Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nebraska Sandhills

I'm in Valentine tonite, and for the week. Valentine is in north central Nebraska. A look at the map will give you an idea of why I am here.

This part of Nebraska is known as "the sandhills area".

The Nebraska Sandhills, which encompasses approximately 19,300 square miles of sand dunes stretching 265 miles across Nebraska, contains about 95% or 12.75 million acres of rangeland.

With dunes that are as high as 400 feet, as long as 20 miles, and slopes as steep as 25 percent, the Sandhills are the largest sand dune formations in the Western Hemisphere plus one of the largest grass-stabilized dune regions in the world. The large sand masses, that were formed by blowing sand are now held in place and stabilized by vegetation that consists mainly of grasses.

Precipitation in the Sandhills ranges from a yearly total of 23 inches in the east to slightly less than 17 inches in the west. The Sandhills are generally viewed as a semiarid region where sandy soils, low precipitation, and high evaporation rates support primarily dry grassland. However, the Sandhills also have numerous lakes and wetlands. Many of the valleys contain lakes and/or wet meadows that are supplied water by a groundwater reservoir (aquifer) that holds an estimated 700-800 million acre-feet of water. About 2.4 million acre-feet of spring-fed streamflow is discharged annually.

A couple of my favorite photos from today:

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When I come to this part of the world, I always look forward to seeing my first Upland Sandpiper. The range map of every bird book I have shows them to be elsewhere, but I have never seen them anywhere else. They are frequently seen sitting on a fence post. But this guy was just sitting out there on the gravel road I followed for awhile.

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It was so windy today that when I got out of the car to take photos the blowing sand literally stung my legs.

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