Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This Article appeared in eNature
The arrival of fall means different things to different people. For some, the beautiful autumn colors make it a favorite season, while for others it's the mild temperatures, the World Series, or heading back to school. But for birders and their friends who like to watch butterflies, dragonflies, and other animals, the arrival of fall means only one thing: migrations.
The best natural migration corridors occur in mountain ridges, river valleys, and along coastlines. Yet it's possible to see migrating animals just about anywhere. Here are some tips for enjoying the passing hordes.
Birds — Early morning often provides great looks at birds just finished with all-night flights. As the sun starts to rise, some birds that find themselves out over ocean waters or above the Great Lakes will suddenly head for the nearest land. Hundreds of birds can come pouring inland at these times, among them thrushes, warblers, vireos, and tanagers.
During daylight hours, the skies can be filled with everything from White Pelicans to Bobolinks. Expect lots of shorebirds, cormorants, terns, and gulls at the seaside and hawks, swifts, flickers, jays, swallows, and robins overhead almost everywhere.
Butterflies — Most people have heard about Monarchs and their fall migrations to the mountains of southern Mexico, but lots of other butterflies travel in autumn. Some even head north!
Watch in the same places that bird migrants concentrate for American Ladies, Question Marks, Red Admirals, and the more abundant Monarchs — all moving southward. By contrast, Cloudless Sulphurs may be headed north in fall, as their southern populations expand, and Painted Ladies and Common Buckeyes can be watched for flying north or south.
Dragonflies — Dragonfly watching is fast coming into its own on the North American nature scene. Partly that's because several excellent books have appeared to help folks tell these handsome creatures apart.
A small number of dragonfly species migrate in substantial numbers during the fall. Look for the monster Green Darner in particular and the world's most cosmopolitan dragonfly, the Wandering Glider. Others include the Black Saddlebag and the Carolina Saddlebag.
Mammals — Mammal watching is not nearly as easy as bird or insect watching. After all, the mammals first must be found, which usually involves some trekking, and they're not terribly cooperative subjects. Still, the rewards can be considerable.
Among the migratory mammals worth watching are some species of bats (Hoary, Silver-haired, and Red) that can occasionally be seen flying south during daylight hours along shorelines or even over bodies of water. Marine mammals, of course, can be observed from boats or coastal promontories. The large baleen whales occur in good numbers on their southward migrations and delight people even from a distance.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
A new conservation project concentrated in Deuel, Grant and Roberts counties received a $1 million grant to help protect unbroken tracts of prairie across the Dakotas and Minnesota.
Prairies Without Borders seeks to protect sections of the Prairie Coteau region, which encompasses more than 1 million acres of native northern tallgrass. The money will go toward buying U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grassland and wetland easements, with an emphasis on getting easements on large contiguous tracts of native grassland.
The venture seeks to protect 3,106 acres within the three-county focus area.
"South Dakota has the largest concentration of tallgrass prairie, and we're working on protecting what's out there," said Pat Anderson, executive director of the Northern Prairies Land Trust. "This allows us to protect animal and plant life, too, so it can continue to grow and populate the area."
The Prairie Coteau is a 200-mile-long, 100-mile-wide swath of lake-dappled prairie that covers parts of the Dakotas and Minnesota. It is the largest remaining tallgrass prairie in the U.S.
Yet since 2002, more than 240,000 acres of eastern South Dakota native prairie have been converted into cropland.
"These easements allow the landowners to retain a working landscape, but also maintain the tallgrass prairie by preventing native and restored prairies from being plowed up," said Tom Tornow, with the Fish and Wildlife Service's Madison Wetland Management District.
While focused on the three eastern South Dakota counties, the project area stretches across 23 counties in South Dakota, nine counties in North Dakota and 50 counties in Minnesota.
"This project is unique in that it recognizes the need to protect grasslands in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota," said Pete Bauman, area manager for The Nature Conservancy, which helped organize the project.
Other project partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks; and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Reach Thom Gabrukiewicz at 331-2320.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
My friends, Alex Mandossian and Greg Habstritt, are holding an incredible series of training calls starting Wednesday. They will be featuring interviews with not just Richard Branson and Dr. Stephen Covey, but 10 other world experts and authorities!
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