprised to see these two hardy friends... Meadowlarks do normally winter in Kansas from the northern states and we always welcome their return as they feed in fields after harvest. But I'd figured the snows had chased our feathered friends farther south to find open grounds and winter-withered grasses in which to feed and hide. Then I turned and looked from where the bird had fled, and noticed a nicely protected warm, open pocket of grass, beneath an ice cap of snow. It certainly looked like a warm inviting harbor for a couple winter birds...a Meadowlark Igloo! I realized there must be a whole network of passage ways beneath the snow where they can happily feed on seeds of Indian grass, Little bluestem, sideoats and more. The tall stately native grasses not only provide catchment for run-off from the fields...they provide beauty through the season, and food and shelter to meadowlarks and other little birds nestled in beneath the snow. A good thing for some of the most special field birds that are facing greater and greater habitat loss to sterile developments,  and farm fields that push out tree lines and fence rows. Consider the meadowlark...it's bright yellow breast of summer sun, cheerful songs and look for a place in your landscape that may afford the benefit of a patch of tall, stately native grass. You too may be surprised to flush a meadowlark out across your path on a wintery walk  someday.