Thursday, June 7, 2018

Wildflowers, birds, crush day

This is the second and last weekend of Nebraska Wildflower Week. The annual celebration takes place during the first week of June and is bookended by weekends, running from The Friday closest to June 1 (which sometimes falls in May) through the next Sunday. This year it runs June 1-10.
A gumbo evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
I’d encourage everyone to get out and look at some wildflowers this weekend. You don’t have to travel far; in fact you can find a wide variety of wildflowers blooming on waste ground right in your own town. If you can find some native prairie to visit, so much the better, but as I said it’s not completely necessary.
Yellow evening primrose (Calylophus serrulatus)
If you do go out, take along a field guide to prairie plants if you have one. Grassland Plants of South Dakota and the Northern Great Plains, by Johnson and Larson, is a good one (for this region of course). It includes nice color pictures of blooming wildflowers and offers a wealth of information on most of the prairie grasses, forbs (wildflowers), and shrubs you will find.
Close up of gumbo evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
Lacking a field guide, use your phone or a pocket digital camera to take pictures. Later on you can download and search the internet to discover the names of the treasures you’ve found. There are also wildflower apps available for your phone. I’ve had little luck with these myself, but your luck might be better than mine.
Yellow evening primrose (Calylophus serrulatus) and downy paintbrush (Castilleja sessiliflora)
If you happen to be in the Kimball area today (Friday), tomorrow, or Sunday and would like to take a native prairie wildflower tour on the EJE Ranch, call or text me at 308-241-0878 or shoot me an email at
Mourning dove with yet-to-be-identified wildflowers
On Tuesday I hiked out on a parcel we call the South Googie, which is a thousand acres of prairie just south of Kimball. I-80 runs right through the middle of it. The landscape is broken by a couple of major north-south running canyons, and I started my hike in the easternmost one. As I passed a fence line I was greeted by a house finch.
House finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)
It was quite warm, being one of the (if not the) first 90-plus degree day of the year. The canyon is choked with hardy native forbs, most of which are in bloom just now. There are also abundant shrubs such as current, chokecherry, and sumac. Those are mostly done blooming for the year but are setting lots of fruit.
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) setting fruit
Along the way I stopped to check on a Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) nest I discovered a couple of weeks ago. When I last checked a few days ago the clutch of eggs was just hatching. Today there were several chicks in the nest along with a lone unhatched egg. The  male and female phoebes who are raising the brood kept a close watch on me as I scrambled up to their nest located in an overhang on the canyon wall.
Chicks and a single egg fill the nest of a Say’s phoebe (Sayornis saya)

Say’s phoebe (Sayornis saya) watching closely
Continuing my hike, I crossed under the interstate and made my way west. The prairie was alive with the color of wildflowers. Hiking up and down the many slopes along my path was a good workout, and the day’s late-spring heat was eased by a light westerly breeze. There was no shortage of mosquitoes, but a liberal application of insect repellent kept them nicely at bay.
Yucca (Yucca glauca) flowering
After a mile or so I came to a second interstate underpass and crossed back to the south side of I-80. This underpass -- a 7x4 foot concrete tunnel, really -- was home to a large population of nesting barn or cliff swallows. The floor of the underpass was littered with discarded egg shells and the mud-construction nests were filled with peeping baby swallows.

I made my way back to my pickup and notched up another nice, vigorous 4-mile hike. All in all it was a brilliant way to spend a couple of hours on a hot, early June day. Give me a shout if you’d like to share the experience.

Today (Thursday) was crush day. I did an hour of hard stuff in the weight room, followed by two hours of hard roadwork -- including 10 summits of Smoke Bong Hill. Smoke Bong is right at 5 stories tall, if you use the 14-foot story measure, so that's a 50-story climb. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

In the weight room I did 300 situps, 60 pushups, 60 pullups, 150 20 lb. overheads, 150 60 lb. leg lifts, 150 100 lb. bench presses, 150 60 lb. curls, and (just outside the weight room) 30 400 lb. tire flips.

Needless to say, I couldn't have done this six weeks ago. So I'm making nice progress.

What's that? Crush day? Oh, yeah. It's just a once-a-week extra hard push. The idea is to try to achieve physical exhaustion. So far I haven't. What I'm finding is that I'm gaining strength and endurance at a pretty rapid clip. I'm not in my teens or twenties anymore, and I'm still fat as hell, but as I suspected there's a lot more in the tank than I've been able to use. That's a good thing.

Speaking of being olden, the experiment with fitness comes with a lot more aches and pains than in my youth. That's fine; pain is weakness leaving the body.

I will say, however, that I've come to love the fizzy wonder of alka-seltzer. It's just bubbly aspirin, but aspirin is a wonderful pain and anti-inflammatory medicine. People have been using it for at least 6,500 years. That's even before the gurglenet!