Sunday, November 24, 2013

Winter Buck

A quiet November eve came by,
painted by an azure sky,
upon a fresh new canvas white,
a wonderful treat to these hidden eyes.

Stepping to this water hole,
majestic buck stares into my soul,
what does he see I do not know,
for now I'm content to let him go.

Days ahead may find him harm,
hunting season will give alarm,
his senses honed quite sharp,
will be tested from its start.

Does his glance imply distrust,
that I'm of tasty venison lust,
for as I admire him as I must,
reduced to table will be just.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Pocket Guide to Kansas Red Hills Wildflowers

Its here...finally!  Yes, the brand new pocket guide of the beautiful Red Hills wildflowers is now available. The Red Hills of Kansas exists in all or some of about 8 counties of south-central Kansas.  A land of rolling prairies and red dirt from the iron content, it boasts many scenic vistas accentuated by outcrops of gypsum rock therefore exemplifying its alternative name, the Gyp Hills.  The 60 species selected for this guide were considered excellent representatives for the area and, with some, it is about the only place in the state where they occur.  
Species are arranged by color and then general blooming months. Descriptions are in lay terms for easy understanding.   Interesting facts and anecdotes are included about special characteristics of each plant.  Here's a sampling:

The booklet was authored by Phyllis Scherich, Chris Berens and Carl Jarboe as well as myself. All experts in the flora of the Red Hills, these dedicated folks not only put their heart and soul into the effort but their experience and personal insights.  A number of editors offered invaluable services and most notably, Bob Gress.  As retired Director of the Great Plains Nature Center, Bob graciously offered his editorial and production expertise since he had been involved in 10 previous pocket guides as well as countless other publications, posters, articles and events.  Thanks to all who made this possible including Lorrie Beck of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who oversaw the whole effort.  A primary purpose of the guide is to elevate the interest in this enchanted land called the Red Hills. 

Ten-petal Mentzelia (Chalk Lily) is a great, showy representative of the Red Hills.
Published by Friends of the Great Plains Nature Center, the guide is available free at the nature center at 6232 E. 29th Street North, Wichita, Kansas 67220.  For $3, one can be mailed to you.  The guide was produced through the financial contributions of the Chickadee Checkoff of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition, The Nature Conservancy in Kansas, Westar Energy Green Team, and the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation.  Additional contributors to the project through editing or photography include Larry Miller, Kyle Gerstner, Scott Sharp, Craig Freeman, and Jim Mason.  Thanks to all and the Kansas Native Plant Society for your assistance.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Road Less Traveled

The first portion of the Gyp Hills Scenic Drive winds through the eastern edge of the Red Hills west of Medicine Lodge.
Two roads diverge in an enchanted land,
and sorry I cannot travel both,
I go down one as far as I can,
to where it bends on reddish road.

This red road leads to fascinating country south from Lake City, Barber County.

Evening sun paints amazing colors on this Red Hills canvas overseen by Flower Pot Mountain in the center.

The famous "Wagon Hill" a few miles into the Gyp Hills Scenic Drive.

Cottonwoods hanging on to their hard earned "chlorophyll cash."

A rainy day imparts a soft mood to a beautiful landscape recently.  Yay for good precipitation in the Red Hills!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Summer at Smoky Valley

Summer is over.  But, memories carry on.  This is a short collage of a summer's excursion to a western part of the Kansas Outback--the Smoky Valley Ranch of The Nature Conservancy in Kansas.  Leading the way is a feisty female Eastern Collared Lizard.  Highlighted are exposures of cool stuff in Scott and Logan counties.  Natural beauty of Kansas is where you find it.  All you have to do is look.  
Eastern Collared Lizard

Puffy clouds above a hill at Scott State Park and Lake
The Bertrand homestead on west side of Smoky Valley Ranch

Chalk Lily at Scott State Park

Matt Bain, Smoky Valley Ranch Manager, a TNC MVP