She lost her hat.
While many people were enjoying their 4th of July morning on bicycles and others on motorbikes, I returned to the yellow lady’s-slipper site as an activity for personal enjoyment and relaxation.
Two weeks ago, I explained how important repetition is for the wildlife enthusiast and naturalist. The brief summary is simple: just because you can’t find some wildlife doesn’t mean it’s not there. This statement shows that repetition is important.
Finding a certain species of owl may take four, five, or even six visits to a location that seems to suit them before you can tell the owl is or isn’t there. The same commitment to repeat visits applies to butterflies, wildflowers and other birds in addition to owls.
I explained how on three recent visits I had gone from five yellow slippers to finding 211. I then expressed the need to also repeat visits to Pawnee National Grassland to check for lark sparrows, because during n a recent six-hour visit, I found only one larkspur, whereas decades ago I found hundreds.
So in the two weeks since that excursion, I have returned twice to engage our state bird. On the second visit I found three lark sparrows in four hours, and on the third visit I found one lark sparrow in five hours.
Five sightings of Larkspurs in three visits over a four-week period when the species’ nests clearly confirm that the Larkspurs are not there.
Rather than just driving on the gravel roads, I parked and drove several miles to various locations and they all showed one common trait: plant life disappeared.
Where the ground was once well cultivated with buffalo grass and various wildflowers, the land now extends to acres with more bare soil than with plants. And without vegetation for cover, lark sparrows have no place to nest. So they don’t.
In the vein of this need for repetition, I returned to the yellow slipper site for a final population check. And I took with me a friend who loves Life on Earth almost as much as I do and who has repeatedly expressed her sincere desire to see a yellow lady’s-slipper bloom.
Age and arthritis tested his ability to negotiate a barbed wire fence and ground cluttered with fallen tree branches partially covered in grasses and wildflowers. She kept telling me to go ahead and not wait for her; and I kept explaining that my normal course of progress is to walk, pause, look, listen and smell, then take a few steps before repeating the process of deep searching.
We found a yellow lady’s-slipper in full bloom; and while she was waiting there, I walked to the larger patch and found well over 100 of the orchids still growing but none in bloom.
When I landed in Loveland, I asked where his hat was. She checked and sighed that she must have lost it. She told me not to worry about it and then we said goodbye.
Last year, at almost exactly the same time, I lost my precious ink pen on this site. I thought if I could fetch a lost pen – which I wrote about last July – I might fetch a woman’s hat that she had told several stories about on our drive to the site. Obviously, it wasn’t just a hat; it was the embodiment of many treasured memories. So I went back.
And I found his hat.