Sunday, February 28, 2016
Horned Lark on Willms Road in the California Prairie
Better pictures will have to wait for another day. They were far out in the grasslands, and I was at extreme zoom. I thought we were seeing Meadowlarks, but realized that something was different about them. The Horned Larks consume mostly insects, which makes the grasslands an ideal place for them. They are found from sea level to 13,000 feet, and range across all of North America, from southernmost Mexico to the northernmost arctic barrens. Despite their adaptability, their numbers have been plummeting over the last fifty years.
In these foothill environments, an impermeable clay layer prevents some rainwater from percolating underground, forming vernal pools that will persist for weeks at a time. Numerous endemic plants and animals have adapted to wet-dry environment. Animals hatch, grow and breed quickly, leaving eggs than can lie in the soil for years sometimes. Flowers have an equally quick life cycle. They were just beginning to bloom when we passed through.