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Afield and Afloat

Teeming with Turkeys

Merriam's Wild Turkey

Nebraskans have become accustomed to seeing wild turkeys from border to border but it has not always been that way. When I was growing up in southwestern Nebraska in the 1970s and ‘80s, it was much more of a rarity to see them. Similar to many wildlife species, wild turkeys are native to Nebraska but factors related to Euro-American settlement wiped them out of the state in the early 1900s. Along with a lot of other wildlife, though, turkeys have …

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The dance of the sharptail

Sharp-tailed grouse

If you travel far at all on many of our dirt roads, you have a good chance of a seeing one or more sharp-tailed grouse – that is, if you can pick them out with their brown, black and buff camouflaged bodies. Sharptails, popular game birds in Nebraska, are at home on much our landscape, enjoying a mix of open grassland with some trees and shrubs. This is certainly the time of year that grouse are most fun to watch. …

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Battling the invasives

Phragmites

Those of you who have been to Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area south of Rushville lately have surely noticed the signs warning you about an invader that has taken up residence in the water. For those of you who have not, no, the Walgren Lake Monster of local legend has not moved east — as far as we know. The culprit is curly leaf pondweed – a plant that forms dense stands over large areas, crowding out other species, restricting …

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Bighorn sheep capture

When I received the call from my co-worker, Justin Haag, about coming to the Panhandle to take photos of the bighorn sheep capture, I was more than ecstatic. I had always wanted to see how this process takes place and get close to the sheep. Along with that, who doesn’t want to travel to one of the most beautiful areas of Nebraska, the wildcat Hills and Pine Ridge. Not knowing what to expect, I went out to watch the crew …

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Women on ice – a Beyond BOW adventure

The Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program recently hosted a Beyond BOW ice fishing event at the Valentine Refuge Lakes. With good ice throughout the state it was the perfect time to teach women about the equipment and techniques of ice fishing. During this Beyond BOW, women that wanted to learn how to ice fish or get more insight of the sport signed up to experience something new where they could learn together. Emails of what to bring were sent out …

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Goosing for the future down by Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock and goose pit

The calendar tells me that today is World Wetlands Day so it seems appropriate to thank those who work to conserve the lands that waterfowl and so many other species depend upon for survival. Throughout the world, conservation-minded volunteers devote time and resources toward the preservation of wildlife and the lands they inhabit. Many of them channel their energy through conservation organizations, of which the recognized leader for wetlands is Ducks Unlimited. One such person is Larry Olson of Crawford, …

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Panhandle’s natural beauty abundant in 2017

Concealed beneath a grass blind as the sun rises. Camping beneath a star-filled sky on a rocky ridge. Trekking with snowshoes into a forest blanketed by white. Soaring above the buttes while riding shotgun in a Cessna. Stirring up dust with a four-wheel drive on winding backroads. Those are just some of the many ways I witnessed beauty of the western Nebraska with camera in hand during 2017. A look back at the nature images I post to Facebook, Instagram …

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A partridge for the holidays

Gray partridge

As the “12 Days of Christmas” nears, it seems fitting to pay tribute to the gift most often mentioned in the familiar tune of that same name. That, of course, would be the partridge that “my true love sent to me” over and over again. While traveling a dirt road in northern Sheridan County in early December, I encountered the first partridge I have ever seen in the wild. I had heard of the gray partridge (Perdix perdix) residing in …

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The turtle — a master of wintering

Painted turtle

Some of the most common wildlife have the most magnificent capabilities. Painted turtles basking on a log is a familiar scene at ponds throughout Nebraska and much of the United States during summer months. Where, though, do those turtles go when temperatures drop and a heavy sheet of ice surrounds that log and covers that pond from shore to shore? This article provides some interesting information about how painted turtles, snapping turtles and other species of shelled reptiles survive the …

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A Small Dose of Darkness at Bighorn

I will not count it among easiest photo assignments I have had. Mother Nature says, “Hey, I’m going to give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with challenging lighting situations and because you’re a nature photographer everyone is going to expect you to get great images. You can have from a few seconds to 2½ minutes to get your shot, depending on the spot you choose within this narrow strip through the middle of Nebraska. I may or may not send clouds. …

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