The last place I had went more than an hour from my house was three months ago. COVID-19 has hindered any travel. I have been working at home since mid-March. Yesterday I ventured out with my grandma (per her request to celebrate my birthday).
I planned a trip that wasn’t going to be too far from home. I am still very cautious about going anywhere. We went to Big Island Wildlife Area (I’ve never been), Daughmer Prairie Savannah (never been), and Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area (which I have only been to in winter). These places are pretty close together and they were only an hour and a half away from home so I thought that was a good first adventure out.
We were going down a country road full of farm fields when we saw tall prairie grass and a brown sign. Pulling into the parking lot was like pulling into a different time and place. Oak trees were sporadically standing tall among tall prairie grasses and wildflowers. The cool breeze moved the grass like waves and the sky above reflected that in color. Stepping out of the car, I couldn’t wait to walk the trail and see what was inside.
Crawford County Park District says that the Daughmer Prairie Savannah is the largest and best preserved remnant of the unplowed, deep soil prairies and savannahs that were present at the easternmost extension of America’s prairie heartland.
An Ohio Historical Marker at the site is labeled The Sandusky Plains: The Plains lay south and west of the Sandusky River, bounded by the Olentangy River on the east and Tymochtee Creek on the west. The local black prairie soils mark the extent of the grasslands, which were uncommon in the dense eastern forests. Bur Oak trees, from the period of the Wyandot Indians, have survived because their thick bark protected them from the common prairie grass fires. This remnant of wilderness — Bur Oak Grove and Tall Grass Prairie — is protected from cultivation, which would destroy most of the native plant species.
Maybe that’s why I liked it so much; that place did transport me to a time where I would see bison walking in the distance and be one of the only few people for miles around. It really was like a dream. Maybe it was the air, maybe it was the sun, maybe it was the wildflowers: I really thought this place was magical.
My grandma and I walked the trail through the whole area. We couldn’t get over how tall and beautiful the trees were. My grandma said, “it’s like someone who just first learns how to paint a tree and they say to themselves “no, this isn’t right, I need to paint more branches!” and they do they just keep adding and adding branches. That’s what these trees look like.”
It was. Looking at them full framed it looks like an x-ray of a heart or lungs: lightening like veins growing out from the center reaching out into the sky.
Bur Oak Tree
I heard more birds than I saw, lots of Red-winged Blackbirds and some Red-bellied Woodpecker. I did witness a scuff between two Eastern Kingbirds. Their zzz-zzz-zzz! was pretty alarming. I did find a lot of butterflies and moths (like the Black Swallowtail above) and one dragonfly.
Common Baskettail – iNaturalist originally suggested Dot-winged Baskettail, but I am told you can really only tell the difference when they are in the hand.
It was interesting to me that among the grasses the ground was unusually wet. The soil, or roots, from the grass definitely can hold moisture which was surprising to me. So much plant life is sustained in that land it is unbelievable.
While there, I did think of my dear friend, Ben, whose words were a good reminder for the day. At his funeral, this quote was printed on programs to take home. It is a good reminder for us all with everything that is happening currently:
“You can be a mighty oak or a willow. But keep in mind the oak always lives in fear of the wind, while the willow can sway with the breeze and remain strong.” Ben Miller