Showing posts from August, 2014

The Blue Grass Prairie

GOING NATURE’S WAY By Kate Crowley This cool and mostly wet summer was exactly what our tall grass prairie has been waiting for.  It has been years since the big bluestem grasses towered over our heads, but now when we walk the trail along the three sides of the prairie, we feel as though we’re walking in a tunnel.  Who needs a corn maze? We could make a grass maze very easily if we wished, but instead we will leave the two acres intact and just admire its beauty from the sides.  Besides the weather, it seems likely that burning the section of the field this past spring gave it a boost, especially when we compare it to the other third, which we did not burn.  There is a distinct difference in size and density of the two tracts. Before the arrival of people lightning strikes were the main cause of prairie fires and also an important part of their life cycle.  Fire reduced plant litter and helped to replace minerals and nutrients in the soil.  Once the Native Americans arrived in these la…

Pelicans on the Mississippi

WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley Oh, a wondrous bird is the pelican! His bill holds more than his belican. He can take in his beak Enough food for a week. But I’m darned if I know how the helican... Dixon Lanier Merritt This limerick, while a bit of an exaggeration (pelicans eat about three pounds of food a day) is a good description of the surprising qualities of this very larger waterfowl.  We observed and enjoyed seeing large numbers of pelicans last week as floated down the Mississippi River on a Paddlewheel.  Many of them were seen in along the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge which begins at the confluence of the Chippewa River in Wisconsin and extends down to Rock Island, Illinois, covering just over 240,000 acres and extending 261 river miles.  This Refuge was first established in 1924 to protect floodplain habitat necessary for the survival of fish, wildlife, plants and migratory birds. White pelicans weigh more than 10 pounds and have such a large, flat and seemingly unwiel…