Thursday, May 28, 2015

Twin Toms

     Sometimes animals are just funny. Funny looking.  Funny acting. If you watch wild turkeys for very long, you see lots of goofiness.  These two gobblers entertained us all spring and are still hanging around, hoping to score with some desperate hen. Chances are that one of them have accomplished some mating as most hens have started their nests some weeks ago. Now these twin boys seem lost as they roam around all day hoping to attract one more hen while the mating hormones are in high gear. So they strut together, performing their anachronistic ritual in perfect unison.They walk together, gobble together and get snubbed together.  Identified with seemingly identical genes, they seem forever inseparable. While not necessarily a bird of the prairie, Rio Grande Turkeys frequent the woody draws of the Red Hills and are often found roaming on the grasslands. The hens search out good prairie cover for nesting so, as usual, the prairie is important to even typically woodland-associated species.
Tom 1 and Tom 2 do everything together.  

Tom 1 and Tom 2 in unison gobble.

Tom 1 and Tom 2 try, try, try to impress her and she just keeps eating, ignoring their best performances.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sensational Serpent

     The most fascinating snake in my opinion is the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake.  Besides being a rather beautiful animal, this snake has a very interesting behavior--it plays dead. (watch the video)  This specimen was saved from a probable death on a county road in the Red Hills.  With traffic coming (an actually rare thing on this particular road), I was able to snap a few pictures before picking it up.  I kept it briefly in order to demonstrate some of its amazing behaviors.  When approached (see first picture), it will spread its neck.  This action often evokes an exclamation of some folks that they've seen a "puff adder."  Of course, it is not an adder.  This snake is simply trying to make itself look larger and has the menacing looking "spots" on the neck to make a potential predator think that is a dangerous and larger animal.  It isn't.  Once all the hissing and displaying fails, the snake may turn on its back and play dead.  It will often defecate and hang its tongue out to try to sell the "dead snake" farce.  There are two species of hog-nosed snakes in the state.  The Plains (Western) Hog-nosed Snake is lighter in color.  They both occur over much of the state and are both on the state's Species of Conservation Need list.  Hog-nosed snakes eat toads primarily.  Interestingly, they do have rear fangs that carry a mild venom which helps immobilize their prey.  You'd have to stuff your finger down their mouth to get fanged though, and it wouldn't do much to you.  This serpent gets my vote for coolest one around!

At first approach, a hog-nosed snake will flare its neck to try to scare you away.

If doing its cobra imitation doesn't work, this snake will roll over and play dead.  It hangs its tongue out and often defecates and may regurgitate food to get potential predators to simply go away.  As soon as they depart, the snake will turn over and crawl away.

vid bv Lee Ann Brunson

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spectacular Spring

     The Red Hills are ablaze right now.  Only it's not prescribed burns this time, it's a fabulous display of wildflowers.  The prairie posies and grasses are expressing their appreciation for recent rains by displaying flowers and growth.  If you want to see an incredible display of wildflowers,  get to the Red Hills now!  These pictures were all taken in recent days in Barber County.
The Penstamon is fabulous in the Red Hills this spring.

Plains hymenoxsis sprinkles the prairie with yellow joy.

Showy evening primrose.  There are several evening primrose species in the Red Hills but this one's flowers turn pink as they age.   

Scarlet gaura dominates this scene but shares a little space with scarlet globe-mallow.

Old plainsman (Hymenopappus) plants reach to the sky for cherished sunlight.

Scarlet globe-mallow takes the foreground against a backdrop of scarlet-gaura.  These plants are so spectacular this year I thought they deserved a second inclusion in this posting.  

Wild onion takes most of this scene although pale poppy mallow sneaks in on the right.

Yucca glauca is in full bloom in the Red Hills right now.

Blue wild indigo is in gorgeous bloom right now.

Citron paintbrush paints the foreground to a beautiful, green Red Hills scene.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Snake Alive!

     After sitting in a meeting all day, it was time to head to the hills.  With bicycles, snake grabber, and camera in tow, we were off to the incredible Kansas Outback.  And it did not disappoint--beautiful vistas, interesting wildlife, and a green carpet decorated with spring's finest floral displays of wild flowers.  (A collage of these flowers will follow shortly in the next post.)  The coolest animal was this Long-nosed Snake.  It was spotted lying in the middle of the road soaking up some rays.  Just as we stopped to observe it, a big black, smoke spewing, oversized pickup truck came pouring down the road. Snatching the snake from its path, we made appropriate introductions with the critter, took pictures, then let the fascinating animal go on its way.  This is a story about saving one cool snake from what is so much just an unconscious occurrence of flattened serpents.  And this particular species is of particular interest and beauty. Besides its attractive colors and pattern, it is on the State of Kansas Species of Conservation Need List.  It is there because of concerns about reductions in its population status in recent decades.  As one of these species of conservation need, it is a barometer of healthy ecosystems.  Where this one was found, the Red Hills ecosystem is quite healthy.  We hope we all can keep it that way and that this beautiful animal can continue to make a living in this very special Kansas landscape.
This is a typical posture for snakes catching some sun in the road.  As cold-blooded animals, they need the heat of the sun and surroundings to be able to move about.

The author makes an introduction and admires this beautiful snake.  The snake flicks its tongue and is not impressed at the interruption in its day.

A close-up of the Long-nosed Snake.

Lee Ann shows how docile an animal this is.

After an ample number of pictures, we release our friend.  But he seems to have grown fond of HIS new friends. :-)