While officially we were still in spring this past week, the temperatures reaching 97 degrees and dry weather were more reminiscent of late July. Unfortunately, this might be the new normal. Nevertheless, high temperatures or not, I still enjoy being in the woods before seed tick season starts.
I visited a site that had seen fire in January 2015, a nice, cool fire that consumed leaf litter in the woods and thatch on the glades. This spring, the area is filled with wildflowers including pale purple coneflowers and gobs of purple prairie clover. Insect life is abundant, and breeding woodland birds were everywhere. Last year, there was a nesting pair of red-shouldered hawks in a big post oak near one of the many glades in the unit. Summer tanagers and Eastern wood pewees are as common here as house sparrows in a McDonald's parking lot.
The glades in the area witnessed cedar removal projects over the course of four years; today, these are some of the richest glades in the whole 3,900 acre tract. Milkweeds, especially the narrow leaved A. stenophylla, were magnets for native bees that morning. I don't know my native bees very well at all, but noting multiple species of not only bees, but flies and skippers and a motley crew of pollinators, all nectaring on wildflowers was spectacular. I am grateful places like this exist in the Ozarks. Biodiversity is maximized on a landscape scale here in this area relatively free of exotics and, properly managed, still functioning with the natural disturbance factors that gave rise to it all.