Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bird town cafe

This has been a banner year for birds in our back yard—36 species. Dan received a heated bird bath for Christmas two years ago and we wonder if fresh water and chipped sunflower seeds year around is beginning to pay off.

I should clarify “back yard” because I am counting birds we see down in the valley over the river also. Blue herons, pelicans and great white egret are majestic birds and we probably only see them because of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks established marshes by the river. In addition to the turkey buzzards, red tailed hawks, crows, geese, etc. we saw an eagle in the valley this year.

Closer up, we regularly watch wild turkey strut across the pasture. Of course, meadowlarks, red ring blackbirds, blue jays, gold finch, cardinals are always around. In addition, this year we think a scissortail flycatcher has a nest somewhere out back. We have an upland plover around occasionally as well as kill deer and a mockingbird.

We have too many barn swallows and just enough hummingbirds for the one feeder. An oriole is hanging around so we put up a feeder, but he isn’t buying it.

We have one bluebird nesting box which is currently occupied and the pair has one family already hatched and flying. Mom and pop bluebird are busy flying about with worms in their mouths.

The little phoebe sits on our clothesline because it is right by the deck where she has her nest. A pair come back each year, fix up the nest and produce little ones that then sit on the clothesline along side their parents.

There are three woodpeckers who tap tap tap the sunflower chips, red bellied, downy, and a first this year, red headed woodpecker. I enjoy watching them. They are like little comedians. Something about their movements.

The biggest surprise this year was a male and female summer tanager. I think they were passing through as we only saw them a short while.

With all the action, Dan continues buying sunflower seeds and keeping the bird bath clean and full this summer.

The Bird Town Cafe continues to be open.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Kansas Native Plant Foray

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By LindaK

Shirley Braunlich, Lawrence, Board Member of the Kansas Native Plant Society is excited to see the federally protected Mead’s Milkweed in the Coblentz Prairie last Sunday afternoon.

The Native Plant Society from the State of Virginia joined the Kansas society to appreciate not only this Mead’s milkweed but many other plants on our native prairie right here in Douglas County.

The Third Biennial Coblentz Prairie Foray, co-sponsored by KNPS and Grassland Heritage Foundation, enjoyed a sunny and nearly cloud free day of identification and discovery. Co-leaders of the event were Braunlich and Jeff Hansen, Topeka, KNPS Past President and Board Member.

We learn June is Kansas Native Plant Appreciation Month. The prairie is beauitful this time of year.

Everyone quickly forms small groups with Braunlich, Hansen and Carl Paulie, an expert identifier with the distinction of finding the elusive Mead’s milkweed later in the afternoon.

I chose Shirley Braunlich’s group because she said she "talks" in common names. Then she hands me a list containing 287 plants of Clinton Lake Wildlife Area Coblentz Marsh. I am excited. Not a good thing when trying to take pictures and scribble names.

All I heard was “this plant was used in ceremonies.” Did not get a picture or name. Prairie potato, often gathered by Native Americans. Did get picture and name. Rattlesnake Master, it is said to have been used to treat rattlesnake bites. Yes, picture and name. The vastness of the prairie seemed to narrow down to each individual plant and its story.

The guests from Virginia were gracious, happy to share their knowledge. I learn many Kansas native plants and non-native noxious weeds are found in Virginia as well, perhaps because the climate is similar. They have traveled 20 hours to visit our prairie and look forward to the Council Grove Flint Hills followed by Konza Prairie near Manhattan. Their group formed for the purpose of a Kansas native prairie vacation.

All to soon, everyone disperses. I download my pictures which in my excitement and rush were somewhat disappointing. Then my notes did not follow the pictures. The Kansas Native Plant Society, Monarch Watch Milkweed Photo Guide and Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses web sites were helpful. Thank you Shirley B. for completing my identifications.

What did I learn from this educational afternoon?

A prairie speaks beautifully for itself.

Kansas Native Plant Society Coblentz Foray

Click on picture for slide show.