Monday, May 14, 2007

Dickcissels...let the prairie season begin!

The Tallgrass Prairie season has gotten off to quick starts, then pauses and spurts, but is back up and running again. With 3 days already in the 90's since April, it feels like a tallgrass summer already.
Georgie and I spend a lot of time watching for the prairie birds that normally occupy our prairie area. The Western Meadowlarks never really left but you don't see them during the winter months unless you know where they're hanging out; they started singing back in March. The Song Sparrows and Killdeer returned early on as well, but the rest of those we think of as "prairie" birds have been slowly trickling in...

The Bobolinks made it last week, the Yellow-headed Blackbirds as well, the Sedge Wrens and Common Yellow-throats a few days ago, and a Sora Rail calling from the flooded pasture across the road. Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds are nesting in the fence line boxes. We've even listened to the Field Sparrows this past weekend; their song is something of prairie summer magic - I only wish our property were situated closer to savanna type habitat so we could hear them non-stop. We have yet to hear a Grasshopper Sparrow, which should come soon too.
But I've been waiting for a neighborhood friend to return home.

This morning a Dickcissel showed up in the yard fence line! Hanging on for dear life to the barb wire in a 35 mph gale. It looked like it wished it had stayed in Argentina but I am so happy to have him back!

To my surprise, the average person from the country side has never seen a Dickcissel, or at least did not know what they were hearing or seeing. Such a shame! Such a pretty little bird and even speaks it's name non-stop throughout the heat of the day. I'm glad to see you back, thank you for coming home for the prairie summer ahead!

If you're out on a lone gravel road this summer, or walking through a prairie remnant nearby, give pause for the Dickcissel's summer song.

The piece I did above of a male singing Dickcissel was done in color pencil last year. It is the characteristic pose when singing it's heartfelt song. The original drawing is now in the permanent drawing collection of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, but I do have signed Open Edition Fine Art Giclée Prints available through the Iowa Art Council's Buy Iowa Art website if you are interested.