Kaw Valley Almanac
this week’s Almanac
Some people get confused between poison ivy and virginia creeper this time of year because their leaves both turn red. But virginia creeper has blue berries; poison ivy’s are white.
The tallgrass prairie can be a great place to observe striking patterns in the dormant grasses and forbs, including the abstract swirls found in this patch of eastern gamagrass.
Deer have begun shedding their antlers. This might be a good week to walk the woods looking for them, before rodents start chewing on them for the calcium.
Super Bowl sunset: The sky tipped us off who it was rooting for by flashing Kansas City’s colors right before the game began. Several flocks of geese honked in their support, too!
You can identify many more prairie plants than you might suspect by their leaves. Wild indigo, featured in this photo, keeps its leaves on all winter long.
This bald eagle was photographed hanging out in a cottonwood tree below the Bowersock Dam that is located on the Kaw River in Lawrence. Eagles overwinter up and down the Kaw and Missouri Rivers, and quite a few of them now make their nests in Kansas.
Even though the snow was short-lived most places, it can record much animal activity that would otherwise go unseen. See if you can figure out which tracks were made by birds and which by mice.
Even though the ground is damp on the surface in may areas, this swale at the Wakarusa wetlands shows shrunken pools with brown dirt shores, as drought conditions persist. This week’s rains, if you get some, will provide a chance to see fresh animal tracks along the receded muddy shoreline.
Sycamores are white barked and easy to spot lining creeks, where this water-loving tree likes to grow. Another way to enjoy them is to see their smooth round seed balls that stay on the trees all winter long. They persist into the spring, when they can be pulled off and thrown at a wall, exploding into seeds.
This milkweed pod had most of its seeds float away to points unknown, save 5 little seeds which, bereft of the fluff, or coma, will likely slip to the ground near this plant, perhaps to grow there.
Look closely and see some of the thousands of snow geese who flew west along the Kaw River Valley west of Topeka last week ahead of the snows and wind. Geese can read the weather pretty darn well.
With super cold, snowy, windy conditions predicted this week, be sure to help overwintering songbirds survive by putting out plenty of bird seed. Don’t be surprised if you live in the country if wild turkeys, opossums and even a deer or two show up to grab a little snack to stay warm, too.
Much of the state has experienced foggy weather of late, without much precipitation.
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.