Home » Education » Nebraska Nature in Color – A Few of My Favorite (Yellow) Things

Nebraska Nature in Color – A Few of My Favorite (Yellow) Things

The color yellow can be found throughout the year in outdoor Nebraska.


Dandelion photographed in Gretna.

Photo by Jeff Kurrus, Nebraskaland Magazine.

By Alie Mayes, Community Science Specialist

Ya’ll – I went outside the other day, and there was a bright yellow dandelion in my front yard! I think it is only after the harshest of winters that something so mundane can seem so special. Early season blooms are special. In addition to providing an exciting, visible sign that spring is on its way, early blooms provide valuable food resources to emerging pollinators.

So, my inspiration is the color yellow. Here are some of my favorite yellow things throughout the year.


Have you ever seen a white-throated sparrow? One of the most striking features of the white-throated sparrow is its bright yellow lores — the area between the eye and bill on the side of its head.

White-throated sparrow. Pixabay Photo.

White-throated sparrows are my partner’s favorite winter bird, who fell in love with them during a Christmas Bird Count we did a few years ago. A group of birds emerged from a roadside thicket, surrounded by frost and red berries. Picturesque is how the scene could have been described.

White-throated sparrows are fiercely territorial during the breeding season. But in the fall and winter, their feistiness mellows, and they forage together in large flocks.


What’s cute and squat and blooms when others do not? Fringed puccoon, of course!

Okay. So maybe that’s what they look like in my head, but when I think of early season blooms, fringed puccoon (also known as narrowleaf puccoon, Lithospermum incisum) always comes to mind. This particular plant and I first met during the City Nature Challenge. The CNC is a global event that encourages people to explore and document nature over a four-day period at the end of April.

Blooming fringed puccoon. Photo by Alie Mayes.

As Nebraskans know, nature is not always at her most visibly abundant that time of year. So, finding bright blooms during the CNC is a treat. The delicate, wavy-edged flowers had a lasting impact on me.


If my enthusiasm for birds has rubbed off on my partner, then you better BEE-lieve their passion for bumble bees has rubbed off on me. Now, whenever I am outside during the warmer months, it is a toss-up if I am listening for the trill of bird song or the low buzzing of a bumble bee. It has been fun for me to learn the “field marks” of different bumble bee species and to help document species for the community science project Bumble Bee Atlas.

Bumble bee (Bombus) on Golden Currant (Ribes Aureum). A bumble bee visits a flowering golden currant in Chadron. Photo by Justin Haag.

The Bumble Bee Atlas has been a useful tool in learning more about species of bumble bees in Nebraska, including the Southern Plains Bumble Bee, a species of conservation concern.


I feel certain that every dog owner will attest that their dog is the brightest, smartest, most beautiful pup there is. I am no different. When thinking of my favorite golden thing in autumn, it is without a doubt my golden prairie pup, Jack O’Malley. I adopted Jack from the Scottsbluff Humane Society shortly after moving to western Nebraska in 2014. We are coming up on 10 years together — 10 winters playing in the snow, 10 springs of new growth, 10 summers traveling to and fro …

Alie Mayes’s dog, Jack, on the prairie. Photo by Katie Lamke.

We’ve also had 10 fall seasons together, hiking in prairie grasslands before everything starts settling to “sleep” for the winter. In the fall, there is that precious time when the air still holds warmth and the russet-colored bluestems sway. The yellow of the sun looks brighter somehow, more precious before the cold settles on the land. We like to get out this time of year, with evening and weekend jaunts to our local swaths of grasslands. There is nothing more beautiful to me this time of year than spending time with my family on the prairie.

This article is part of the Nebraska Nature in Color series. This limited series will run monthly from December 2023- June 2024.