Kaw Valley Almanac
this week’s Almanac
The beautiful blue petals of the gentian are gracing some prairies this time of year.
This female cardinal looks like she is eyeing how much bird seed is left in the feeder, a little concerned about how little is left. Birds eat a lot more seed in cold temperatures as metabolism increases and alternative food sources diminish.
This eastern gamagrass provides a native grass burst to mirror fireworks overhead as a way to bring in the new year. The calendar year is a human construct recognized by no other life forms, but happy new year anyway!
The winter solstice is on Tuesday; expect 14 1/2 hours between sunset Tuesday and sunrise Wednesday morning. In contrast, summer solstice nights last just a little more than 9 hours.
Last week, the calm water reflected the sunset and leafless trees just west of the Baker Wetlands a few minutes after sunset. This week promises to be much windier, with high fire danger and potentially severe weather midweek.
This heron is hanging out on a cottonwood branch at the Baker Wetlands near the Wakarusa River in the fading twilight. The sun sets at 4:59 p.m. all this week, the earliest sunsets of the year.
With a shrinking, waning moon and fair skies predicted for much of the week, this might be a very good time to observe the night sky.
This greenish-tinged limestone is full of fossils, including a short seven-segment section of a crinoid stalk, a plant that was quite prolific in oceans where Kansas is now some 250 million years ago.
Nov. 17 is the peak day for deer-car accidents, with some 700 of the 10,000 annual collisions in Kansas occurring on that day. Drive carefully, especially around dawn and dusk.
If you are a daytime person, find a sweet gum tree like this one and watch the star-shaped leaves falling to the ground this week.
With recent rains, puffball mushrooms have been popping up. These join a surprising variety of other fall mushrooms including chanterelles, pleurotis, lion’s mane and hen of the woods.
This time of year can provide incredibly lush landscape photos as the trees become more colorful by the day. But beware — deer-vehicle collisions peak soon.
Deer activity is starting to increase with the beginning of rutting season. Drive carefully, especially after sunset and before sunrise when deer are most active.
This still vibrant prairie or downy gentian is a good reason to continue to walk an area prairie, even as sunflowers and goldenrods finish up. The warm season grasses will begin turning color just like the trees this week.
Asters come in a variety of colors, and their name is derived from the Latin and Greek word for “star.” This will be a good week to observe both the floral and celestial asters — fall constellations, Jupiter, and Saturn.
The purple silky asters and the yellow blossoms of the Great Plains goldenrod await you at the Prairie Park Nature Center prairie, located southeast of 27th and Harper in Lawrence.