Monday, July 04, 2016


On this rainy holiday weekend, I fondly look back to Friday, a clement July 1st spent in the woods of the Niangua Basin. I went to this beautiful, often burned private land of almost 1,000 acres with one road, a couple of hay pastures in the creek bottoms, but mostly woodlands and glades that have basically remained untouched barring landowner-set fires. Almost 13 acres of glades and open, grassy woodlands full of warm season grasses and tons of prairie clovers are serving pollinators and the bird community here quite well.

I don't know when the last time someone hiked around this area that has no real access, but I didn't see any deer stands, footpaths, developments or even old logging roads that day. This backcountry area was full of bird life and signs of successful nesting. Four little Kentucky warblers were looking for food from their parents in a shrubby area. We flushed a goatsucker protecting her young, watching closely where we stepped thinking she was still on eggs; two steps forward and we came across the two young while the adult charged at us. Quickly, we headed upslope to leave her to her job after snapping one photo with a telephoto lens. At the crest of the primary ridge, we came up to a big post oak with a couple of young broad-winged hawks circling, potentially another big nest.

Because this area is so secluded, there were no exotic species infestations, no recent logging evidence, just classic undulating dry chert woodlands, some mesic limestone-dolomite forest with green violets carpeting the area, some moist dolomite cliffs, and these great glades with thick cover, no major grazing here. The creeks had a little water, but lots of fish, crayfish and water striders; I feel confident that this entire rainy weekend brought some much needed rain to the watershed. It brought three inches to my basement.

I love knowing places like this still exist in private ownership. This family has been an incredible steward to this landscape. I know the birds thank them.

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