Anticipation on the Eastern Plain

Driving to Cincinnati today, I crossed the eastern portion of North America's Glaciated Plain, which stretches from western Illinois to central Ohio.  It is a relatively flat landscape of crop fields and hay pastures (once a tallgrass prairie), laced with streamside woodlands.

On this calm, mild November day, the region and its wildlife seemed to be laying low, awaiting the turmoil of the coming season.  The spectacular October colors were fading toward brown and the trees had undergone a variable degree of defoliation.  Red-tailed hawks perched in trees along the highway or lazily soared above the drying fields while flocks of turkey vultures tilted in the gentle southerly breeze.  Migrant waterfowl speckled the numerous farm ponds and groups of crows strutted through the corn stubble, picking at waste grain and sluggish grasshoppers.

As a traveler through that rural landscape, I sensed anticipation in its wild residents.  They may enjoy another week or two of mild conditions but winter is on the doorstep, ready to coat the trees and fields with ice or send frigid blasts of snow across the flat terrain.  Indeed, another jolt of cold air is expected by mid week and memories of last year's severe winter linger in the minds of Midwesterners; fortunately, the wild residents are not subject to such rumination and the culling season actually favors the raptors and scavengers that patrol this unforgiving landscape.