Sunday, August 25, 2013

The alps and prairie in two days

We are getting ready to pack things up to head up to the Zumwalt prairie to begin work with the Nature Conservancy for the   next 4 weeks and are very excited. The location is relatively remote so we will have limited access to send out blogs as far as we know. We will see. The following provides an overview our adventures for the last few days. 

Yesterday we went to check out the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve Summer camp where will be living for the next 4 weeks. The drive is beautiful as you drive northeast from Enterprise. We climbed for around 15 miles up to the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve. This is the largest intact prairie in the U.S.  We saw American Kestrels everywhere. The last few miles of the drive are a bit bumpy- it will be a slow drive in with Shak3. 

After checking things out at the camp we drove down the road a few miles to the Horn Lark Trail. It is beautiful and the smell of the grasses were so sweet and new to me. 

At first glance the prairie looks quiet and a bit desolate - but then you start to see and hear the grasshoppers all around you (bouncing off of us occasionally) We think the Kestrels were feasting on these insects :) It is very much alive. 

Then the Vesper Sparrows started popping up all around us. 

A Red-tailed hawk was sitting on a bluff keeping a close eye on us. 

We had a few Swainson's Hawks putting on a show as they were hunting the grasslands around us. (They migrate all the way to Argentina!)

This is a Northern Harrier that flew right by low along the tops of the grasses taking us by surprise. We then came upon a little pond.

The photo above is an Eastern Kingbird- considered a "rare" bird for this location. We also had 2 Westen Kingbirds in our campground the same morning. 

As we were walking we heard this low wail coming from the hillside above. We put our binoculars up and there were fields of elk!! We estimate at least 300. 

There was a coyote sitting in the grass below the elk just watching us. 

Today we went the other direction to the Wallowa Lake State Park. The sign said "Little Alps". This is the headwaters of the  Wallowa River. There were a number of trail options - we took the Chief Joseph Mountain Trail. It was splendid!

We were strolling along keeping our eyes and ears aware for birds. We saw a grosbeak and Gray Jay and heard nuthatches and chickadees - but then we  came upon a Black-backed Woodpecker!! This was the first time we have seen this particular species and it was wonderful. It just hung out very focused on feeding and did not mind our presence. 

That brings us to Sunday night as we batten down the hatches and get ready for our next adventure. 

We will be in touch :)


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