Kaw Valley Almanac
this week’s Almanac
Winter is full of unexpected opportunities for observing changes and scenes that you will never see in other seasons. Dress warmly and start looking around you!
Poison ivy is easy to identify even after the leaves have fallen, distinguishable from other vines by the white berries, which are a much sought after food by many birds. Don’t try them, though: poison ivy berries will give you a rash!
Milkweed seed is dispersed to the wind by tufts of hair called “floss.” During World War II, more than a million lifejackets were stuffed with the floss for soldiers, and it has also been used for coat insulation.
These blackbirds are taking off after the sun has slipped below the horizon, having collected in this tree for at least an hour. It’s not uncommon to find flocks gathering in the same tree or stretch of powerline day after day, even year after year.
Clear skies and trees cleared of their leaves after recent rains make it easier to spot migratory geese and other birds either passing through or leaving. Strong southerly winds may back them up as they wait for north winds to carry them south with less energy expended.
As prairies fade at the end of the season, there are still some colors to be found, such as the lingering goldenrod in the upper right hand corner. Taking photos from above will also reveal the incredibly varied textures and beautiful shapes lying within.
With most bodies of water well below normal, shorelines have become pathways well worth exploring.
The sycamore leaves are dropping away, revealing the white barked limbs that will make them easy to spot in the winter. Their white figures typically line creek and river beds; look for the large nests built by herons in the biggest trees.
With the continuing drought, tree colors seem muted as is evidenced by the trees in the background; however, the sumac at Prairie Park Nature Center didn’t get the memo! Colors or not, this coming weekend is Baldwin City’s Maple Leaf Festival — check it out and take a walk with a friend, too.
Some goldenrods are still blooming, attracting a northern paper wasp on the right. These wasps are omnivores and this one clearly likes carbohydrates!
Asters of many color have begun to bloom across the state, including these purple New England asters, which also bloom as far west as the Plains states and as far south as Mississippi.
Monarch migration is in full swing, though south winds this past week have made it difficult to move ahead. This monarch was finding refuge in some goldenrod.
This gayfeather/blazing star can be found blooming into October. Its flowers attract many types of bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds, and other birds like its seeds in the winter.
Ashy sunflowers continue blooming this week. They are shorter perennial sunflowers with lighter green leaves than many other sunflowers.
Tall thistles are in the middle of their blooming season, and if you watch a fresh flower for any length of time, you will see any number of pollinators coming to check out their sweetness.
Walking sticks are around and about, as are praying mantises, which are superficially similar. Praying mantises blend in to the vegetation to catch unsuspecting prey, while walking sticks blend in so they don’t become prey.