Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy Herpers

     The Kansas Herpetological Society held its spring field trip at Bourbon State Fishing Lake in Bourbon county and over a hundred people attended, mostly kids.  If you want to stir some excitement in the outdoors with kids, nothing beats a pile of herps.  Snakes, lizards, salamaders, turtles--you know, nature's hand pets.  (Excepting any rattlesnakes and copperheads of course.)   Those were captured as well and observed at a distance.  The crew of herpers spanned across a rocky prairie hillside looking under rocks for a chance to catch something lurking below.  A centipede, scorpion, beetles, ants and eventually a really cool snake or lizard.  This is nature's natural treasure hunt.  And the excitement doesn't end at the discovery.  The education lesson only starts then.  In the video, a young herper explains the virtures of a beautiful western rat snake to even younger herpers.  In another picture, Jesse admires his milksnake he just caught.  Having fun in the Kansas Outback is as easy as looking under rocks.  And watching these kids explore their world and developing a life-long love of these animals is pure joy for the adults as well.  In fact, its hard to tell the adults from the kids when the excitment level is practically the same.  Take your kid herping.  If you need help, check out the Kansas Herpetological Society on the web for all kinds of information and assistance.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's Miller Time

Like stars in the sky, an army of army cutworm moths flock from a favored honey locust tree roost.

What flitting flier thumps my window,
drawn to lights contained within now,
thousands want to enter in,
despite we’ve no desire of them.

Most consider them unwanted,
but yet they prosper quite undaunted,
in spite of large attempts to kill
army cutworms of fields they fill.

They come in waves to hide away
in any crevice they can stay,
protected from a cool night’s chill,
coming here to enter still.

While chasing down unwelcome guests,
I try to do my very best,
to attempt to be quite respectful,
of the massive numbers of this wildlife spectacle.

A closer look of a moth nectaring in a locust tree:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Two Turtles

     Spring in the Kansas Outback is magical in so many ways.  Crappie are biting.  Morels are popping up.  Turkeys are gobbling.  And the early garden is really taking off.  Its also a time for the first wildflowers of the season and for the many amphibians, reptiles and turtles to begin activity.  As cold blooded animals, herps are dormant through the cold winter and with the first warm days of spring, begin to stir.  So it is with the state's turtles.  I came across these two turtles on the same road yesterday and decided to make them stars.  It was a good opportunity to compare as both of these species have hinged lower shells, the plastron.  The Ornate Box Turtle is the more colorful with black and yellow lines on its shell.  The Yellow Mud Turtle, although with a hinged lower shell, is not considered a box turtle--a turtle which can completely withdraw its head and legs and enclosed itself in its shell.  It has a rather plain, brownish-green carapace (upper shell.)  Another feature not evident in the video is that the Yellow Mud Turtle can emit a very strong musk which is a defense used to ward off predators--and humans who wish to play with them.  Another fascinating day in the Kansas Outback with some of nature's slowest but still very interesting animals.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Springtime in the Red Hills

     Its been a long, mild winter.  I've been away from my blog.  I'm ready for rebirth, for myself and the Red Hills I adore.  With an early spring and the rainfall we've had in the hills so far, the wildflowers are waiting to explode in glorious profusion.  Its been a tough 12 months.  Still officially in drought, the region begs for more precipitation.  But for now, there's enough to stimulate the season's first blossoms.  On a Permian road cut, on the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway west of Medicine Lodge, the Bladderpods display their showy pride against the backdrop of the iron-rich red soils of the Permian formation.  If the rains continue, the grass, the wildflowers, the amphibians, the cattle, and the people of the Red Hills will rejoice.  If?  Otherwise, the residents of this enchanted land will tough it out until the drought is truly broken.