Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wild Turkey Delight

A mother hen wild turkey came visiting this morning.

 She was very thirsty and drank from the frog pond.

Then gave great delight by showing off her brood of six young poults of just a few days old.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Prime Time on the Prairie

   For those with a fascination with weather, and sometimes violent weather, this year has had its share of offerings on the prairie.  Thunderstorms are of the highest natural theater on the prairie.  Few will take the time to watch a storm develop from its infancy as a small cumulus cloud and advancing to an anvil-headed monster ready to wreak havoc with lightning, hail and sometimes violent winds.  But joy is to the storm watcher who is at a safe distance, in sufficient shelter, to observe the greatest of nature's wonders.  I was so fortunate as a kid to have a dad who instilled in me the fascination of thunderstorms in all their glory.  While they have been quite rare the last couple of years while we suffer through drought, we have been blessed with some of this weather joy this year in the Red Hills.  Here's a sampling of yesterday's natural theater.
For weather buffs, the weather apps for smart phones are simply the best you could hope for in finding and following storms.  How cool to watch them develop and see where they are going--maybe to your place!

Watch this short vid for a beautiful display above our grasslands last evening.  Simply beautiful!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Front Line on the Cedar War

     Rancher friends, Ted and Brian Alexander show how its done down in the Red Hills.  While Eastern Red Cedar is native to this area, the trees were originally confined to the deeper canyons where natural fire could not reach them.  Since the arrival of non-native Americans, fire has been suppressed.  So, cedars are having a heyday, encroaching on rangeland, depleting water supplies to streams and creating incredible wildfire hazards.  When they get this big, there's just one solution, cut, slash and either grind or burn.  Its a huge war being waged by a collaboration between several agencies, organizations and landowners.  The Nature Conservancy of Kansas is contributing as it can to help out in the battles.  But folks like Ted and Brian have helped lead the way...on the frontline of this War on Cedars!  While the video is fun, Ted and Brian will be quick to admit this is hard and long work!

(vid and production due to Brian Alexander with help from "Pop")

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Red Hills Regalia

Can't make it down to the Red Hills right now?  Then let me take you on a little tour of the incredible wildflower display.  First, relax a bit as butterflies flit among the Purple Coneflowers.

Echinacea blankets a Red Hills hillside.  

A beautiful color variation of prickly pear cactus.  Yellow is the normal.
Serrate-leaved evening primrose and purple poppy mallow join forces to compete in the grand floral display.

St. John's Wort enjoys being guarded by stalwart Yucca and its alert flower stalks.

                     A Clouded Sulfur enjoys the nectar of Purple Coneflower--a symbiotic symphony of nature.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Big Gyp Big Time

     Big Gyp Cave is the largest cave in Kansas as far as size of entrances.  And it is in the Red Hills--gypsum country.  The Kansas Association of Biology Teachers had their summer field trip there this weekend and boy did they have a good time.  Led by the state's premier naturalist, Stan Roth, the group got to experience a special feature of the Kansas Outback that few have enjoyed.  Replete with legends about the James Gang, treasures, romance and wildlife, Big Gyp offers big adventure.  I've included some choice short video clips to give you a glimpse of this beautiful cave and its attributes.

Here's your first virtual glimpse of the size of Big Gyp

You could drive a semi truck into the entrance of Big Gyp

Stan Roth gives instructions to young and older as he has for nearly a half century.  These kids of all ages had a blast at Big Gyp.  
Pictographs such as the bison and eagle drawn on the ceiling of Big Gyp by some earlier century Kansan Native American are very rare in Kansas.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Doting Doe

    Traveling in the Kansas Outback today revealed brand new twin white-tailed fawns--and their doting mother.  These little ones were probably less than an hour old when we discovered them.  As the doe licked them and encouraged them to follow her, she soon became agitated and we watched as she started chasing something away from hew newborn fawns.  Although I was unable to get decent video, we watched her try to kick a raccoon with her front legs and ended up chasing the coon to a tree where it climbed for safety.  The coon, which would be a threat to the little fawns, finally jumped from the tree and took off lickety split!
You just don't want to mess with a Doe White-tailed Deer when she has newborn!