Category Archives: Wildlife Walkabout

Wildlife Walkabout – Trumpeter Swan

Finally getting back to my idea of posting about area flora and fauna with this week’s contribution being the Trumpeter Swan.  These past several trips to my farm – Tannachton Farm – has been highlighted by these graceful and seldom sighted birds.

Missouri Department of Conservation

TRUMPETER SWANS BRING GRACE TO WINTER WATERS

Don’t miss this video from Missouri Department of Conservation:

Voice of the Trumpeter Swan in the Wild

Read up on Trumpeter Swans in this Field Guide published online by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Trumpeter Swans are a protected species and are not to be hunted since efforts are still underway to established greater numbers of this beautiful bird.

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About the Farm this Fall

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Late afternoon break from work to enjoy my workplace view shed.  Missouri is having splendid fall color this year!
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One of my pretty Corriente cows.
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Bald Eagles seemed skittish this year, thus difficult for casual snapshots.
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Another corral improvement for this year, is that i set up these old panels across the upper part of my round gathering pen.  This way, the calves could be sorted into it as they come by, whilst the cows go on by to another pen.  Worked slick as a whistle.  Someday, though, i’m going to have to get some help, these panels weigh at least 75 lbs a piece and moving them into position to hook together is getting more difficult for me.  However, since it worked, these will stay put now.
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Showing how difficult it is to shift cows from one paddock to another.  HA HA!  Open the gate and get out of the way!

 

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Buckbrush, as we call it in north Missouri, grew prolifically this year, i guess due to excessive heat and dry weather.  Bonus for the deer and many other wildlife this winter.  
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Improvements to my corral.  Here i’m hanging gates and cutting a hole in my corral to make it easier to sort off animals which need to go back in a pen rather than let loose.

 

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This gate is used to make the runway (race) more narrow for young calves.  Once installed, it reduces the passageway from 28 inches wide (for cows) to 16 inches wide (young calves).  Everything i do, i try to repurpose stuff we have.  Profit margin in cattle is too narrow to spend money unless absolutely necessary.  Here, i’ve added this black plastic taken from a busted feed bunk and drilled it onto my gate.  This way the calves don’t stick their heads between the bars.  It worked!

Have a great weekend and Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Fairy Rings – for Real?!

When Dallas was younger but old enough to mow June’s lawn, he would invariably NOT mow the fairy rings which grew in her yard during the fall (after all it is dangerous and unlucky!).  Fairy rings grow in wet, humid conditions – not necessarily hot, but certainly not cold.  But what causes these mushrooms to grow in a circular or semi-circular pattern with such consistency?

Tannachton Farm fungi Jun 2013 (1)

Well, beyond the obvious reason that it is caused by fairies and elves dancing in circles, the answer is just as mysterious and inconclusive.  In fact, there seem to be more folklore tales than ‘scientific’ proposals!

The science revolves around “The mycelium of a fungus growing in the ground absorbs nutrients by secretion of enzymes from the tips of the hyphae (threads making up the mycelium).[2]This breaks down larger molecules in the soil into smaller molecules that are then absorbed through the walls of the hyphae near their growing tips.[2] The mycelium will move outward from the center, and when the nutrients in the center are exhausted, the center dies, thereby forming a living ring, from which the fairy ring arises.[2]”

There are two theories regarding the process involved in creating fairy rings. One states that the fairy ring is begun by a spore from the sporocarpus. The underground presence of the fungus can also cause withering or varying colour or growth of the grass above. The second theory, which is presented in the investigations of Japanese scientists on the Tricholoma matsutake species, shows that fairy rings could be established by connecting neighbouring oval genetsof these mushrooms. If they make an arc or a ring, they continuously grow about the centre of this object.

Blah, blah, blah – i’m going with the dancing fairies, elves, and pixies!

He wha tills the fairies’ green
Nae luck again shall hae :
And he wha spills the fairies’ ring
Betide him want and wae.
For weirdless days and weary nights
Are his till his deein’ day.
But he wha gaes by the fairy ring,
Nae dule nor pine shall see,
And he wha cleans the fairy ring
An easy death shall dee.[61]

Robert Chambers, Scottish poet.

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Compass Plant – Pointing the Way!

Compass Plant

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Long before the days of magnetic compasses or global positioning systems which track our every movement and tell us where we are at any given time, there were and are, plants which aided the native Indians and later the pioneers traveling by covered wagon across the United States of America.  Of course, when the sun was shining, anyone can tell his directions, but after many days of cloudy or stormy weather what could the wagon master do?

Behold!  The humble compass plant, a rugged, drought-resistant native plant found in most tall-grass prairies which once dominated the wide Midwest.  However, given its high palatability to livestock, it is seldom found in pastures utilising continuous grazing practices, but thrives on road banks and in managed grazing systems.  Whilst other plants maybe referred to as ‘compass plants,’ the one most generally thought of is Silphium laciniatum, found on prairies from Ohio to South Dakota, south to Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.

The compass plant, a perennial which can live up to 100 years, has a central stem which is thick, light to medium green covered with conspicuous white hairs.  Large basal leaves cut almost to midrib have sandpaper-like texture with its alternate stem leaves having their edges vertical and nearly always pointing north and south.  The six to twelve foot (two-four metres) mature plant, also called rosinweed or pilot plant, is topped by yellow flowers, which bloom mid-summer for about 1½ months.  When blooming, the stalk is very resinous and, reportedly, Indian children gathered droplets of rosin from the upper parts of the stem, where the gum exudes, to use as chewing gum for ‘sweetening the breath’ and cleansing the teeth and mouth.’

The flower heads, which are three to four inches across, resemble those of a wild sunflower.  However, unlike the sunflower, its seeds, which though large, are flat and light and can be carried several feet by the wind.  In addition, like other Silphium spp., the small tubular disk florets are sterile, while the ray florets are fertile.  Its drought resistance secret reveals itself if you try uprooting it for transplant; the taproot may reach to a depth of sixteen feet (five metres)!

Native people prized the root of the compass plant for its medicinal qualities.  The Pawnees made a tea they used for ‘general debility’, while the Santee Dakotas, Poncas and the Omahas prepared a similar concoction to use as a horse tonic.  Some Indian tribes burned the dried roots to ward off lightning during storms and some believed that lightning occurred more frequently where compass plant grew and did not camp in those areas.  In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, doctors also used the compass plant as the following: Antipyretic, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, tonic, styptic, antispasmodic, and stimulant.

Information for this article primarily drawn from the following resources:

Compass Plant goodrop

Compass plant is an interesting flowering plant with many uses, not to mention that it is beautiful and palatable to livestock and wildlife.  The indigenous people of the United States chewed the sap as gum. It’s notable that the location of the plant can indicate an underground water source; probably because the roots can grow as deep as 16 feet which could quite possibly increase the number of lightning strikes in the vicinity as believed by Native American Indians.  Makes sense to me!

The best simple physical description is provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation:

Other Common Name
Rosinweed
Family

Asteraceae (daisies, sunflowers)

Description

Compass plant is a tall, showy, yellow rosinweed with hairy stems. Blooms July through September. Flower heads are few to many, arising from a tall stalk. The flower heads are about 2½ inches across, and both the petal-like ray flowers and the central disk flowers are yellow. Leaves are hairy and deeply cleft almost to the midrib, the lobes sometimes having secondary divisions. At the bottom of the plant, the leaves are huge — to 16 inches long — but the leaves are progressively smaller toward the top of the stem. In full sun, the upright lower leaves turn their edges toward north and south, with the flat surfaces facing east and west, giving compass plant its common name.

Similar species: There are 6 Silphium species recorded for Missouri. Aside from compass plant, the other most common ones are starry rosinweed, rosinweed, prairie dock, and cup plant. Compass plant is identified by its deeply cleft leaves.

Size

Height: to about 8 feet.

More Compass Plant (Rosinweed) Facts from the USDA.

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Flora wildlife providing nectar to fauna wildlife.
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Often grows to 8 feet tall!

 

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Closeup shows the masterful plan of YHWH, our Creator.  No accident in design.  One of many examples of what Fibonacci described as ‘the Golden Spiral.”

 

Fibonacci Numbers

The flower of the compass plant is another fine example of God’s orderly world.  He created such order from the chaos of void as magnificently viewed in the Golden spiral of our universe, the Milky Way.  This pattern is found throughout the earth in the curve of a bird’s beak, the shape of some seashells, the breaking of an ocean wave, even bacteria grow at an accelerating rate that can be plotted along a logarithmic spiral and so much more.  While man has repeatedly copied this pattern in his architecture and painting, the mathematical symmetry of the Fibonacci pattern has a prior claim, and that is of our Creator and Lord.

First recorded discovery was in 500 BC by Pingala, an Indian mathematician, whose Sanskrit book on meters outlined what he called Chhandah-shastra.  In addition to the basics of Fibonacci numbers, his work also contains the basis for binary numeral system and Pascal’s triangle and later, popularized in the west by Leonardo de Pasino Fibonacci about 1200 AD.  Applications of Fibonacci numbers and sequencing are in the Euclid’s algorithm, Diophantine equation, and in binomial coefficients, as well as recognizable in music and art, and represented in many places in nature.1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibonacci_number

 

Killdeer Mama!

This time of year, the killdeer are laying eggs and setting on them.  Officially a shorebird (plover), but often found in short pastures and especially along gravel drives on dry ground.  The wary mommas will lead predators away from the nest by running, then acting as if she is injured.

 

 

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Killdeer are masters of camouflage, but thankfully i found this nest or we would have run over it with the pickups and trailers whilst unloading and loading herd bulls last week.
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Killdeer mama guarding her nest seen just above her to the right.

 

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Killdeer nest well camouflaged.

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Mama with one of four babies.