photos and words by Marissa Jensen
Daydreaming of summertime in the uplands is sure to put a smile on a few faces. Fortunately for all you dreamers out there, the time is finally upon us, to enjoy the golden glow of summer in one of our favorite landscapes. Without pausing for consideration, we can ramble off ample reasons to celebrate the uplands in the fall and winter, and rightfully so. However, spring and summer deserve their own rally and time in the spotlight.
As we quickly near the official first day of summer, here are just a few of the reasons you should get out and explore this season.
Whether they’re year-round residents, or migratory visitors, grassland songbirds are true diamonds of the uplands.
The bright hues of the buntings and yellowthroats, along with the enlightening call of the dickcissel and the bobolink, breathe new life into our uplands every year. These melodic grassland jewels play a vital role within our upland ecosystem.
Depending on where your uplands are located, you’ll likely spot the striking black and orange markings of the monarch butterfly. These incredibly important - and lovely - pollinators, have migrated in search of their larval host plant, milkweed. As soon as they arrive, they’ll start depositing eggs on the underside of leaves. On your next walk, take a few moments to flip over leaves in search of the tell-tale sign of a chosen milkweed.
Additionally, native bees work furiously across the upland range, finding rich nectar amongst the wildflowers, ensuring the future of these forbs.
Within this pollinator habitat, a brood of your favorite upland bird can be found, as young chicks thrive on these soft-bodied pollinating insects. Patches of bare ground, diversity of plant life, and the buzzing music of insects make prime brood rearing habitat for pheasant and quail.
A Palette of Wildflowers
If I were a painter, I would spend every waking moment painting the beauty of the uplands. Fortunately, for Bob Ross and other talented artists, I leave the paintbrushes behind and wield a Nikon instead. If you can imagine a color, it likely exists in the uplands.
The deep purples of a spiderwort or coneflower, or the cheerful yellows in the compass plant. Each wildflower provides its own unique ecosystem for an abundance of macro and microscopic life which exists upon it. Take a moment to pause and focus on a plant or two, you’ll be amazed at what you find.
Diversity, Diversity, Diversity
There’s a little something for everyone in the uplands. Over the years, I’ve encountered everything from kingbirds to bison and pronghorn, to hognose snakes and ornate box turtles. From spring to summer, life is beginning and learning not only how to survive, but more importantly, how to thrive.
Each June holds a dream, carried as a whisper through the tall grass prairies. Each sweltering summer holds a promise of winter flushes, tucked within the towering sunflowers. The growth of a large covey soars on the wings of a butterfly or bee, as they delicately dance between wildflowers. Each dream and hope and promise exist in the summertime, where the uplands remind us that anything can happen.
Marissa Jensen is Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Education & Outreach Program Manager.
Become a member today to support the uplands during every season: pheasantsforever.org/join