Long drives can be tedious, especially when they cover familiar terrain. On my frequent, I-70 treks, between Missouri and Colorado, I rely on music and wildlife watching to quell my boredom.
Leaving our Littleton farm early this morning, I noticed our resident fox sitting next to the barn, as if to bid a farewell. Accepting this as a good omen, I put in a Neil Young CD and headed out of Denver. East of the city, several groups of mule deer browsed in the predawn light, the young bucks clearly agitated by the rut. Further along, on the prairie north of Limon, scattered herds of pronghorn moved among the cattle and, near the Kansas line, a rough-legged hawk perched on a fencepost.
Meadowlarks and horned larks were fairly common across the Plains, though significantly outnumbered by starlings and pigeons. Near Quinter, a red-tailed hawk rose from the crop stuble, lunch in his talons, and, just west of WaKeeney, a northern harrier flapped low across a hay field; both of these hawk species became far more common as I continued to the east. Surprisingly, a Swainson's hawk soared above the highway in central Kansas, apparently late for his trip to Argentina.
East of Junction City, a lone coyote roamed the Flint Hills and, as woodlands thickened in eastern Kansas, wild turkey appeared on the meadows. Dusk descended as I crossed into Missouri, bringing squadrons of ducks and V's of Canada geese across my path; hoping to spot a migrant flock of snow geese which, in my opinion, is one of the most stirring sights (and sounds) in nature, I scanned the darkening sky. Alas, the snows were not to be found and I completed my trip in the dark, watching for deer in the headlights.