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Orchids & Earth-Movers

Prairie Notes:
October 26, 2008

My Indian Summer Sunday Morning God, I Hate Gas Drilling Hike turned out to be more than expected. While evil-doers ripped into ancient prairie soil within earshot, I contemplated the contrast between short sighted human greed vs. Mother Nature's long term, yet fragile, superiority. Blah blah blah. It's too early in the morning for such thoughts. I needed a distraction.

Nodding Ladies' Tresses, to be precise. (Spiranthes cernua to be more precise.) Distraction accomplished.

Nodding Ladies' Tresses (THNA) DY
Nodding Ladies' Tresses (THNA) DY

One year after record rainfall resulted in tall-grass heaven at Tandy Hills Natural Area, a nagging drought has severely stunted the autumn grasses and wildflowers. Nevertheless, Tandy Hills has a knack for surprises.

Over the years I have observed that these sparsely scattered orchids prefer an east-facing, partially shaded slope. That describes exactly the conditions where I spotted about a dozen blooming plants. Their fragrance is almost enough to make one forget the diesel-powered injustice being committed a short distance away.

Walking back up the hill, my eyes caught a fleeting glimpse of (I think) a Cooper's Hawk arching overhead. (Tandy Hills is home to a pair of them.) I am always struck by the speed of these birds of prey. They move so fast I've yet to get a proper ID on them.

The new drill pad next door has the hawks (and me) on full alert. While I worry they feast on escaping rodents. That may be good for their short-term needs, but I worry about the long run. Their habitat has been reduced by another five acres and more acreage loss is probable. The air up there is more toxic than before. The noise, dust, polluted water, etc. from drilling operations is bound to put their health and safety at risk. I guess the same can be said for us bipedal primates who haven't yet escaped.

But worry not. Today we have orchids. Don't miss them.

Come to the meadow and get distracted from whatever is bothering you.