I find it so relaxing to look out on an open space. Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, our sky was defined by the roof lines of neighbors’ houses (see my theological musings in this post: The Earth is Flat). While living in Dallas, Texas, our home was hemmed in on all sides by privacy fences.
No surprise that when we retired to New Mexico, I selected a lot with an expansive view of the forest and distant mountains, and designed a home with windows placed to take maximum advantage of the scenery.
Moving to Florida and desiring another window on the natural world, we limited our choices to homes on the water. When deciding on a second home in Illinois, we were less selective because we regarded it as a substitute for a hotel room when we visited our family there, a “crash pad.”
Here’s our front yard with an added “twist.” This is the view to the south from our front door as a storm front moved in from the west in late June. The single family homes in the background are newly constructed.
A wall of shelf clouds preceded this severe thunderstorm, on June 29, 2012. The spaces between the cloud layers created white ribbons that stretched 180 degrees across the sky from north to south. This is the view looking north as the clouds advanced.
As the storm rolled in, a Horned Lark, perched on a faded utility marker in front of our home, allowed my close approach as it braced against the wind.
Earlier in the spring, the male Horned Larks performed their flight songs as the females perched nearby.
Our Illinois town home was part of a planned 140 unit development, but hard economic times caused the builder to abandon the project after constructing only 40 units. Building codes required that the infrastructure had to be completed before the first homes could be built. All the topsoil was scraped off a former cornfield, an area the size of three city blocks. Before the project was halted in 2007, roads had been graded and paved, street lights installed, and utility service lines were run to the sites of each of the planned living units. As an unintended side effect of the developer’s misfortune, the disturbed land has now had about 8 years to return to grass.
To reduce the threat of wild fire, local codes also require the vacant land to be mowed at least once a year. This eliminates growth of tree seedlings and also encourages the ground cover. Our “back yard” now hosts quite a variety of bird species. Unfortunately for the birds, the renewed demand for housing has caused the developers to resume plans to complete construction of the remaining units. Groundbreaking was scheduled to begin this spring, but so far nothing has happened. Perhaps financing is again an issue. Hope springs eternal!
This past week a family of two adult Sandhill Cranes with their twin colts attracted my attention with their raucous calls. They probably nested at nearby Nelson Lake. I took this photo from our front doorstep. All these photos were taken within a few steps from home.
The delay in construction has allowed our local birds at least one more breeding season. Spring rains create temporary puddles (local birders call them “fluddles”), attractive to Spotted Sandpipers that remain to nest here.
While they do not breed here, other waders such as this migrating Solitary Sandpiper also stop to forage in the fluddles.
In addition to the larks and sandpipers, the open fields are host to the nests of Savannah Sparrows, …
…Vesper Sparrows, …
…Red-winged Blackbirds, …
…American Goldfinches, …
…Eastern Meadowlarks, …
…and Killdeers, here engaging in a courtship display.