Green Heron

Green Heron

We just returned from a 5-mile walk here at the Prairie Garden Trust. With the perfect Spring weather there are many wildflowers and birds to see.

We counted 48 different types of birds this morning including our first Green Heron of the year.

Here is a list of what we saw today:
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Bobwhite
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot (Red-shielded)
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Louisiana Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Fox Sparrow (Red)
Dark-eyed Junco
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

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More Invasive Exotics

Bush Honeysuckle

Despite years of working hard to find and destroy invasive exotic plants at the PGT, their variety and numbers are increasing.

An ideal time to find exotics is now; before native plants green up. For the past month I’ve been spending 2-3 hours every day hiking over our 600-acres looking for these intrusive plants.

It’s clear that the influx of invasive exotics is increasing.

Here is a list of some of the species we killed today:
1. Bush Honeysuckle – rapidly increasing
2. Autumn Olive
3. Multiflora Rose
4. Callery Pear
5. Japanese Honeysuckle vine
6. Wintercreeper vine
7. Privet

The PGT spends about $40,000/year to control invasive exotics. It looks like we will have to increase our spending if we are going to keep up.

The attached picture is a Bush Honeysuckle. They have me more concerned than anything else.

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Bluebells Along Spring Streams

Bluebells bloom today along the stream flowing with recent rains. It’s so welcome to see their color against the fresh April green suddenly emerging everywhere.

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New Display Helps You Explore

We just put up the new map display on the porch at the PGT Center, along with the map brochures. In a few weeks we hope to install the new wayfinding signs along the trails, too. Then it should be even easier to explore the great diversity of places here.

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Spring Wildflowers

Bird’s-foot Violet, Viola pedata

We found Bird’s-foot violets blooming along the ridge trail above Hillers Creek this morning. Many other kinds of wildflowers can be found in the woods now. Once the trees leaf out in early May the place to find wildflowers shifts from the woods to the prairies, lakes and ponds.

The Bird’s-foot violet (aka Viola pedata) gets it’s name from the bird foot-like appearance of it’s leaves. It’s very different than that typical heart-shaped leaves of other violets.

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American Woodcock on nest

American Woodcock on nest

Matt and I were killing invasive-exotic plants this morning around the old Calwell Pottery. The underground kilns of the pottery were very active in the 1830s but it has long been abandoned and is now overgrown with brush.

This brush is where I found the nest and eggs of a Woodcock yesterday. Matt wanted to see the nest so I approached very slowly. I could see the bird on the nest. Kneeling I carefully nudged forward and was able to get this snap of the bird on the nest with my iPhone; I was about a foot away from the bird.

After I got the picture I backed away and the bird stayed on the nest. I’ll leave it alone now.

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American Woodcock nest with eggs

Scolopax minor

American Woodcock Nest & Eggs

I startled a woodcock this afternoon as I was taking a walk with Lorna. As I stepped off the path to mark a multiflora rose a woodcock catapulted up into the air right in front of me. That alerted me about the possibility of a nest so I looked carefully and found the camouflaged nest with 4 eggs; each about 1.5-inches long. The nest was just a shallow depression in the brush.

I backed out carefully after taking this snapshot with my iPhone

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New PGT Map


Lorna and Dale have just put up a new interactive map on the PGT Website.

They’s also created a handout with the map on it. It’s at the printers now and should be ready in a few weeks.

With the new map and soon to be added metal signs it should be easier to find your way around the Prairie Garden Trust.

Please come out and enjoy a walk on the property.

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Early Spring Birds

Eastern Phoebe

Having a week with temperatures in the 70s is a treat and it’s bringing the birds back. Today we got a good look at an Eastern Phoebe. This is about a month earlier than I’m used to seeing them.

Last night at sunset we enjoyed hearing Woodcock’s giving their buzzy peent call and then launching up for their aerial mating display. From the PGT Center we must have heard at least 12 Woodcock all around us.

In the past week we’ve observed that each body of water at the PGT is now patrolled by Red-winged blackbirds.

We’ve also seen small flocks of Field Sparrows. They are the most common sparrow here in summer but I don’t remember ever seeing them in February.

Here is a list of the 30 different species we saw on the walk this morning:
40 Snow Goose (flying north)
2 Canada Goose
1 Red-tailed Hawk
3 Killdeer
12 American Woodcock
5 Mourning Dove
8 Red-bellied Woodpecker
3 Downy Woodpecker
2 Northern Flicker
1 American Kestrel
1 Eastern Phoebe – shown in the picture
12 Blue Jay
6 American Crow
8 Black-capped Chickadee
10 Tufted Titmouse
5 White-breasted Nuthatch
8 Carolina Wren
21 Eastern Bluebird – checking out their houses
5 American Robin
1 Northern Mockingbird
3 European Starling
1 American Tree Sparrow
15 Field Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
29 Dark-eyed Junco
24 Song Sparrow
12 Northern Cardinal
10 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Eastern Meadowlark
16 American Goldfinch

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No Fruits and Nuts

Wild Persimon, Diospyros virginiana

Wild Persimon, Diospyros virginiana

Wild fruits and nuts are hard to find at the PGT this Fall.
Could hail cause a widespread crop failure?
Some of the missing wildlife foods are:
Wild Persimmon (shown in the picture)
Acorns (several species)
Hickory Nuts
Osage Orange balls
Wild Plum
Sweet Gum
Eastern Red Cedar

Lorna and I have been trying to understand the unusual lack of Fall food over the 600-acres here at the Prairie Garden Trust. It was a perfect growing year with plenty of moisture and no late frosts. However, we did have one bad hail storm right when the leaves were popping out in the early Spring. We think that the trees put energy into replacing the damaged leaves instead of making fruit.

It will be interesting to see how this lack of fruit will impact the animals. Many birds and mammals depend on acorns. Because hail storms typically only occur in small areas perhaps the animals can find food on neighboring properties.

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