Daily Archives: August 7, 2014

Burrowing Owl


Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)


Although burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) can be found within the western third of the United States, in Kansas Burrowing owls spend the summer in the western third of the state. Their yellow eyes, white eyebrows and lack of ear tufts are distinctive features in addition to their small size. Because burrowing owls live in abandoned burrows of small mammals like black-tailed prairie dogs (and other burrowing mammals), programs to eradicate prairie dogs are likely to degrade habitat for burrowing owls. Since burrowing owls forage over tall grass but nest and roost in short grass, prairie land with both these habitats are important for their success. Consequently, pesticides and herbicides have an adverse impact on their success also. To here the Burrowing owl’s song visit Larkwire.

American Bison (Bison bison)

American Bison (Bison bison) image from the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

American Bison (Bison bison) image from the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Once thriving in untold numbers on the Great Plains, the American bison was nearly hunted to extinction by 1890. Only 541 bison survived in North America when a few ranchers collected remnants of existing herds to prevent their extinction. The bison’s main food is grass. Bison grazing increases the proportion of forbs in grasslands and increases plant diversity. Some ranchers interbred bison with cattle to produce “beefalo” leaving only four true genetically pure American Buffalo herds remaining today. Some ranchers are currently using DNA testing to cull residual residual cattle genes from their bison herds. In Kansas, two excellent locations to view bison are the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge near McPherson State Fishing Lake and Finney Game Refuge south of Garden City, Kansas. The Finney Refuge is on sandsage prairie and remains one of the few tracts of native sandsage prairie not converted to irrigated cropland. Several tall grass species thrive there including sand bluestem, giant sand reed and sand love grass. These tall grasses plus sand sagebrush makes this ecosystem truly unique. There are also approximately 16 bison at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills of Kansas. These bison came from the genetically pure herd at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl: Photo credit: Willistown Conservation Trust.

Snowy Owl: Photo credit: Willistown Conservation Trust.

Snowy Owl:

The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is an unusual selection to feature because it is not a resident of Kansas and seldom visits. But every 3-5 years, complex factors that cause the decline of Arctic lemmings (the snowy owl’s primary food) force these owls to venture south beyond their normal Canadian & Alaskan tundra in search of prey. This extensive migration away from their home range is referred to as an irruption. Many of these birds were observed in Kansas this past winter (2011-2012). Most of them were underweight and desperate for food. They are attracted to the Kansas prairie since it is similar to the broad expanse of tundra Snowies find suitable for hunting. However, some were killed flying into objects like cars, barbed wire fences and power lines that are uncommon in the arctic tundra. The Snowy Owl is a dramatic bird with piercing yellow eyes and its mostly white plumage concealing a black beak. The last Snowy Owl irruption occurred in 2009. A graph showing Snowy Owl sightings south of the arctic from 2008-2012 is available at ebird.org http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/the-winter-of-the-snowy-owl.

An excellent video is available at http://magblog.audubon.org/northern-states-see-rare-invasion-snowy-owls.

17th Annual Hays Youth Outdoor Festival Aug. 16

Youth age 17 and under can enjoy all things “outdoors” at this free event

The 17th Annual Youth Outdoor Festival is scheduled for Saturday, August 16, from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Hays City Sportsman’s Club, located 1/4 mile north of I-70 Exit 157 (US-183 Bypass). Event activities include trap shooting, skeet shooting, archery, air rifle / BB gun, muzzleloader, small bore rifle, computerized laser shot target shooting, BASS casting competition, paintball target shooting, crossbow, and furharvesting demonstrations. Thanks to Hays area businesses, conservation groups, and shooting sport groups, all targets, shooting materials and equipment are supplied at no cost to participants. Registration will be available on-site the day of the event.

The event is open to all youth, age 17 and younger, who must be accompanied by an adult. Hunter Education certification is not required. Volunteers specializing in their field of expertise will closely supervise youth at each station.

In addition to the free shooting opportunities and lunch, several door prizes, guns, fishing tackle and other outdoor equipment will be given away. Mark this day on your calendar and join in on a great day of outdoor fun.

For more information contact Kent Hensley at (785) 726-3212, or Troy Mattheyer at (785) 726-4212.

USDA Selects 36 Energy Facilities to Accept Biomass Deliveries

Program Includes Biomass Removals from Federal Lands to Reduce Forest Fires

On August 6 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has selected 36 energy facilities in 14 states to accept biomass deliveries supported by the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Biomass owners who supply these facilities may qualify for BCAP delivery assistance starting July 28, 2014.

Of the total $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) is available each year to assist biomass owners with the cost of delivery of agricultural or forest residues for energy generation. Some BCAP payments will target the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands for renewable energy, which reduces the risk of forest fire.

“This program generates clean energy from biomass, reduces the threat of fires by removing dead or diseased trees from public forest lands, and invests in rural businesses and new energy markets,” said Vilsack. “The fires we are seeing right now in the west underscore the need for forest restoration and fire prevention. Pairing this effort with forest restoration on public lands will help guard against these fires while promoting economic opportunity for rural communities.”

Farmers, ranchers or foresters who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a BCAP-qualified energy facility may be eligible for financial assistance for deliveries. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers BCAP, will begin accepting applications from biomass owners from July 28 through Aug. 25. Deliveries of residues for approved contracts may be made through Sept. 26, 2014.

In Kansas the BCAP energy facility selected was Abengoa.

Visit www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap or a local FSA county office to learn more about BCAP.

BCAP was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visitwww.usda.gov/farmbill.