Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The pigeons of Carhenge

I think we've solved the mystery of Carhenge. Jim Reinders' kitschy automotive replica of an ancient Druidic monument is really a dovecote, cleverly disguised as a kitschy automotive replica of an ancient Druidic monument.

Or maybe not.

But engine bays, wheel wells, frames, and suspensions have certainly been co-opted by the rock dove, one of the most commensal species mankind has known. The birds' grey plumage nicely matches the matte grey of the cars, while the iridescent greens and purples, accented by the bright orange jewel tones of their eyes, make for a pleasing contrast.

The entire pigeon experience is on display at Carhenge: rivalry, courtship, mating, brooding, feeding, fledging, and dying, all amidst the carcasses of Detroit steel on the high plains north of Alliance.

So maybe there is some spiritual value to be found here; maybe it would not be such a bad idea to stand amonst the "stones" on an autumn day, under a bright blue sky, to feel the breeze as it crosses the continent, and to contemplate the mystery and miracle of life on this bright blue marble we and Columba livia call home. The birds are our neighbours, our relations, our fellow citizens...

Just be sure to wear a hat if you linger long here. They are, after all, pigeons.

* * *

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Twelve-spotted skimmer

We've posted pictures of Libellula pulchella before [here, for example, and here], but it's been a while since we did dragonflies, and this shot by Jessa is a beauty, so we'll do this as a standalone.

Now is a great time of year for dragonflies, and a great time of year to be around water. Get out there!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Not quite Dover

This starts with a campsite where once there was a vast inland sea...

On our most recent visit to Verdigre Creek, we arrived late, found our traditional campsite occupied, and ended up at a secluded spot on the shores of Grove Lake. Exploring our surroundings the next morning, we found a chalk seam on a nearby hillside.

Right in the middle, about two-thirds of the way up the hill, was a red cedar growing straight and tall, its trunk no longer in contact with the ground but cantilevered by its root system.

The hillside was steep, and took some clambering...

...but reach the top we did, led by the indomitable Maxine.

And on top was a lovely little pocket prairie, dotted with sumac and a few dwarf oaks (whether bur oak or post, I couldn't say.)

It's possible this pocket meadow exists in part because of the chalk seam—calcareous soils being more capable of supporting grassland species than trees, this patch may have resisted the encroachment of the surrounding woods, an isolated but relatively undisturbed relict of what was once a vastly more extensive prairie.

[Little bluestem, with prairie coneflower and leadplant]

[Blue grama]





[Rough blazing star]

[Juniper (red cedar) berries]

But back to the chalk itself... There is a stairstep erosion pattern typical of chalk deposits [most evident in the sixth photo below] and some darker striations that may have been flint [first three photos]. Most of the holes in the chalk are, I believe, from roots of grasses, forbs, and (particularly along the edges) trees [see especially the sixth, eighth, and ninth photos below].

This small seam certainly isn't the White Cliffs of Dover—though it might have seemed that way to Max and Anya—but many of the same geological and ecological processes can be seen here on this miniature down.