Monthly Archives: December 2012

Tuttle Creek Lake Hosts Annual Eagle Day January 5

Free program provides information and eagle viewing opportunities

The eagles are landing around Manhattan. With the arrival of winter, migratory bald eagles have been working their way south and passing through Kansas.

To offer the opportunity to see our national bird in its native habitat, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Tuttle Creek Lake has scheduled its annual Eagle Day for Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. The program will begin at 9 a.m. and run until approximately noon.

The program is free and open to the public. All participants should meet at 9 a.m. in the large assembly room at the Manhattan Fire Station, 2000 Denison. Dan Mulhern, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will offer a short presentation about bald eagles migrating through and nesting in Kansas. Pat Silovsky, director of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Milford Nature Center, will feature several live raptors in her discussion of eagles and other birds of prey.

Following the presentations at the fire station, members of the Northern Flint Hills Audubon Society will lead participants on a bus tour through areas near Tuttle Creek Lake, with the goal of watching bald eagles in the wild.

Participants should dress appropriately for the weather, and everyone is encouraged to bring binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras.

Tuttle Creek Lake’s Eagle Day 2013 is sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Tuttle Creek LakeKansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau. Bus service and refreshments are sponsored by the Tuttle Creek Lake Association.

For more information, contact Steve Prockish at (785) 539-8511, extension 3167.

Governor’s Turkey Hunt Seeks Young Hunters

Six lucky youngsters will get turkey hunting opportunity

The Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt, based in El Dorado, draws hunters from across the U.S. each spring to experience the great turkey hunting found in Kansas. However, since 2002, six lucky young hunters from Kansas have been selected to participate in the hunt as “Youth Celebrities.”

While organizers of the hunt strive to promote Kansas’ great hunting heritage, they also realize that hunting traditions must be passed down to our youth. To do that, they have developed an application and selection process to get young hunters involved. To be considered for selection, youth must be Kansas residents, have completed a hunter education course, be 12 to 18 years of age, have a parent or adult sponsor who will accompany and stay with them during the event, attend all events associated with the hunt, and submit an application, essay and photo by Jan. 8, 2013.

A selection committee will review the applications and essays, which should be about “Why I Should Be Considered for the Hunt”or“Why Hunting Is Important to Me.” The committee will consider qualified applicants of all experience levels.

The lucky six will be considered youth hunters and will not be in competition for the Top Gun award, but each will be provided with the following: a hunting guide; hotel accommodations in El Dorado; tickets and passes to all the events for the parent/sponsor and youth; two turkey permits and licenses required; and the opportunity to participate in future events as volunteers.

This year’s hunt will take place April 11-13. Applicants may contact the Kansas Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt office during business hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 316-321-3835 with any questions concerning the youth program or other programs associated with the hunt. A celebrity youth program application can be downloaded here

Any Kansas youth who meets the eligibility requirements is encouraged to apply for participation in the hunt. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a quality turkey hunting experience and the hospitality of the great folks in Butler County and El Dorado who conduct the hunt each year. The Kansas Governor’s Annual One Shot Turkey Hunt has become recognized throughout the U.S. as one of the finest of its kind in the nation.

Bird Cupcake Recipe

Treat the birds this winter with these high-energy suet treats.

In the winter, birds benefit from a high-energy suet treat. Stacy Tornio, editor of Birds & Blooms, developed this recipe with her kids using cupcake liners to stay mess-free. They’re happy to report that the birds love it.

To make a bird cupcake, melt 1 cup shortening and 2 cups chunky peanut butter over low heat, then mix in 5 cups cornmeal. Fill cupcake tins and top with your choice of nuts, birdseed or dried berries. Cool in the refrigerator. To give as a gift, arrange on a plate or stack and then wrap with cellophane. Print off the recipe card below and attach it to the cellophane so your recipient can make more. Add a bow, and you have an instant gift!

Fun Winter Outdoor Activities for Families – To Beat Cabin Fever

Cure your kids’ winter blues with these easy ideas for outdoor fun

If you live in “snow country,” the first flakes of the season bring everyone out to play. But as winter wears on and snow becomes just something to shake from your boots, it gets easier and easier to stay inside.

But as long as your kids bundle up, fresh air will do them a world of good. Here are some ways to keep outdoor winter play fresh and fun.

            Scenario #1: The snow has been around for weeks and the kids are tired of sledding.

Build a miniature luge track. Have the kids use metal spoons to carve parallel tracks in the snow. (Snow that has been piled up and frozen hard is best.) They can race the spoons, rubber balls, acorns, or anything else handy. Kids will have fun trying to create the fastest course!

Make mini-snowmen out of snowballs. Younger children find making these little people easier than building the standard life-sized snowman. And older kids can spend more time on the details instead of building huge snow creatures. Get the neighborhood involved and create a whole city of mini-snowpeople!

Think beyond snowmen. Expand snow-building to include such things as cars, animals, or favorite sports team logos. Use water with food coloring to “paint” creations. 

Go snowshoeing. Snowshoeing doesn’t require fancy gear when you make your own out of cardboard cutouts, shoe boxes, folded newspapers, or tree branches. Attach to boots with string, rubber bands, or bungee cords and try a trek around your favorite green space.

            Scenario #2: It snowed, but not enough for sledding or building.

Look for tracks. A light snowfall can reveal what animals are around looking for food. Search for tracks and try to follow them.

Go to the playground. You probably haven’t been there in a while, and kids may enjoy seeing their summer play place sprinkled with snow. Take pictures, so you can compare when spring arrives. Bring along a thermos of cider or hot chocolate to cheer everyone up when you return to the car or the house.

Zoom in on nature. Bring a magnifying glass outside to take a close-up look at the frozen foliage. Or, if you have a microscope, take some items inside (quickly, before they melt!) to investigate further.

            Scenario #3: It’s a chilly, gray day with not a snowflake in sight. 

Go for the gold: Invite friends and family to your own Wacky Winter Olympics, held in your yard or neighborhood park.

Dog Sled Race: Competitors pull snow sleds loaded with toys, sticks, or rocks across the grass.

Polar Bear Swim: Give each child a tote bag of swim goggles, towel, an old adult swimsuit or oversized flippers. See how fast they can pull on the swim gear over their outdoor clothes, throw the towel around their neck, take a pretend “swim,” then remove items and return to bag.

Award each participant with an “outdoorsy” Olympic medal—tie a pine cone to a string!

Make ice sculptures: Fill a clear plastic container with a few inches of water. Add food coloring and stones and sticks for decoration. Set outside for several hours or overnight to freeze. Add another layer of water and nature “stuff” dyed a different color and allow to freeze. Repeat to create multiple layers.

Take the earth’s temperature: You’ll need to make sure the ground isn’t frozen for this one. Buy a soil thermometer at a garden supply store and take it with you on a walk around the yard or park. Have your kids stick it in the ground in various locations to compare ground temperatures. Is the ground warmer or cooler than the air? Does the temperature change in different locations?

Feeling SAD? How Sunlight Affects Health

Find out why it’s important to light up your life during the winter months

by Carol Torgan, Ph.D.

When the days grow shorter and darker, do you find yourself feeling blue? You’re not alone – and there are scientific reasons for that negative frame of mind. Studies show exposure to natural daylight can positively affect yourmood, your alertness, and your overall health.

During the winter, some people feel depressed because they suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)brought on, in part, by less sunlight exposure. Sunlight is important to your health in another way:  The natural light-dark rhythm of the day, dictated by the rising and setting of the sun, helps you sleep by maintaining natural circadian rhythms. 

Find out more about sunlight – and how to get more of it (safely) this winter!


Seasonal Affective Disorder

Blue light special: Getting the “right” light

Sleep disorders

Five easy ways to light up your life

            Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the seasons change and the days grow shorter, some people find they sleep more, have less energy, crave more sweets and starchy foods, and feel depressed. These may be signs of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.  The exact causes of SAD aren’t known, but are thought to stem from changes in our circadian rhythms due to the lack of sunlight. There also may be shifts in levels of the hormones melatonin and serotonin. Treatments for SAD include increased exposure to sunlight, light therapy, and medications. To learn more about SAD, visit the MedlinePlus SAD page.

Blue light special: Getting the “right” light

Sunlight is made up of all the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. It encompasses the classic “ROY-G-BIV” color spectrum that you may have memorized in school.

Special cells in your eyes respond to light, especially light from the blue part of the spectrum. Blue light triggers parts of the brain that are important for alertness and cognition so adequate exposure is important for health. Incredibly, you don’t have to “see” this light in order for your body to sense it. Researchers have discovered that blind people somehow sense this light and thus have normal circadian rhythms. That means that their internal biological clocks are working normally. A wide range of creatures, including monarchs, fruit flies, and mice, in addition to humans, seem to respond to blue light.

Although exposure to blue light is important for your health, most indoor lighting provides very low levels of the blue part of the light spectrum.  In addition, we are exposed to much less blue light from natural sunlight during the shorter days of winter.

Sleep disorders

If you’ve ever had jet lag or done shift work, you’ve experienced the consequences of an altered circadian clock.Getting off schedule can affect your sleep and performance, and may play a role in the development of conditions such as depression, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers. 

The importance of maintaining a natural light-dark rhythm is dramatically illustrated by astronauts on the International Space Station, which is about 220 miles above the surface of the Earth. On Earth, astronauts experience a 24-hour light-dark cycle, just as the rest of us do. However, on the space station, they experience a 90-minute day because that’s how long it takes them to circle the Earth. That means they can see up to 16 sunsets per 24-hour-period!This shortened light-dark cycle greatly disrupts astronauts’ circadian rhythms, making it difficult for them to sleep properly.

Five easy ways to light up your life

1. Get outside. Encourage your family to get lots of natural-light exposure by spending time outside. Exposure in the morning may be better at helping to regulate sleep schedules.

2. Bring the outside inside. When you or your kids are indoors (at home, at work, or in school), you can benefit from sunlight via a window or skylight. Open blinds, add skylights, and consider trimming tree branches that block sunlight in your home, office, or school.

3. Light up. If you live in an area with very short days (towards the Antarctic), or really get blue during the winter months, you can talk with your doctor about trying a light box.  The box provides an artificial source of light that is rich in the blue spectrum. This ‘light therapy’ may help with SAD, sleep disorders, jet lag, and other conditions.

4. Keep an eye out. Be aware that, just because a little blue light is good, it doesn’t mean a lot is better. Too much blue light can damage the eye.

5. Power down at night. Exposure to lights from computer and TV screens and even alarm clocks in the evening may adversely affect sleep schedules. Power down this artificial light and opt instead to look at the light from the stars. (Or just go to bed!)

Editor’s Note: This article was reviewed by Daphne Miller, MD, a family physician and an associate clinical professor at theUniversity of California–San FranciscoSee editor’s note.

 Please consult your physician if you think you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or other disorders mentioned in this article. Sunlight  is important for health, but extended exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen.Learn more about sun safety.  

A New Wildlife Magazine Aimed at the Very Young

By Gregory Schmidt

After 50 years of guiding children through wildlife and ecology on his own, Ranger Rick is getting a helping hand in the form of a younger sibling.

The National Wildlife Federation, the publisher of the Ranger Rick magazine, which is intended for children ages 7 to 12, is starting a counterpart for younger readers. The new magazine, called Ranger Rick Jr., will feature Ricky Raccoon, who will serve as a mascot for children ages 4 to 7.

As interest in ecology has grown, the editors at the wildlife federation said now was a good time to engage beginning readers who are curious about animals.

“We are reaching out to them with content they want to know,” said Lori Collins, the editor of Ranger Rick Jr. “It’s not like this is an easier version of the content. It’s totally different content.”

The magazine will feature age-appropriate facts and photography about wildlife around the world and include activities intended to inspire children to explore wildlife in their own neighborhoods.

Unlike Ranger Rick, who serves as an educator, Ricky is more eager and curious, Ms. Collins said. “Ricky is just as amazed and awed by these animals as our readers are,” she said.

The first issue of Ranger Rick Jr. came out Nov. 15. As with its sister publication, it will be published 10 times a year and will be free of advertising. Newsstand price is $3.99, and annual subscriptions are $19.95.

Circulation for Ranger Rick is about 400,000, said Mary Dalheim, editorial director for children’s publications at the National Wildlife Federation, and she expects a similar circulation for Ranger Rick Jr.

Of course, children have grown smarter about technology, and Ranger Rick has kept pace. His publication, already available in digital form, has been repurposed as an iPad magazine app that takes children on an interactive tour of his virtual treehouse.

“We tested this magazine with kids, and they loved the idea of exploring these rooms,” Ms. Dalheim said. “This delighted them to wonder what’s behind the doors and exploring new content.”

The magazine app will include stories, activities and videos curated by the magazine editors and produced by FableVision Studios. Starting with the first issue on Wednesday, it will be published five times a year for $4.99 each or $19.99 for an annual subscription.

Younger readers will get their own iPad app called Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures. To emphasize the difference, Ms. Collins said, Appventures will be a digital storybook that will focus on a single animal each time. The first one, which was released in November, visits lions in the grasslands of Africa. The app takes advantage of the iPad’s technology by using the internal gyroscope, for instance, to offer panoramic views of the African plains.

The app, which costs $4.99, was developed in partnership with Moonbot Studios, the studio behind the animated short “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” which won an Academy Award this year.

Reserve Your Kansas Camping Spot for 2013

Online reservation system allows reservations up to a year in advance

If you’re making plans for next year’s state park fun, you can reserve your favorite campsite or cabin up to a year in advance, beginning at 12:01 a.m., Dec. 15. You can also purchase your 2013 permits and licenses beginning Friday, December 14, 2012, and all issuances will be valid through the rest of 2012 and all of 2013.

Camping and cabin reservations guarantee the holder their spot will be open and ready when they arrive at the park. All Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) 121 cabins can be reserved year-round. About half of each individual park’s sites may be reserved for the camping season which is April 1-Sept. 30, 2013.

It’s never been easier to reserve a cabin or campsite. Last spring, KDWPT unveiled its Outdoor Recreation Management System (ORMS), which provides reservation services and much more.

In addition to allowing customers to make reservations from the comfort of home, photos of each campsite and whether it’s available will be hosted online. In most cases, ORMS will save park users money through reduced service fees and more efficient management. The system also will allow staff to mark sites with problems — such as broken hydrants or electrical issues — until these issues can be fixed. ORMS data will show which sites are used the most, making management planning more efficient. ORMS will allow park staff to look within the system to see what sites are full and who is on that site, making emergency notifications much faster.

For those who still prefer using a phone, park staff can use ORMS to help callers with reservations.

            Payment in full is required at the time a reservation is made. Reserving a cabin requires a non-refundable $14 reservation fee. Reserving a campsite requires a non-refundable $3 reservation fee per campsite.

And remember the $15 Kansas State Parks Passport annual vehicle permit will be available during your vehicle registration process in 2013. It saves money and is convenient. Regular annual state parks vehicle permits for $25 are still available at KDWPT offices, and daily vehicle entrance permits are $5. Annual vehicle permits for seniors and persons with disabilities are still available through department offices for $13.75.

Prairie Trout!

Trout season is in full swing, providing great winter fishing fun

The Kansas state record rainbow trout weighed 15.43 pounds. That’s not a typo; the official state record really weighed more than 15 pounds. Nicole Wilson caught it last March while fishing at Lake Shawnee in Topeka.

Kansas trout fishing is a wintertime activity. With one exception, the cold-water fish won’t survive a Kansas summer, but they do fine when stocked from November-April. There is a strip-mined lake on the Mined Land Wildlife Area inCherokee County where cool spring flows allow trout to survive year-round. All other Kansas trout waters are stocked periodically throughout the trout season, Nov. 1-April 15, 2013.

Trout fishing is a great way to get out of the house on a warm winter day and enjoy some fishing. If you’re 16 or older, you’ll need a Trout Permit, which is $12.50 and valid through the calendar year. All resident anglers 16-75 (anglers 65-74 need a fishing license beginning Jan. 1, 2013) will also need a fishing license. Anglers 15 and younger may fish for trout without a trout stamp, but they may only keep two trout per day. An angler with a Trout Permit may keep five trout per day, unless a more restrictive creel limit is posted.

More than 30 waters are stocked with trout, and they are divided into two categories, listed in the Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary. All anglers 16 and older fishing on Type 1 Trout Waters must have a Trout Permit. On Type 2 waters, only anglers fishing for or possessing trout must have a Trout Permit.

Revenues from the sale of Trout Permits allow the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to purchase trout from contracting hatcheries for stocking. Contracts require catchable-sized trout along with a percentage of larger fish, so there is always the chance to catch a lunker. Most trout stocked are rainbows, but there are some brown trout stocked in the Kanopolis Seep Stream and Mined Land Unit No. 30.

Anglers use a variety of techniques to catch Kansas trout. Many still-fish commercial baits such as Berkley PowerBait, usually on or near the bottom. Others prefer to cast small spinners, spoons, or jigs on light tackle. And others choose to use fly tackle. Winter water is clear, so light line and ultra-light tackle is recommended. Even though these fish have been raised in hatcheries, they can be as finicky as their wild counterparts. Keep switching lures, flies and presentation until you find the combination that works. No matter how you catch them, winter trout are great fun and tasty when slow grilled or smoked fresh.

For more information on Kansas trout fishing, consult the 2012 Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary, available wherever licenses are sold and online at A complete list of stocking schedules can be found online at:

Plowing Away the Prairie, at a Price

Conversion of native prairie to corn and soy bean cultivation has resulted in the loss of huge expanses of the10,000-year-old native prairie that once stretched from Saskatchewan to the Gulf of Mexico. Conservationists say the country is facing the loss of a national heritage and an irreplaceable ecological resource. The increased global demand for food, energy and federal policies that take the risk out of farming marginal land have accelerated this process. Based upon satellite imagery, 37,000 square miles of grasslands, wetlands and shrublands have been converted to row crops in the last four years. According to satellite data of Minnesota land that was once tallgrass prairie, only one-fourth is in grasses today. And only about 300 square miles of native prairie remnants across the state remain.

Prairie grasslands and wetlands cleanse water in the great river basins, reducing global warming and providing habitat for thousands of unique plants, birds and other animals. Once native prairie is plowed, it’s virtually gone. Decades of sequential planting and knowledgeable management are required to restore the complex prairie ecosystem that includes microbes and tiny insects invisible to the human eye. Today farmers can easily kill native grasses with herbicides like Roundup and plant row crops in their place.

Not too long ago most of South Dakota was a sea of grass, with ponds and wetlands visited by ducks and white egrets. Today, only 40 percent of the original grasslands remain; and, in North Dakota only half remains.

Remnant native prairies are “an ark” for the many plants, insects and animals that are native to the northern plains. Nearly half the nation’s wetland and grassland birds are born there, and many of those species are in decline. Where once there were deep-rooted native plants and wetlands to slow flooding and cleanse water, now heavy spring rains sluice off the cropped fields carrying fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides into the Missouri River, then to the Mississippi and finally to the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” – a polluted 6,000 square mile are that can no longer sustain most aquatic life.

In Minnesota, that concern has prompted a coalition of state and conservation leaders to launch a $3.5 billion project over 25 years to restore 2.2 million acres of grasslands the state has lost over the last century. In South Dakota, an 83 year-old cattle rancher, Herb Hamann, has placed his 5,000 acres of native prairie in permanent easement to save it into perpetuity.

This is a summary of an important article written by Josephine Marcotty for the Star Tribune, Minneapolis. Read the full article at view a video at

Christmas Bird Counts Ready to Soar

Kansas Ornithological Society Christmas Bird Counts run Dec. 9-Jan. 13, 2013

The long tradition of Christmas bird counts provide people interested in birds opportunities to make new acquaintances, renew old friendships, and learn more about birds and birdwatching in Kansas. The counts also provide important information about bird migration and population trends.

Christmas bird counts have been conducted for more than 100 years, and more than 2,000 counts are held across the nation each year. Kansas averages 50 counts per year, with more than 40 scheduled so far this year and others yet to be announced. Many counts are concentrated in the eastern and southern parts of the state, but in recent years, more have been conducted in western Kansas — such as Elkhart and Ulysses — providing additional opportunities to participate.

Christmas bird counts are conducted in circular census areas with a 7.5 mile radius. This is consistent from count-to-count and year-to-year, always surveying the same location, ensuring data collected is comparable for population trends over time.

Count events are easy to prepare for; the best tools being a pair of binoculars, a good field guide, and appropriate clothing and footwear for possible extreme weather. For those counting in an area with a lake, a good spotting scope can be extremely helpful in identifying birds at a distance. It’s also a good idea to study species expected in your location.

There are many count compilers in Kansas who send data to the Kansas Ornithological Society (KOS), and these counts are free. The KOS will accept data collected on counts conducted from Dec. 9 through Jan. 13, 2013. The official Audubon Christmas Bird Count period is Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 every year and this year, there is no longer a $5 fee for field participants.

Information about Kansas Christmas bird counts can be found at the KOS website, For details, just click “2012-2013 Kansas Christmas Bird Counts.” For more information about Audubon Christmas Bird Counts in Kansas, go