Thursday, June 27, 2019

Celebrate Juneteenth! Cook-out and Wildflower Walk, June 16, 2019

The Juneteenth season came to a close in Geary County with a cook-out and wildflower walk at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge, on June 16, 2019.   The event was co-sponsored by Audubon of Kansas, Flint Hills Prairie Bison Reserve (which donated the bison-burgers), Junction City Juneteenth Community Association,  McDowell Creek Community Association, and Prairie Heritage, Inc.    Audubon of Kansas's sanctuaries preserve and restore native ecosystems.  They are intended to be people-friendly, as well as wildlife-friendly.  The Audubon of Kansas Sanctuaries Initiative is designed to create an archipelago of sanctuaries across the state of Kansas, so that Kansans will have a nearby location where they can experience their local ecosystem.  "Every child should have a chance to play in a creek," according to board chair Margy Stewart.   AOK is off to a good start at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge, a legacy sanctuary in Geary County.   Here are some photos from recent events:



Saturday, May 11, 2019

Red Admirals: A Burst on McDowell Creek

So many Red Admirals in early spring here on McDowell Creek!   They were all over the apricot blossoms in late March/early April--and then all over the wild plum blossoms in mid-April.  

A Red Admiral enjoys the profuse blossoms
of a wild plum on April 15, 2019.
Riparian Buffer, Creek Field
Prairie Restoration, McDowell Creek

A Red Admiral rests on an elm trunk next to the apricot tree where
he and his species mates are nectaring.  Back yard orchard, 
McDowell Creek, April 8, 2019.

They did a good job of pollinating, because by the beginning of May the trees and shrubs were loaded with starter-fruit.

A Red Admiral nectars on Wild Plum on
April 15, 2019.  

And nettles were coming on strong too, providing lots of places for Red Admirals to lay their eggs and food plants for new Red Admiral caterpillars.

But then a hail storm came through on May 6, 2019, knocked most of the fruit to the ground, and flattened the new nettles against the earth.    

A few apricots and plums still cling to branches here and there.   Let's hope a few nettle plants will spring back up and some Red Admiral eggs and caterpillars will survive and grow.  

Friday, May 10, 2019

Shield Bugs on Common Buckeye

Shield Bugs on Buckeye
Riparian Buffer, McDowell Creek
Creek Field Prairie Restoration
April 15, 2019
 We have many Western Buckeye trees along McDowell Creek, on the edge of our Creek Field prairie restoration.  This spring, every cluster of Buckeye buds had a Shield Bug on it!   The wild plums, the Golden Currants, and the choke cherries were also budding, but no Shields for them!  This year these bugs were Buckeye lovers.   

Nice Shield!

Shield Bugs are also called "Stink Bugs"--but what an insulting name.  I didn't notice an aroma--the spring air was sweet all around--but I did notice their impressive "armor."  "Shield"--a much nicer name.    Their family is Pentatomidae, a division of True Bugs.  

Add caption
Buckeye Bistro--a great place to meet someone!   More Shield Bugs may be arriving soon....

Next year--will we see Shield Bugs on Buckeye again?  Or will any tree or wildflower do?  Why are they just on Buckeye this year? tells me spring is when Shield Bugs hatch and form larval aggregations.   Yet here on April 15, they were already into their adult forms and adult behavior.   So did these adults overwinter on Western Buckeyes?  Or were they early hatching eggs just a few weeks before?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Winter Visitors at Bird Runner!

We were so pleased to host artist Zhang Hongtu and videographer Fang Xin at Bird Runner in February! Winter storms came to greet them as well, along with Bobcat, Night Coyote, Raccoon, Deer, Rabbit, and Day Coyote.

               Bird Runner Trail Camera, West Side
                                   Looking West
                                  February 2019 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Noshing on New Jersey Tea

The beautiful larva of a Haploa moth munches
on a leaf of New Jersey Tea.
McDowell Creek, Upland Prairie
May 18, 2018
The drought year of 2018 was a great year for New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) in upland prairie.  It blooms early (these photos are from May 6-16, 2018) so it had set seed by the time the dry spell really hit.  Besides, shrubs seemed to do well this year:  The shrub islands expanded during this drought, whereas in most drought years they contract. 

A friend of mine who is doing research on this species asked me to keep an eye out for the invertebrates that visited it.          

Here are a few that I happened to notice:   

A crab spider hopes to dine on a diner.
Some beautiful fungi showed up amid the flowers.

The fungi were orange and hot pink/

These are Scriptured Leaf Beetles
genus Pachybrachis.  
What pretty markings!

This handsome guy was enjoying a leaf
of New Jersey Tea.   Bugguide. net 
identified him as Oncerometopus nigriclavus 
in the family Miridae (Plant Bugs)

But by far the most noticeable were the
tiny black Dermestid beetles 
everywhere on the flowers of New Jersey Tea. 
Dermestids are carrion-eaters, but some of
the smaller species feed on nectar and
pollen, which is what these little guys
were doing.  
Note the paddle on the
end of the antenna. Dermestid beetle.
Family Cryptorhopalum.

A "Bush Katydid" nymph on New Jersey Tea.

"Bush Katydid"
Impressive antennae!
Genus Scudderia

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Echinacea Eatery, Part 2: Pearl Crescent on Echinacea Leaf

Unlike the Silvery Checkerspot in Echinacea Eatery, Part 1, this Pearl Crescent is not feeding.  Instead, it is rhythmically flapping its wings:

Pearl Crescent on Echinacea Leaf
Riparian Buffer, Creek Field Prairie Restoration
July 19, 2019
Perhaps it is thermoregulating, as it was a very hot day.  Or maybe it is creating air currents to waft pheromones into the world.  Or maybe it is simply exercising its wing muscles, keeping limber.  Or perhaps is is indicating to potential predators that striking would be a waste of their energy, as this butterfly is ready to fly.

Maybe the reason is some combination of the above.  

According to Photographic Field Guide to the Butterflies of the Kansas City Region, by Betsy Betros, the one pictured here is a female, due to the pale knob on the end of the antenna.  

Friday, January 18, 2019

Wildlife on Ice!

The cold weather setting in now reminds me of last year's frozen time--right around the new year, when the creek froze over.

Our trail cam caught a few wild creatures negotiating the ice.  Some were more sure-footed than others!