Swainson’s (Hawks) Southern Sojourn
It is time to head south. You can feel it in the air.
If you were a Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainson) you would be flexing your wings a little more than just for the jaunt around the prairie parklands every day seeking out grasshoppers and crickets, supplemented by ground squirrels and snakes during nesting season. These latter delectable delights are brought back to the nestlings for a special treat thus tying hawk nest selection to the availability of small mammals. You would have spent the spring and summer hunting primarily from a perch. You were the feathered one on the fence posts keeping watch over a territorial patch, waiting to pounce on, or swoop for, that sizeable but succulent dragonfly specimen. Sometimes you can be confused with another well-known buteo (that’s the entire group of broad-winged hawks) competing for similar nesting habitat, the Red-Tailed Hawk. They tend to wait for their prey on higher locations, Red-Tails prefer telephone poles more likely than fence posts.
Swainson’s Hawks are the longest migrants of any North American raptor (about 22,000 km over two months) and the ones keeping watch over the north American prairies will be heading out for the pampas of Argentina until the last leaves in October. Each clear day with a wind in the right direction of travel these birds gain altitude soaring in circles on a rising thermal. They can be seen in groups and by the time they reach the Isthmus of Panamá everyone reacquaints for a hawk party. Not really, but you get the picture, concentrations of Swainson’s Hawks making their way through the narrowest of passageways on to South America.
The final chapter to this story was almost written in the 1970’s when scientists realized the sharp population decline in these magnificent birds was directly related to use of the insecticide DDT by Argentine farmers. Luckily, thanks to better agricultural practices today, we can enjoy their presence in the fall migrating skies.
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park – Green Season
Sometimes you have to get out and see what all the fuss is about when green season hits the Canadian foothills. Late evening spring light is best viewed and experienced from outside of the car window so find a park and get walking.
In the case of Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park in late spring, taking a short walk west from the parking lot can make all of the difference in the world, at least in the prairie and foothills world. After a week of big rain the thirsty land dresses up green almost overnight. Combine the big prairie sky and fading warm light and you have colours sleeping together in harmony; greens and yellows and blues melting into one another. In the colour wheel world a palette of analogous colours are a good thing. So get out of your box, whatever that may be, and look for some colours cozying up at a park nearest you.
For more on Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park see:
Glenbow Overcomes The Brown Season
Brown season has no official beginning or end, unlike spring and winter with their accompanying equinoxes heralding the next season with exactitude.
Most people recognize the signs of the end of brown but it is more of a creep than an equinoctial announcement. Lively green overtakes dead brown in the flower garden as folks sneer and grab and pull at pesky grass outstripping the yard one blade at a time. The landscape so carefully domesticated last gardening season succumbs to the fast creep of weeds. Oh how they move when we slumber. At Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park there is not much weed pulling taking place, no taming of the landscape, no training weeds that their emergence is a declaration of war. It is just plain old fashioned “walk in the park” and other equally calming activities as late spring overrides even the brownest of patches in the darkest corners of the more than 1,300 hectares of foothills parkland. Mother Nature wipes her brush with a wide swath and “Eureka!” Brown season becomes mottled into green under the scape of fluffy late spring clouds and soft evening sunsets. Off with the brown coat, on with the green shirt!
There is a lot more going on at the park than walking, you just might be surprised (see http://www.grpf.ca/programs).