More orchids

Pat’s earlier post about Spring in Doniphan County inspired me to include a couple of shots I took yesterday.   Thanks Pat for sharing your day with us.

Yesterday morning Craig Hensley from the Schlagle Environmental Library at Wyandotte county lake guided me to a nice showy orchid in full bud, that he had found nearby.  Craig is new to the library, this year and is the site manager.  If you are in the area you’ll want to get to know him—he’s a licensed bird bander and fanatical wildflower enthusiast.  I’m thinking we should schedule a spring KABT field trip with Craig in the near future.

Showy orchid, Wyandotte County


This is the first showy orchid I had set eyes on in over 35 years.  Good stuff.  Inspired, later in the day I renewed my quest to find the orchid in Douglas county.  Headed out on a quest deep into the woods–at least as deep as you can get in this part of the country.  There is one thing that over the years of wandering in the woods is guaranteed to trigger my startle reflex into flight mode.    You know–the kind of scare so deep that you almost have to sit down to get all the vital signs back down to normal ranges.  No, I’m not talking about an unexpected Crotalus encounter—I’m talking turkey, here.

With my head down, wandering aimlessly but quietly, looking intently for the smallish leaves of the showy orchid, I was totally brought back into a different world as a hen turkey exploded off her nest, 6 feet in front of me.  Man,  what an immediate overload of sensory input.  Turkey’s are so large you can’t imagine that one could be that close without you seeing it–especially when you are looking so hard at the ground.  But the racket they make as they get into powered flight coupled with all the violent noise of twigs and branches breaking amounts to stimulus overload.  Naturally, I was so startled that I couldn’t move, let alone take a photo.  A special event.  Her nest was at the base of a tree under some greenbrier.  She had just started with only one egg as of yesterday.

As I slowly recovered and settled back down to looking for the orchids that I just knew had to be in the vicinity, I looked down at my feet and voila….

Showy Orchid, Douglas County

The fright was worth it.  Now I know where her nest is, I’ll try and get out earlier in the day when she isn’t there, as I return to try and capture the plants in full flower.

Spring in Doniphan County

Morels in moss beneath a dead elm.


Morchella esculenta


This group of morels were beneath buckbrush, nettles and Virginia creeper at the base of an elm.


Hiding in the under brush was a clone of orchids (Orchis spectabilis), soon to bloom.

Nobel Laureate at Linda Hall Library

Martin Chalfie, GFP: Adventures in Nontranslational Research

Martin Chalfie received the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP. He is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, where he is also chair of the department of biological sciences.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 7 p.m.

Lectures are free and open to the public; however, seating is limited and tickets are required.  Complete the online form, email or call (816) 926-8772 with your name, address, phone number, and the number of individuals in your party.  Please specify the lectures you plan to attend. Please contact Eric Ward (816-926-8753) for more information on these events.

Linda Hall Library
5109 Cherry Street
Kansas City, MO 64110-2498

If I had known about it earlier, I would have posted it earlier.  Kary Mullis was here last Tuesday and I was totally unaware!

Wandering through Spring in Johnson County


Mayapple blossom

Just a couple of things.  Now is the time to start looking for orchids, if that quest is on your list.  This image of a lady slipper orchid was taken today.  Won’t be long until this is blooming–if the deer don’t get it.

Lady Slipper

Speaking of deer:  This yearling apparently is barely tolerated by the others in this group.  Note the deep kick scars wounds down both sides.  Sorry for the photo quality–nearly dark.

ITSI-SU Summer Workshop Opportunity

The Concord Consortium and the KU Center for Science Education are pleased to announce the Innovative Technology in Science Inquiry Scale Up (ITSI-SU) project funded by the National Science Foundation.

This application is for Gr. 3-12 Kansas science teachers who desire to participate in ITSI-SU activities beginning in summer 2011 and ending in summer 2012.   Applications are due by April 1, 2011.

For more information go to the KU Center for Science Education,, or contact Carol Williamson,



BTW,  This includes a stipend and funds for probes.  The summer workshop is 1 week and there are a couple of follow-up online courses during the school year.  The workshop will focus on building online lessons for your class that feature probes and/or computer models like those at Molecular Workbench and PhET.  Great stuff–things you might be considering adding to your class resources anyway–why not get paid for it at the same time?




Lilacs and Phenology

Lilac from KU's campus 4-14-11

50 years  ago when I was a kid every May basket had a sprig or two of lilac.  You can almost smell the lilac in this photo.  This photo was taken today.  The lilacs have been blooming on campus all this week.  There will not be many if any left blooming on May 1st.  Lilacs are remarkably consistent in their response to climatic changes and thus can serve as a biological indicator of changing climate.  Phenology is the study of seasonal changes of natural events such as pollen shedding, flowering times, chorus frog breeding and so on.  It is a long term venture–perfectly suited for amateurs and biology classrooms.  With today’s technology tools collaboration with researchers and other interested parties is more accessible than ever.  This kind of collaboration is  great way to add authentic science experiences to your classroom.  Consider participating in the National Phenology Network.  Check out the cloned plant project at USANPN by planting various plants around your school grounds and monitoring developments throughout the year.  You can even order the plants from these folks.  The plants will serve dual purpose—beautifying the school grounds and providing fodder for student research.  Oh, and they smell good.

To learn more about the study of phenology and how your students can explore this area of science check out the Phenology Handbook available online.

Kansas Native Plant Society coming events

Biology teachers and other interested parties should consider checking out the KNPS .  Below you’ll find a calendar of events from now through June, state wide.

Upcoming Events for Apr 12th to Jun 11th, 2011

Woodland Wildflower Walk • Wyandotte County
F.L. Schlagle Library • 4051 West Drive • Kansas City, KS • Map
Sat, Apr 16th @ 10am-noon

Bring your hiking shoes and hit the trail as we take a walk in the woods of Wyandotte County Lake Park in search of spring wildflowers. Meet at Mr. & Mrs. F.L. Schlagle Library to begin our search for Dutchman’s breeches, spring beauty and other seasonal wonders. Please call 913.299.2384 to reserve a spot for this program.

Contact: Craig Hensley (913) 299-2384
Sponsor: Kansas City Kansas Public LIbrary

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Smooth Earth Snake in Baldwin Woods

This Tuesday, I took a group of pre-service biology teachers on a short field trip to Baldwin Woods to introduce them to spring wildflowers.  We got an unexpected surpise:  A large female Smooth Earth Snake.  You may recall an earlier post from the Ks Bio Survey looking for help finding new populations of this snake.  George and Bill are still looking for more.  If you are in eastern KS, consider taking time out to look for earth and red belly snakes over the next couple of weeks.

Smooth Earth Snake

Smooth Earth Snake

More Signs of Spring

Growing up in central KS, I read every nature themed book I could gather.  Most in those days featured natural history subjects from eastern North America–a few from the west.  I longed to see the Smokey mountains in the spring, walk along the C and O canal, or see warblers dripping from trees during migration.  Imagine my surprise  and elation when I identified my first bright yellow male goldfinch as a 12 year old in my own backyard—I thought those birds were “back East”.  Of course as my experiences grew I came to realize that much of what was discussed in nature themed books was indeed part of my own Kansas environment.  Still until I enrolled at KU in 1969, I had never seen any of the “woodland ephemerals” so talked about in any coverage of spring in eastern deciduous woodlands.  I saw my first ephemerals in my second spring at KU in Baldwin Woods.  I ritually, return every spring to check on these populations of small, early wildflowers.  Their appearance each year grounds me.  Here’s some recent photos:

False Rue Anemone



Rue Anemone

Dutchman's Breeches



Erythronium albidum

Spring Beauty

Signs of Spring

I usually mark the coming of spring with the first woodcock, the first morning cardinals and robins, the first woodland flowers, orange-throated darters and the first chorus frog chorus.

This pond dries up every year---no fish


Back in my early teaching years we would venture to a nearby pond that only held water in the early spring to collect frog eggs.  I haven’t looked for eggs for awhile and I was a bit late, this year.  This Sunday I did some wet wading and found some eggs in a pond that is dry most of the year.

Chorus frog eggs

Leech from wet wading

Maybe it is too late for this year but for next year you could get a permit from KDWP and collect a group of eggs to raise in class.



About to hatch

Here’s a great web site from Greg and Lynnette Sievert from ESU with recordings and tons of photos of developing Kansas frogs and toads–a great resource.