Tuesday, November 24, 2015


It  amazes me  how many non-human residents use the Oak Road!   

Always a dirt road, the Oak Road was a public road in the 19th century.   Now it's just an old ranch road through our property.

When Ron & I walk on it, we never see any of these guys.   But as soon as we're not there, there they are!

These are trail cam clips from late October, early November, 2015.   They are from a camera in a single location on the north end of the road. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Slow Changing of the Guard!

Harris Sparrows arrived in our Creek Field on October 16, 2015--one month ago today.

But the katydids are still trilling today, November 16, 2016.  

It's a slow changing of the guard this season!

The new guards are here; the old ones are here--all the guards, milling about!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Restoring Bottomland Prairie: Crown Vetch Attacks!!

 Ironically, just after posting  about keeping Crown Vetch out of the Creek Field, I found an island of Crown Vetch in the Creek Field!  It didn't spread from the riparian buffer--it hop-scotched in!   Luckily, it was a warm day with no wind, so I was able to spot-spray it immediately.   But where there's one....
I photographed & magnified a leaflet to make sure
it was Crown Vetch, and not Canada Milkvetch.  No
hairs here!  Hopefully, no errors, either!
This tangled mat of green is Crown
Vetch, in the SE corner of the Creek
Normally, a sprawling, tangled mat means Crown Vetch, while erect,
individually distinguishable plants mean Canada Milkvetch.
But if individuals were invariable, there would be no
Crown Vetch is supposed to sprawl, while Canada Milkvetch is supposed to stand up straight.  But on occasion, I have seen individuals in each species do the opposite.

For a beginner like me, whether it's birds, or insects, or plants, or mammals--the trick is learning how much variation is likely within a given species.   

Luckily, husband Ron & I balance each other out.   He's always thinking something different is something new--whereas I'm always trying to fit strange encounters into the existing categories of my known world.   

This photo (looking northwest) shows the patch of Crown Vetch (2nd green patch in;
1st is late-blooming Canada Goldenrod) in relation to the loop-path
that separates the Creek Field from the riparian buffer.    The bare, compacted soil of the path
 is visible in the lower right-hand corner.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Restoring Bottomland Prairie: Controlling Crown Vetch, Promoting Canada Milkvetch

Agricultural "experts" imported Crown Vetch from the Mediterranean, other "experts" recommended it for erosion control, and it's been an invasive in North American landscapes ever since.
Once established, Crown Vetch
forms a tangled mat.   

One of those know-it-alls told Bird Runner's previous owner to plant it along McDowell Creek--so we've had to battle it ever since 1999, when we created a 4.7-acre native-plant riparian buffer between our Creek Field and the creek.

Therefore, for 16 years we've been locked in struggle with Crown Vetch (along with other exotic invasives, such as Poison Hemlock & Garlic Mustard).  
Golden Alexanders claim territory on the riparian buffer 
  from which Crown Vetch has been removed.   
That's  a Gorgone Checkerspot nectaring on the blossom.  
But look what's lurking in the background!  
The Crown Vetch has retreated into a thicket, just waiting to
expand again.   

Native plants are claiming more and more of the  riparian buffer, so every year there's less & less uprooting or spot-spraying of exotic invasives that needs to be done.

But the invasives are still there, and they're still ambitious!

Since we re-seeded the entire Creek Field back to native in 2013, we've been determined to keep the invasives on the riparian buffer from ever getting into the Creek Field!

In that effort, as always, our greatest allies have been the native plants themselves.

In particular, we've had help from a native vetch, Canada Milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis).  
Here are the lovely white blossoms of Canada Milkvetch, in
front of two blooming yellow Plains Coreopsis.
 Canada Milkvetch does not form a mat as does Crown Vetch.
With Canada Milkvetch, you can always distinguish one
individual plant from another.  Also, the leaves have a blue-
green cast (but not always) unlike the bright-green of Crown

Who can get rid of a bad guy with roots?   A good guy with roots!

Canada Milkvetch germinated the first year, multiplied the second year, and this year has even spread from the Creek Field into the riparian buffer!

But now we human helpers of native plants have a new problem:  how to tell the sprouts of Crown Vetch from those of Canada Milkvetch. We don't want to destroy the latter when we're after the former!
The seedpods of Canada Milkvetch
are unmistakeable.

In maturity, the species are easy to tell apart.

 But when they first come up, either species can be erect or sprawling, and both have similarly shaped leaves with odd-numbered leaflets.
Canada Milkvetch Leaf
Crown Vetch Leaves
(Plant Bug, Lygus sp., upper left)

To the rescue:  Mike Haddock's marvelous book, Kansas Wildflowers & Weeds.   From his book I learned that Canada Milkvetch, unlike Crown Vetch, has tiny hairs pressed into the surface of the leaflets.
Under magnification, the tiny hairs are visible on the leaflets of Canada Milkvetch.

At first I couldn't see this feature with the naked eye--but now that I have photographed the leaves of both species, and magnified the photos, I know what to look for.

Now that I have seen them in photos,  I can see those hairs in the field, even with eyes unaided.

Thank you, Mike!

Your book is helping the native plants re-take the field.