Friday, May 1, 2009

Do You Believe?...

Do you believe in faeries? Peter Pan did...and also the magical and mystical world that surrounds them.

                                                 I like faeries.

Faeries bring a certain charm to your yard and garden. This year I have started a faerie garden in an open area of the patio garden. I have started with a shelter among some of the shade plants that I have already established. In the little shelter house I placed several feathers from a migrating snow goose, clean and white, so the fairy folk have a soft and comfy place to sleep if they so desire. 

                            This is the beginning of my faerie garden.

Yesterday  I was out on the back patio enjoying a warm spring evening and I happened to look down beside me. No, it wasn't a fairy but I believe a fairy had been there recently! There was a morel mushroom growing right out from the brick patio. We had never had morels in our yard before and WHY would it grow there. If you happen to be from Iowa, you know what a delicacy the morel is. In fact, these mushrooms can fetch a good $42.00 per pound! 

I believe the faeries left this morsel as a gift in return for the shelter and bed. I brought the three and a half inch morel in the house, cleaned it, dipped it in egg and cracker crumbs and fried it in butter. What a treat. 

I picked a few violets and a sprig of lily of the valley as a bouquet for the wee folk. I also left them a small piece of homemade bread in return for the mushroom.  By the way, the bread was gone by morning. Must have been the faeries.

I'll keep you posted on the progress!
Have a great day,
Prairie Clover


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Spring Wildflowers!

Today was spent leading 2nd graders on a two hour hike at Indian Creek Nature Center which was a really fun time. Those kids were so observant and found so many things along the trails.  I had a great time! Hmmm...wonder why everything is underlined in blue???

Well, once the hike was over I wasn't ready to go back home. Spent another couple hours wandering the hills and trails. I just can't get enough of the woods in the spring and as promised...MORE WILDFLOWERS!

                                                                  ?Wood Anemone?

 Wild Ginger- notice the maroon colored blossom that lies on the ground. This plant is        pollinated by beetles and other crawly bugs.

                                                                      Virginia Bluebells

                                             Trillium or Toadshade-One of my favorites!

Enjoy the spring. There is so much out there!
Prairie Clover

Friday, April 24, 2009

Check these "beauties" out!

It was an unusually warm spring day today. In fact, it got up to 87 degrees! Well, to celebrate the warmth, I went for a walk up and around the hills and trails of Indian Creek Nature Center.

One thing I LOVE to do is search for woodland wildflowers in the spring. This is what I happened upon today...
Spring Beauties!

Dutchman's Breeches to left and more spring beauties to right.

                                                              Bloodroot in bloom

Rue Amemone

More to come...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Who has been Lapping the Sap?!

I swear this isn't a blog on birds. Birds just keep coming up this spring!

While sitting in my living room  staring out the front window, I noticed what I thought was a Hairy Woodpecker working on the maple tree out front. Why was he spending so much time checking out that trunk? Why was I spending so much time watching him?

I picked up the binoculars to get a better look. That's not a run of the mill woodpecker, it's a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker! First time I've seen one of those here. April is the month they migrate through Iowa on their way to the upper Great Lakes area and Canada to spend the summer breeding and doing what they do.

The bird was working on drilling holes into the Maple tree to release the sap. Notice the picture I took of our tree. The sapsucker drills holes in a neat line about halfway up the tree. The tree truck is wet with sap. Many other birds were taking advantage of the sap flow. There were lots of sparrows, a nuthatch or two, starlings and a couple cardinals visiting that tree today. 

Later in the afternoon I noticed TWO yellow-bellied sapsuckers. A male and a female. Another story with a romantic ending!

Have a Great Day!
Prairie Clover

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Guess what... another bird adventure!

This evening my dear husband, "Joe Dirt", and I ventured out to Squaw Creek Park to possibly witness the mating flight/dance of the American Woodcock. (He is so patient with me) The sun was setting and the full moon rising. It was a cool clear evening, perfect conditions for love. We sat in the car listening,waiting, listening, waiting, listening, waiting. Then I heard it! Peent...peent....peent, every two seconds or so. Peent is a word to describe a sound that is impossible to describe. After several peents, there is a pause. This is when the male woodcock flies up into the air, 230-328ft, in widening spirals then falls back down in a zig-zag fashion while making a totally different twittery sound which I cannot even try to describe.

  After he silently hits the ground, hopefully near his lady friend, he resumes his unusual woodcock song, peent....peent....peent.  Courtship, ain't it beautiful?

Isn't he an unusually interesting bird?  The American Woodcock,  also referred to as a timberdoodle, makes good use of camouflage to protect himself from predators.  And how about that beak? A most useful tool I would say for poking around looking for earthworms and insect larvae to eat. Yum!

Oh, by the way, Joe Dirt didn't hear or see any of it. Too many years playing loud music. He sure missed out tonight!

Have a great day!
Prairie Clover

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sandhill Cranes on the Platte

Who needs white sand beaches, sunshine, margaritas and waiters tending to your every need.

Spring Break to me means a trip to Nebraska for the Sandhill Crane migration. It's also a great excuse to visit my parents in Grand Island.

I know what you're thinking...Cancun vs. Nebraska. Hmmm. That Prairie Clover must be daft!

The Sandhill Crane is a most amazing bird and the annual migration event is something every bird enthusiast should witness at least once. In fact, if there was a list of the 7 wonders of the (bird) world, this would be listed on it.

The Sandhill Crane, Grus Canadensis is a fairly large wading bird. Its height, 3-4 feet with a wingspan of 6 feet. Color is gray with some rusty colored areas and has a bright red patch on its forehead. This bird typically lays 2 eggs per year though only one chick usually survives. They mate for life and love to dance. Isn't that romantic?

Can you see them dance? Look closely. You may need to get a magnifying glass...

Migration time occurs during the month of March in Nebraska. These birds spend the winter months in the southern United States and northern Mexico probably enjoying the sunshine, beaches and the margaritas I previously mentioned in my post. When  the season changes and it's time to migrate, they make their yearly trek to Canada, Alaska and even as far as Siberia. The migration pathway resembles an hourglass shape with the skinniest area being that stop-over spot on the Platte River in central Nebraska. As many as 650,000 birds pass through an area of 20-30 miles wide from Grand Island, NE to Kearney, NE.

Imagine watching thousands of Sandhill Cranes gather on the Platte River . It truly is amazing.

Oh, I almost forgot...When out and about scouting for birds, my Mom and I happened upon this skunk. Get out your magnifying glass again! Look in center of the picture.

Have a great day!
Prairie Clover 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Who Cooks for You...Who cooks for You All...

Oh my! What was that racket the other morning at the crack of dawn??? It was the owls! It was the owls!

The Barred Owl is one of the most common species of owls in our area. They are medium sized, gray-brown streaked with white horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly. They are round-headed with a whitish/brown facial disk with dark brown trim. An unusual trait but quite endearing are their dark brown eyes. I am always a sucker for brown eyes. Hehe. The females are larger than the males.

This is the time of year when the Barred Owls nest! They are among the first nesting birds of the year. Yes! Spring is on the way.  

Owls have so many cool adaptations that make them a totally unique bird.
  • Owls can rotate their heads three-quarters of the way around!  They are unable to move their eyes from side to side but are fixed in the sockets. Those eyes are huge and capable of gathering a lot of light from the most dimmest sources. Most beneficial for their nocturnal habits.
  • Owls are capable of "silent flight". The wings are large and have fringed edges so air passes through silently during flight. This makes the owls job much easier when hunting prey.  Sneaky birds.
  • Owls are predators. They catch, kill and eat other animals in order to survive. If their prey is small enough they are able to swallow it whole otherwise they rip and tear it up with their powerful talons and beak and swallow it in chunks. The bird then digests the good stuff and expells the rest in the form of a pellet. A pellet is a kind of hairball. Most often there is a complete skeleton  inside. What a fun thing it is to dissect an owl pellet and try to ID the bones!
  • Owls have the best hearing of all birds. Their ears are located on the sides of their heads and hidden by feathers. The shape of the face and location of ears enable the bird to pick up sound waves at incredible levels. They can detect a mouse or vole as it moves under the snow or in the leaves as it perches way up in a nearby tree. 

"And if anyone knows anything about anything, it's Owl who knows something about something..."