Home » Afield and Afloat (page 6)

Afield and Afloat

Sandhills Trumpeters

The marsh had a lot more cattails and bulrushes than most Sandhills lakes, concealing the trumpeter swans we were after. The swans themselves were doing their best to hide by swimming in a different direction than the large and loud airboat zigzagging through the marsh. So, when we burst through a wall of vegetation, and there were four swans right in front of us – two adults and two young, known as cygnets – we were not sure who was …

Read More »

Preserving the Pine Ridge

Catastrophic wildfires have ravaged more than half of northwestern Nebraska’s pine forests. Land managers are making strides toward a more sustainable future. On this sunny day, Bryce Gerlach is visiting a timber-thinning project at Gilbert-Baker Wildlife Management Area in the northwest corner of the state. Gerlach, who is a forester funded by the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, likes what he sees. “This is the project that is going to save Gilbert-Baker someday,” he …

Read More »

Saving Saltwort

Returning salt to salt marshes. The state endangered plant saltwort grows in salt marshes in Lancaster County and nowhere else in our state. Unfortunately, decline of the marshes during the past 150 years has left this species hanging on by a thread. I held little hope of saltwort surviving in Nebraska until I recently learned of a creative new restoration method for returning salt to the damaged marshes. A Uniquely Adapted Plant Within salt marshes, saltwort (Salicornia rubra) grows mainly …

Read More »

Make a Lure

Most people have “stuff” lying around the house – a screw left over from self-installed window blinds, a rubber band from a pile of bills in the mailbox, or the frayed ends of a dusty rope in the corner of the garage. By themselves, they are little more than objects whose lives will probably end in a landfill. Yet with a little bit of imagination, these items could be fashioned into fishing lures – a chance at a story that …

Read More »

Time to Train

Preparing a dog for hunting season can be a good way to keep yourself engaged during the long off-season, but it can also be time consuming. With the overall shutdown we are experiencing due to COVID-19, it seems most of us have a lot more time on our hands. So now may be the perfect time to start getting your dog prepared for when game day hits in the fall or to help condition him or her to the rigors …

Read More »

Despite conservation woes, Blanding’s turtle keeps smiling

Among Nebraska’s eight species of native turtles, the happy-looking one gets special attention. The Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is listed as a “tier 1” species in the Natural Legacy Project, Nebraska’s wildlife action plan. That makes it the only turtle species among the state’s animals and plants determined to have the greatest need for conservation efforts. Amanda Filipi, an outdoor education specialist at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Wildcat Hills Nature Center near Gering, said the turtle’s dark shell …

Read More »

Nebraska boasts wild turkey variety

Tom wild turkeys

One reason Nebraska claims to have the nation’s best turkey hunting is its variety of subspecies of the big bird. Bryce Gerlach, a forester for the National Wild Turkey Federation and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission who is an avid hunter, said the Cornhusker State is special because three of the four subspecies of the federation’s popular Grand Slam reside within Nebraska’s borders. Once extirpated from Nebraska, the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is a conservation success story here and throughout …

Read More »

Prairie grouse use variety of vegetation

Sharp-tailed grouse

Gathering with others is not encouraged during this pandemic, but one segment of western Nebraska’s population has been going at it in full swing. Don’t worry — I’m just talking about the grassland-loving prairie grouse and their annual spring mating ritual on grounds known as leks. Those who have seen and heard the spectacular booming of prairie chickens and dancing of sharp-tailed grouse know the birds like to perform on a site with short to no vegetation. Despite that, they …

Read More »

Platte River State Park

I never feel overwhelmed at Platte River State Park. Whether there are thousands of kids attending an Outdoor Discovery day or just a few vehicles, I can always take a deep, relaxing breath whenever I pull into the park. Located three miles from Louisville – between Omaha and Lincoln – the park is a welcomed break from city life. It offers both family-friendly attractions and solace in its 450 acres, even on the busiest of weekends. I love playing with …

Read More »

The Invasion of Garlic Mustard

Morel mushroom hunters will know this plant: Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), a biennial, is one of the first signs of green-up in Missouri River woodlands. This low-lying plant prefers moist soils, shade and limited sun, and while its heart-shaped leaves might look inviting during the bareness of early spring, garlic mustard is highly invasive. It outcompetes native plants and threatens the biodiversity of our woodland ecosystems. Distribution The story of how garlic mustard arrived to the New World is similar …

Read More »