Bird’s Eye View of a Wildfowl State – In the lakes

We entered the gate to one of those amazing American parks, where the amenities are all pristine, the car parks and roads perfectly tarmacced and the verges cut to a standard short clip length.  These manicured centres belie that you are in a wilderness.  I was at Oakwood Lakes, a network of open water and channels that sat in a small depression in the plains.  They were a few of the hundred that pockmark the state for miles around, formed by glacial scouring in the last ice age.  I know South Dakota has a reputation for being cold and snowy, but I still knew I was at 44 degrees north – over 6 degrees south of where I normally lived in the UK in my mild soggy climate that rarely saw more than a couple of flutters of snow a year, and even that was enough to close off all services for weeks around.  My part of the UK had not been covered in ice in any ice age of the Pleistocene epoch.  Yes it had undergone some modifications based on being close to the edge of the ice which came almost as south as London in one time.  I live where there must have been permafrost, and the material for the singularly unique shingle beaches of the south coast of the UK were formed in this period.   But never ice.  Yet here in the centre of the American continent, there were never any maritime effects and the ice lobes spread way further south, and have left a landscape that is still recovering and native plants should be recolonising.  The lakes actually sat on the slightly raised plateau of Brookings and Sioux Falls – when you travelled west to the Missouri valley this landscape of small lakes disappeared.


At Oakwood Lakes

These isolated pools are what attracts a lot of the hunters into the state for their sport.  As I had been driving up to the EROS data centre one day I had noticed several guys in camouflage fatigues, guns over their shoulders and dogs tracking alongside, as they crossed the fields.  I had wondered whether they had been hunting the wild turkeys which seemed to be out in these open fields more than you were expecting, but maybe the hunters were just transiting between the lakes to find other wildfowl.

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