Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Prairie Holiday

My old friend Gene and I had a great time on Saturday. As is our wont, we broke our day up into lots of short burst activities, covering lots of ground but perhaps not covering ground deeply or thoroughly. Here's our Lincoln visit:

Saturday morning, 8:30 a.m.: Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, near Denton, Nebraska:

Nebraska Prairie

We walked with a guide and a small but fun group of birding folks. We saw lots of colorful birds:
My bird list for the day is:
green heron
mourning dove
red-headed woodpecker
downy woodpecker
willow flycatcher
eastern kingbird
barn swallow
brown thrasher
grasshopper sparrow
red-winged blackbird
eastern meadowlark
brown-headed cowbird
orchard oriole
baltimore oriole
American goldfinch

Here are a couple of bird photos;

Female downy woodpecker:

female downy woodpecker

Orchard oriole:

Orchard Oriole in a tree

Here are a couple of flower photos:

Wild petunia:

a wild nebraska petunia



Here is a woods nymph buttefly:

Wood nymph butterfly

We also saw the regal fritallary, and a number of monarchs, but I did not photograph them.

The prairie was very green, and the morning was pleasant until 10.30 a.m., when the sun came out in force. I am perhaps 40 percent birder and 60 percent walker on such trips, while my friend Gene is 5 percent birder and 95 percent walker.

We got lots of chances to review the panoramas around us (very lush, green and rolling) when our cohorts, who were 94 percent birder, 5 percent lepidoperist, and 1 percent native plant folks at heart, debated for 20 minutes whether a particularly patient little immature sparrow was an immature grasshopper sparrow or another variety of immature sparrow. I admire the way that books and powers of description defeated a definitive answer but not a game try.

As to another extended sighting effort, I found that when folks are trying to ferret out some mildly rare bird, I am far too given to turn my attention to less elusive red-winged blackbirds, who never tire or bore me. All were delighted, though, novice and expert, by the amazing Summer colors of the goldfinches. We get them where I live more in the winter, when they are more dull, so this was a treat to see them--not to mention the bright and shining orioles. Others reported seeing a bell's vireo, but I am not sure that I saw that amid my burst of baltimore and orchard oriole fever.

We drove to Ashland, Nebraska, about 30 miles away to the Space and Air Strategic Museum.
This air-conditioned building had aircraft and spacecraft dating back for decades. In some ways, the museum can be seen as a primer on Cold War aircraft, with some Ww II and star wars thrown in.

Outside the Strategic Air and Space Museum

Helicopters, Strategic Air and Space Museum

Gremlin, Strategic Air and Space Museum

We then drove to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, near Ashland, to climb the 70' tall observation tower so that we could view the Platte River:

Platte River, July 16, 2011

As the picture shows, the Platte was over-flowing, but nothing like the Missouri, which on Friday night made the Omaha Eppley Field airport (in Iowa, interestingly) look like beachfront property for a huge flood ocean.

Then we drove to nearby Schramm state recreation area, where the 1 dollar admission Ak-Sar-Ben native fish aquarium displayed locals, including these wonderful gar:

swimming gar

Then we drove into Lincoln and toured the Nebraska state capitol building. The building is a great capitol, with lots of great public art inside:

Nebraska state capitol building

Nebraska State Capitol, 14th Floor painting

Here is the view of Lincoln (population about 250,000) from the top floor:

Lincoln, Nebraska skyline

We went to the Nebraska state historical museum, which was very well done, with an informative display about the native
plains peoples and about Nebraska's roles in the civil rights movement.

We wandered around in the old Haymarket section of downtown, but found most of the stores closed at day's end.
I thought that downtown Lincoln has a lot to offer, but does not realize it ought to offer what it has
to visitors a bit more.

We ate a great Indian dinner at Sher-E-Punjab, which made me a tandoori chicken spiced with

Then we went to Holmes Lake Park to await the opening of the Hyde Memorial Observatory.
We walked in the heat around a part of the lake, and saw this immature barn swallow:

Barn swallow, Lincoln, Nebraska

The temperature in Lincoln hit the mid-90s, which was only 5 degrees cooler than Allen's 101 degree setting.

The Hyde Memorial Observatory is a wonderful place--a small building donated to be a
free place for people to come watch stars. We watched short time lapse movies until it got dark, and then Gene and I got to see a nearly perfect image of Saturn, rings and Titan very visible. We felt it got no better than this, and left at 9.30, a bit tired, before the nebulae and clusters hit the telescopes. The quality of the volunteer guides at Hyde (as with the professional bird
guide at Audubon) was very high:

Hyde Memorial Observatory, Lincoln, Nebraska

Telescope at Hyde Observatory

We went to our respective hotel rooms at the Cornhusker Marriott, a very nice older Marriott for which 2 rooms were but
60/night each on

This morning we got a very early start to get me to the Omaha airport. I pulled into
my driveway just before 11 a.m.

I went to Weight Watchers, where I got a little washer with the word "25 lbs." engraved on it, because since March 20, I lost 25 pounds. I watched the plucky Japanese women's soccer team upset the USA team in the women's world cup final. I also caught up on a bit of rest today, but I want to take a nice late afternoon walk still.

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