31 August 2009

Festival Celebrates Tallgrass Prairie of Nebraska

The second annual Prairie Festival sponsored by the Audubon Society of Omaha was held at their prairie preserve on Sunday, August 30th.

Well attended, several hikes were taken, led by ASO members describing different features of the ca. 13-acre prairie located north of Omaha. A new, large metal sign identifying the property had been installed in time for the festival.

During one of the hikes, Glenn Pollock talked about prairies and their natural values. Eleven people participated. One important topic was the value of grasslands in capturing and storing carbon underground. He indicated that newly established grasslands were especially beneficial in sequestering carbon. Tidbits on the natural history of different plants was also a prominent part of this activity.

Participants in the "talk on prairies" hike led by Glenn Pollock, in the green cap in the center of the group. Note on the right side of the view, on the opposite side of the fence, the extensive lawn mown by the neighbor. What a contrast in habitat for flora and fauna.

Participants in the bird hike, led by Clem Klaphake, with the beard on the left side of the group.

Pollock has been involved for many years in the management of the ASO prairie preserve. Burning is the predominant tool used, but there has also been some removal of invasive cedar trees along the border fence. The extent of the grass habitat has been increased by establishing typical prairie plants via seeding of formed crop land.

Pollock would like to introduce pocket gophers and ground squirrels to help increase the prairie diversity.

Clem Klaphake led the first bird hike. Although the extent of birds was limited in the prairie due to the late time of the season, many of the species were associated with the woody habitat around the grassland.

There were about 16 species of birds noted.

Typical breeding season residents are the Dickcissel and Common Yellowthroat, Klaphake said. In the two years he has been keeping track of the area birds, he has compiled a list of about 45 species.

The Audubon group has owned this relict-prairie for about 11-12 years, Pollock said, and the tract also includes a couple of acres of property owned by the adjacent landowner, which are also managed to provide grassland habitat.

Canada Goldenrod among the prairie grasses, with soldier beetles doing their thing.

A seedy head of indian-grass against an August sky.

It was a beautiful day to be among the tall grass and other flora of this protected bit of native prairie. The cookies were tasty and the lemonade especially refreshing under cerulean skies with mingling puffy clouds.

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