Monday, May 19, 2008

YANKTON clean-up

A Glade on goat island, and (below) lover tracks in the sand. See down for yellow pucon- an important flower found on local glades.

It wasnt until we hit Sioux city that the clouds were strong enough to shade the sun. It began to rain on Thurs. as we traveled west and entered the town of Ponca, NE; by the time we got off of Hwy 12 it poured. I was one of four in the van- we were headed to Goat island on the Mighty Mo to meet the rest of the river relief crew. A long, dark cloud came over them rolling green hills on our Nebraska side of the river. We sped down the pink gravel road towards what would be a violent collision with the dark slug above and ahead of us. A small wall cloud dropped from the backside of the cloud, but didnt look too threatening. It rained harder and began to hail on the long trip down the gravel road. The hail beat the van- it was between pea and dime size and only lasted a few seconds. We reached the boat ramp and Vicki R within a few minutes
Kingbird- one of hundreds around the camp

The MO River Relief drove from Columbia and KC to Yankton, SD on thursday and friday. We camped on Goat Island and worked there on friday. Sat. we woke early and helped in the river clean-up hosted by the small city of Yankton. It lasted only a few hours, but we sure pulled a lot of trash. There were not so many bottles and pieces of litter as there were major dumps. I worked with several River Relief volunteers and a handful of others to put a dent in a buried car dump.

The river is incredibly wide and there is little in the way of mud- at least what we're used to. It is all sandbars and gravelbars... lots of old bones and fossils! Morel season is at it's peak up there and our group picked hundreds. We ate them in eggs for breakfast, for dinner and fried everywhere in between!
The mighty Mo is shallow- sandbars made navigating the river difficult and there was not a trip without putting the prop in the bed of the river. I was able to walk across the river- from the island to SD without sinking past my theighs. It is a river I could only imagine to exist!
Trees, sandbars, and even a sunk steamboat composed the river bed- it couldve been a mile from the NE side to the SD shore!
Piping plovers and Least turns nested on the head of our island, but came to visit the camp's beach frequently. We had a kick-ass thunderstorm and myself and another, Vicki R., even got caught in a short, nasty, mid-night one on the water. Whip-poor-wills and all sorts of toads and frogs sung at night- especially at dawn. their familiar call was good to hear- though it became an annoyance for some who were not able to appreciate it as us city folk did. Piping plovers and Least turns nested on the head of our island, but came to visit the camp's beach frequently. We had a kick-ass thunderstorm and myself and another, Vicki R., even got caught in a short, nasty, mid-night one on the water; many slept in puddles. Whip-poor-wills and all sorts of toads and frogs sung at night- especially at dawn. their familiar call was good to hear- though it became an annoyance for some who were not able to appreciate it as us city folk did.
On friday we (the RR) met with some fish and wildlife guys and did a smal clean-up on the island.
The story goes: The island was not included when they maped out NE and SD- it is in the US, but does not officially belong to either surrounding state. It was not used until the 1930's when a rancher boated equiptment and cattle onto the island. He built two windmills, a corral, a barn and miles of fence. Well, the cattle all died and the operation was abandon. Since then, poeple have been illegally claiming property on the island and building small camps.

I even found a cabin wih bunks, lawn chairs, a boat pad and all on the southern tip of the island!

We removed the corral and as much barbed wire as we could, a tiny camper/trailer, a giant steel tub for the windmill, seven grills and other assorted camp suff. In addition, we maped and GPSed the windmills, barn, some fencing and that cabin for removal at a later date. The goal is to remove the windmills so they could be saved.COOL!

We also discussed sending folks back up to the island to remove or thin some of the invasive cedar thickets on the island. I volunteered.

A nice sunrise on Saturday gave way to a fast, exciting, and effective clean up. We had a good number of volunteers- the amount of trash is nothing compared to KC or Columia.

the shore was spotted with small litter like cups and bottles, and there were two or three small car dumps and a dead dock in the city of yankton, but they came fairly easily wih all of our able volunteers. We loaded up a dump of scrap and one of trash and ate. Yankton had a handful of inmates helping load the trash. It seemed like they enjoyed it. A homeowner helps load a busted dock from his property. A foxsnake stares into my camera.
After the volunteers had left, we loaded boats to clean them. Bill, John and I were dropped off on a gravel bar after an exciting encounter with an unknown snake. At th boat ramp we witnessed the large, bull-snake looking creature, reach shore after swimming from the river. I harrassed the snake for a second and took its picture.. sure was a pissy guy! he struck at me several times before I chased him into the river to sae him from oncoming atvs.

On the gravel bar, we found piles of bones- from deer, bison, and other prehistoric critters.
Found some cool vertibra, a coupla jaws, handfuls of teeth and all sorts of other body parts.

One last night and we packed it up in the morn. .. It was an awsome one!
Fossils on beach north of yankton.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

house cleaning

pawpaw flower below blue-river glades

Ive been to the usual places in South KC- filled the memory crds over the past week or so and am emptying them in preparation for my coming trip with MO river relief.
in bloom:
false garlic
sweet cicely
Squaw weed
and something called a hispid buttercup I had to look up-

Owl-eyed click beetle HUGE- the beetle meausred about 1.25in and emerged from some wood I was splitting. ve found them on J smith and in Swope park before-we are on the very edge of their range.

HISPID buttercup- a new species for me- I found it near the river in Minor Park

COLUMBINE is in full bloom throughout Swope park... these flowers were all at Blue river glades this morning. they scale the limestone and need very little dirt. Bottom one is cool- columbine is ofen seen growing with Virginia creeper.

Monday, May 12, 2008


yesterday at dusk- lots of hyacinth, columbine, verbena and squaw weed- the pucoons and sorrel are still about, but are going quickly. Onions have their buds out and Im seeing more butterflies and dragonflies.
The glades were spectacular, but the most exciting part of the trip was driving down BLue River rd. A HUGE black thing flew over the road. I thought vulture, but it way way too slow and round... it was a giant turkey. Ive seen them fly before, but this one seemed so awkward and out of place in the air.

It fell of the bluff above the road and flapped harshly until it found a tree of the river's side... cool!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

JSmith- east

I visited the east prarie today just to see what it was looking like. I entered near the electrical station and paced it to see what was in bloom...
.. .I was not disapointed: the list of species is not anywhere near as impressive as the number of blooms that are carpeting the prairie. The compass plant is coming up!

rose verbena
orange puccoon
blue-eyed grass
wild strawberry
Prairie Violet
Squaw weed
violet and yellow sorrels

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Rock point

Ive visited the glades several times since my last post about them- just haven't had alot of time to sort photos.

They are really spectacular right now- everything from the little ink sorrels and spring beauties to columbine, pucoons and the Hyacinth are blooming. I have found a different species of pucoon- one that I was not familiar with until I looked it up. It sits on the bend of the second glade- on the left side of the trail. YELLOW PUCOON.
It can be told from the Orange (hoary) pucoon by the teeth on the edge of each pedal and the bright yellow colour. The orange pucoon is, well, orange and does not have obvious teeth. See the last glades post I did for the area to find the orange Pucoon.

I saw a skink in the trail and stopped. I watched him hop onto a log and watch me. I got low and inched toward him until I was only a few feet away- cant believe he did not run! He only put his head low to the log when I got closer and took this pose. Also found an american toad and an ancient three-toed box turtle. A scale was missing from his back and the bone shell was bleached white. His face was wrinkled and his beak worn- with a little imagination he couldve resembled a weathers old man. On the Hogan side of the great divide is a patch of Hyacinth and the bluff below it is dotted with red columbine flowers. The squaw-weed is in full bloom, as is the verbena- the glades are very colorful and the yellows, pinks, oranges and reds are a great site.

Saturday's planting was a success- couldnt have asked for better weather!! RPG had ~20 volunteers, Jsmith had more like 60 !
Lots of folks had lots of fun and we planted many flats of natives.