Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Passionate About Pollinators

These purple coneflowers grow in our front yard and play host to a whole slew of wonderful pollinators. Here are some of the ones that I found working there today. 

What kind of pollinators does your yard host? 

Until next time...

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Tallgrass Prairie Wildflower Garden

The wildflower garden in front of the nature center at Prairie State Park is decked
out in splashes of summer splendor amidst rapidly growing prairie grasses.
The garden provides visitors with a taste of what might be blooming out on the prairie in any given season. This is particularly appealing to handicapped visitors who are unable to hike the prairie and experience it for themselves.

Some of the plants that are blooming there now are...

Gray-headed Coneflower
Wild Bergamot

Butterfly Weed

Prairie Clover
Until next time...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It's All In A Day's Work

I will soon be celebrating my third year anniversary as a naturalist at Prairie State Park in southwest Missouri. I didn't start off as a naturalist there, but have been in that position now for the past two years.

One of the things that I do as a naturalist at Prairie State Park is to teach children and adults about life on the tallgrass prairie. With spring, comes school groups...lots and lots of school groups...public, private, homeschool, and preschool.

Here are a few of the classes that I have taught, or took part in teaching during the month of April at Prairie State Park...

We had several public school groups visit in April. Every one of them had their own dynamic. The teachers and children were a lot of fun to be with and we shared some great learning moments together.

Our preschool program in April was about life cycles. We talked about many animals, but our focus was on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.

With the help of myself, parents, and siblings, and using a variety of craft materials, each preschooler created their very own butterfly life cycle wheel. 

The theme for April's homeschool class was nature photography. For this one, I sought the help of someone a little more knowledgeable on the subject than myself. Homeschool graduate and our youngest son, James Anthony! He came as our guest speaker and taught the class the basics of photography. I sat in on this class as a class participant! 

After class we got to go out and practice some of what we learned. It was a  very wet and rainy day, so we couldn't go outside. This is my attempt at a panoramic shot in the auditorium.

Here's a crazy shot that I took of one of the stuffed bison in the nature center. I think he looks rather handsome...don't you?

James answered lots of questions and guided each of us in use of our own personal and specific devices. Some of us had digital cameras, others had an Ipod, Ipad, or a phone. I don't know that any two of us had the same type of device, but James was pretty knowledgeable in the workings of every one of them.

The diorama made a great place to search out tiny plant and animal life and capture them in photos.

After being involved at Prairie State Park for over 20 years, and working there for three, it was like I was seeing some of this stuff for the first time. Here is a coyote that is in the mural on the wall. 

And here is a meadowlark that is in the same mural. I mean...I've seen this stuff before...but I had never really looked at it until this class. It was awesome!

This was a great bunch of children from a private school. We had a lot of fun together and I so enjoyed having them! They were a real joy to work with! 

And, last, but not least, nature bingo! Playing nature bingo is a monthly occurrence at Prairie State Park. It's a fun game that teaches children and adults alike about many of Missouri's unique plant and animal life and, the best part is, everyone wins a prize! 

Well, that's it for this time! I hope to visit with you again soon.

Until next time...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tallgrass Prairie Tribune - Spring 2017

Come check out Prairie State Park's quarterly newsletter The Tallgrass Tribune. The Spring 2017 issue came out today.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Five Minute Friday - Breathe

Bull Bison Grazing At Prairie State Park In Southwest Missouri
Five Minute Fridaya free write, which means, as our hostess, Kate Motaung, says, "...no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write."

It's Monday...not Friday, but, even if it's late, I am determined to write! :) Here goes...

This week's prompt is: BREATHE. 



   ...breathe deep the prairie air...

      ...fresh air...air filled with birdsong and flutter...



   ...breathe deep the prairie breeze...

      ...soft breeze...breeze filled with ancient whispers...

...whispers of a great people...the Osage...

   ....Great Osage...Little Osage...

        ...Tzi Sho...Earth People...

            ....Hunka...Sky People...



   ...breathe deep the prairie wind...

      ...strong wind...wind filled with ancient thunder...

         ...thunder of great buffalo herds...

             ...ttattonka and ttse...


Just breathe.


Until next time...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Animals of the Tallgrass Prairie - Woodchuck

In honor of Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog's Day, I've decided to make the woodchuck (a.k.a. the groundhog) the featured animal in today's Animals of the Tallgrass Prairie post.

Woodchucks are a fairly large rodent in the squirrel family and are common in Missouri. They have short, powerful legs and a fairly long, bushy, and somewhat flattened tail. The coarse fur on their backs is a grizzled grayish brown with a yellowish or reddish cast to it. Woodchucks measure in length from 16 to 27 inches long and, on average, they weigh between 4 and 14 pounds (they weigh the least in spring when they are fresh out of hibernation and the most in autumn prior to hibernation). The groundhog will give out a loud, shrill whistle when suddenly disturbed or alarmed. For this reason they are sometimes called whistle pigs.

Woodchucks dig burrows along fencerows, heavily vegetated gullies, or streams, or along borders between open land and timbered areas. The main entrance is often located near a rock or a stump and is usually easy to spot due to the pile of freshly excavated earth. Side entrances (or spy-holes), are somewhat smaller and better hidden. A complex tunnel system leads to a nest three to six feet underground. In addition to the nest, the burrow also contains a separate toilet chamber.
Woodchuck or Groundhog Burrow
Woodchucks hibernate in their burrows from late October until sometime in February. Breeding takes place soon after they emerge. Pregnancy lasts 31 to 33 days, producing a single, annual litter of 2 to 9 young toward the end of March. At birth, newborn woodchucks are only about 4-inches long. They are naked, blind, and helpless; their eyes will open after 4 weeks. They start going outside of the burrow at 6 to 7 weeks of age. By mid-summer, the young weigh about 4 pounds and may dig temporary burrows before moving farther away to establish homes of their own.

Woodchucks are almost complete vegetarians. They enjoy eating leaves, flowers, and soft stemmed grasses. They also enjoy field crops such as clover and alfalfa and many kinds of wild herbs. Certain garden crops (peas, beans, and corn) are among their favorites and a woodchuck will even climb a tree to obtain an apple or a delicious pawpaw.

At one time woodchuck fur was used by man to make fur coats. The flesh of young, lean animals is good for food and, because woodchucks are one of the few large mammals that are out and about during daylight hours, many people enjoy watching them. Their burrowing makes them unwelcome in many places, including cemeteries and where earthen dams hold back lake water.

The woodchuck's importance as a builder of homes for other animals is significant. Skunks, foxes, weasels, opossums, and rabbits all use woodchuck burrows for their dens. As woodchucks move tremendous quantities of subsoil as they dig, they contribute much to the aeration and mixing of soil.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Return To Life On The Tallgrass Prairie

It's been well over a year since I last posted anything on this blog and many changes have taken place in that time. I'm still working at Prairie State Park in southwest Missouri and I'm still loving my job...more than ever, in fact!

When I was hired on at the park in June of 2014, my position was basically one that consisted of secretarial and janitorial-type duties. Through a series of unexpected twists and turns, somehow, I ended up in a different position and have been a year-round seasonal naturalist for about a year and half now. In that time I have presented multiple programs to children and adults of all ages and attended several training sessions. I have learned much and, hopefully, have educated others along the way.

It is my goal to return to a consistent sharing of my experiences and adventures of life on the tallgrass prairie and, as I have time, go back through my pictures and stuff and catch you up with some of what I've missed along the way.

Until Next Time...