From foggy dawn through full moon dusk, a perfect day at Midewin.
At 6 a.m., the skies above Pullman (where I live) are clear. A half hour later, as I exit I-80 onto historic Route 66 (53 South) toward Midewin, I’m driving through pea soup fog. While the suspended moisture obscures much from view, it brings into high relief literally zillions of spider webs. Midewin looks as if staff has tricked out the entire site for Halloween.
The fog makes for a challenging start to the scheduled bird tour, the grey haze draining even bluebirds of their telltale color. But as the fog lifts, our identification challenges return to normal: is that a mature northern rough winged swallow or a juvenile tree swallow? Sometimes, even checking the Sibley Guide smart phone app can’t settle the question.
To celebrate this National Day of Service, in the afternoon I join a bunch of fellow volunteers at the River Road Seed Beds. All morning, they planted more seedling plugs. In the afternoon, I help them collect seed. Purple prairie clover. White prairie clover. Cream white indigo. And others. All from plants hand planted by volunteers and staff, grown from seed hand collected by the volunteer-staff team. One day – after hand cleaning by the team – to be hand sown in the growing number of restoration areas throughout Midewin.
As the sun bends toward the treeline of Prairie Creek Woods, it’s time for a saunter though one of those restoration areas. South Patrol Road Prairie. On such a late summer day, it’s hard not to think of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” as a love song for the very land itself.
I’m not the only one enjoying nature’s gold. Connie and Jerry Heinrich – the first couple of Midewin’s volunteer program – are leading one of their popular bike tours along a new path through the prairie.
And long after the bikers are gone, long after the sun has fled and a Brigadoon mist begins to creep back over the prairie, the coyotes cut loose with a chilling banshee cry and a harvest moon rises so big in the sky you could almost reach out and touch it…