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Flora & Fauna

Nebraska’s Third Black Vulture

By Joel Jorgensen Spring is a period when many birds are on the move. This means it is a great time of year for birders to be on the lookout for rarities or vagrants. A rarity is a bird that usually appears somewhere outside of its normal range. Finding a rarity sometimes requires special effort, but other times, it’s just luck. On April 26, birder and photographer Steve Kruse discovered a vulture on the ground at Merganser Recreation Area in …

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What Is Snake Venom?

By Monica Macoubrie, Wildlife Education Specialist As an outdoor educator, I hear a lot of discussion about the “poisonous” snakes in Nebraska. Actually, the correct term is venomous snakes, not poisonous. Although both poison and venom can cause death or serious impairment to the function of organs and/or living tissues, these two terms cannot be used interchangeably: Poisons are toxins that are ingested or inhaled, such as a plant or substance; whereas venom is a toxin that is injected, most …

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Bear With Me a Moment

By Roger Welsch Maybe it’s just a habit of old romantics like me, but I like to think that sooner or later, even the most unimaginative Nebraskan must wonder — maybe while watching an old movie or cruising along on Interstate 80 — what these Plains must have been like before the white man came. We know that many things have changed. The herds of bison that stopped trains for hours and the clouds of passenger pigeons that darkened the …

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Fun to pick, good to eat; mulberries offer much summer fun!

Maybe it’s just the kid in me, but I love to pick and eat mulberries! Growing up on the rural western edge of Gretna, NE, my buddies and I would always bug the area neighbors and farmers for permission to pick and eat ripe mulberries along their woodland edges and fencelines this time of year. It marked the start of summer for us. Ah, those were the days … Mulberries on the tree. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks …

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A Researcher’s Field Season — Part III

By Allison Barg, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Graduate Assistant Read Part I: https://magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2022/04/a-researchers-field-season-part-i/ Read Part II: https://magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2022/05/a-researchers-field-season-part-ii/ One of the hardest and most interesting aspects of research is that answering one question generally leads to at least three new ones. For example: What is the best way to count pheasants? Answer: Males crow regularly during the breeding season, so we can listen for those calls and count how many we hear. Easy, right? But to make those counts useful, we …

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Nebraska’s Crayfish

By Grace Gaard, Outdoor Educator Crayfish – also known as crawdad, crawfish and mudbug – is no fish. It’s an arthropod and more specifically, a freshwater crustacean. With their jointed legs and protective exoskeleton, crayfish are a unique part of Nebraska’s aquatic ecosystems. A crayfish’s body is comprised of three main parts: head, thorax and abdomen – similar to their distant insect relatives. Where crayfish begin to differ from insects, however, is that they have five pairs of legs, giving …

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Gumweed Bonanza!

Story and photos by Chris Helzer, Nature Conservancy As a short-lived plant, gumweed lives the life of a scrappy and unfairly maligned opportunist. When grasses are heavily grazed, a streambank erodes, or repeated travel creates a trail of bare ground, curlycup gumweed jumps up and says, “Hold my beer!” It can’t fight toe-to-toe with perennial grasses, but if those grasses are temporarily sidelined, gumweed can ably fill the space until the regulars can return. As a reward for its service, …

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Get Your Buzz On

By Monica Macoubrie, Wildlife Education Specialist I grew up believing that the western honey bee (Apis mellifera), also called European honey bee, was the god of all bees. Now as an adult, I see things differently. Sure, the species is crucial to the production of honey and a central money maker in agriculture, but let’s face it: The western honey bee is essentially cows with wings. And because they are a domesticated species, almost all of their genes have been …

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Going fishing? Don’t let the big one get away!

All of us who love to fish have a story or two about the one that got away, don’t we? Invariably, the tale involves hooking the fish of a lifetime and losing it to unforeseen circumstances or mistakes. Trust me, I have made my share of mistakes when it comes to large, prized game fish. Your blogger mishandling a nice-sized channel catfish. Photo by Rich Berggren/Conservation Officer with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Without question, these stories, however embellished, …

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Raven’s Return

By Joel G. Jorgensen Before Nebraska was settled by European Americans, its vast open areas were inhabited by the common raven. Ravens are similar to American crows, but are larger with a more extensive vocal repertoire that includes husky guttural croaks. With the disappearance of the vast herds of bison in the late 1800s, the raven was soon to follow, retreating to mountainous areas of the west and forests of the far north. However, this adaptable and widespread species was …

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