The wonder of wildflowers and Wildflower Week
This is the second and last weekend of Nebraska Wildflower Week. The annual celebration takes place during the first week of June, bookended by weekends, running from the Friday closest to June 1 – which sometimes falls in May – through the next Sunday. This year it runs June 1-10.
I’d encourage everyone to get out and look at some wildflowers this weekend. You don’t have to travel far; in fact, you can find a wide variety of wildflowers blooming on waste ground right in your own town. If you can find some native prairie to visit, so much the better, but as I said it’s not completely necessary.
If you do go out, take along a field guide to prairie plants if you have one. Grassland Plants of South Dakota and the Northern Great Plains, by Johnson and Larson, is a good one. It includes nice color pictures of blooming wildflowers and offers a wealth of information on most of the prairie grasses, forbs (wildflowers), and shrubs you will find.
Lacking a field guide, use your phone or a pocket digital camera to take pictures. Later on, you can download and search the internet to discover the names of the treasures you’ve found. There are also wildflower apps available for your phone. I’ve had little luck with these myself, but your luck might be better than mine.
If you happen to be in the Kimball area today (Friday), tomorrow, or Sunday and would like to take a native prairie wildflower tour on the EJE Ranch, call or text me at (308) 241-0878 or shoot me an email at [email protected]
On Tuesday I hiked out on a parcel we call the South Googie, which is a thousand acres of prairie just south of Kimball. I-80 runs right through the middle of it. The landscape is broken by a couple of major north-south running canyons, and I started my hike in the easternmost one. It was quite warm, being one of the (if not the) first 90-plus degree day of the year. The canyon is choked with hardy native forbs, most of which are in bloom just now. There are also abundant shrubs such as current, chokecherry, and sumac. Those are mostly done blooming for the year but are setting lots of fruit.
Along the way I stopped to check on a Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) nest I discovered a couple of weeks ago. When I last checked a few days ago the clutch of eggs was just hatching. Today there were several chicks in the nest along with a lone unhatched egg. The male and female phoebes who are raising the brood kept a close watch on me as I scrambled up to their nest located in an overhang on the canyon wall.
Continuing my hike, I crossed under the interstate and made my way west. The prairie was alive with the color of wildflowers. Hiking up and down the many slopes along my path was a good workout, and the day’s late-spring heat was eased by a light westerly breeze. There was no shortage of mosquitoes, but a liberal application of insect repellent kept them nicely at bay.
After a mile or so I came to a second interstate underpass and crossed back to the south side of I-80. This underpass – a 7x4 foot concrete tunnel, really – was home to a large population of nesting barn or cliff swallows. The floor of the underpass was littered with discarded egg shells and the mud-construction nests were filled with peeping baby swallows.
I made my way back to my pickup and notched up another nice, vigorous four-mile hike. All in all, it was a brilliant way to spend a couple of hours on a hot, early June day. Give me a shout if you’d like to share the experience.