Monday, November 29, 2010

Tallgrass On My Mind

Soldier Beetle ( family Cantharidae) on Heliopsis helianthoides

This entry is a reposting of my Prairie Hill Farm blog from is strictly prairie related so thought it'd be a good fit for the A Tallgrass Journal blog as well.

I've mentioned the Prairie Heritage Center is a gem in the extreme SE corner of our county (O'Brien).  There is an exhibit of the tallgrass prairie at the center, running now and through January 6, 2011.  The exhibit is a state traveling exhibit entitled "Tallgrass Prairie - Past, Present, and Future", and is a great exhibit for all ages to see, enjoy and walk through!

With this exhibit, the host organization is responsible for putting on a program in conjunction with the exhibit theme.  I was asked if I'd be willing to do so and agreed...prairie is near and very dear to my heart and I'm always happy to speak on this subject!

The Prairie Heritage Center is calling the program "Colors of the Prairie".  I've put together a short media program which will be followed by "colors of the prairie" and a discussion of my experiences and personal viewpoint of the Tallgrass Prairie.  The program will take place at the Prairie Heritage Center on December 2nd at 7 p.m - that's this coming Thursday night, so if you have an opportunity to get away for a short evening event - be sure and stop by!

For those of you who may not have been to the Prairie Heritage Center, directions are "east" of Sutherland, Iowa on HY 10, or "west" of Peterson, Iowa on Hwy 10...or 4931 Yellow Avenue, Peterson, Iowa.  You can also call for more information at (712) 295-7200!
See You on the Tallgrass!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


 Sharp-shinned Hawk (adult)
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

It's been quite a spell since my last posting here, and not from a lack of things to throw out there or events to share. No moss has been forming around here, and that's a good thing.  But when that happens, it usually means there is less time for me to spend out on the prairie.  The studio work has been keeping me busy.

Had our first winter storm yesterday...well it's not really winter yet, we've got a few weeks before the solstice arrives.  Had high winds and around 4-5 inches of snow.

The neighborhood song birds really come in to the feeders at this time of the year, and become regular guests until spring.  Other birds come "visiting" for the guests, which really can make for some shorts bursts of excitement.  This morning a Sharp-shinned Hawk was chasing the Goldfinches and Juncos around the front yard. The bird landed in the Silver Maple out front and I grabbed the small camera and took a couple shots of it before it launched off into a chase after finches over and past the corn crib, the last we saw of it for now.

"Sharpies" are real cool little hawks, they're the smallest member of the accipiter family in North America.  They are more commonly known as birds of woodlands but come through the prairie during migration...taking advantage of opportunities - like our bird feeders.  I'm sure they have always made their way through the tallgrass region during fall and spring migrations...I surmise that they likely held to the river valleys for the timber and bird prey they are accustomed to, but who knows?!  (Accipiters feed primarily on birds.) The tallgrass is a much different environment than woodland, but their edges harbor many of the same species.

This is the time of year we're usually getting ready for possible fall or spring burns, and collect seed.  I have been able to do a minimal amount of preparations in the pasture, but it doesn't look like fall burning will be very likely now.  Even though the soil was still fairly warm when the snow came yesterday, the snow did come heavily enough to cover the majority of the pasture.  I don't typically go too much for fall burns, but did have some plans for a limited one.  Our ditches could use one; having a lot of trash growing in them this summer has created some issues and keeping the ditches clear of vegetation does help the road out front here when the snow gets deep.

The spring planting I did for the ditches went surprisingly well, but the extremely wet summer still caused many erosion trouble spots.  Maybe leaving the many troublesome weeds there during the winter will aid in abating some spring thaw run off.

The majority of our seed collection time was restricted to our own site.  I wish we could have gone out and done some area collecting...maybe next year?  There's still plenty to work on here and I don't need to worry about being idle when the window of opportunity presents itself.

In the meantime, stay warm and enjoy the days on the tallgrass when you can!