Daily Archives: October 9, 2014

Plant a Prairie Fire Crabapple Tree to Feed Birds in Autumn and Winter.

Cedar Waxwing eating crabapples in my Prairie Fire crab tree.

Cedar Waxwing eating crabapples in my Prairie Fire crab tree.

Prairie Fire crabapple (Malus) is a slow growing deciduous tree that produces small crabapples (half inch diameter) that can be made into jam or allowed to hang on the tree for birds when many other food sources are scant. In the spring before many leaves appear, it produces prolific blooms emerging as dark red flowers and evolving to pinkish red. The early spring foliage is purplish that changes to green in the early summer, then finally into beautiful reddish orange in the fall. The small crabapples are very edible but have a bitter taste early, then becoming very tart with a hint of sweetness. Perfect for your best jam recipe. So don’t pick them too early. The crabapples will persist on the tree into winter even after a hard freeze but many will fall on the ground before becoming ripe. Birds won’t touch them until they are ripe. The fruit becomes most attractive to birds seemingly after the first frost. Once a few birds begin to harvest the fruit, other birds flock to the tree to avoid missing out. Many fruits fall to the ground and can become a mess if the tree is planted near a sidewalk or driveway where

Blue Jay in Prairie Fire crab.

Blue Jay in Prairie Fire crab.

mine is. My tree attracts Robins, Sparrows, Blue Jays, Chicadees and Cedar Waxwings. Each year for several weeks during the fall or winter you’ll wonder why the birds haven’t noticed the crabapples on the tree; but they’ve been keeping track. And then all of a sudden, all of these birds may visit my tree all at one time, flying in and out of it and making a riot of noise. Another important attribute is its resistance to diseases like apple scab, cedar-apple rust, fireblight and mildew. In some parts of the country they may get apple maggot but unlikely in Kansas. My tree is 20 years old and has never had a single disease or insect problem. Its smaller branches can occasionally grow in a rather disorganized manner at times, directing their growth towards the ground. If you don’t like this wild characteristic and you prefer more formally shaped trees, this tree may not be for you. But the birds will love it.

-by Ted Beringer

Central Stoneroller

Central Stoneroller, photo by Lance Merry

Central Stoneroller, photo by Lance Merry

Central Stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum)

North American Native Fishes Association; photo by Lance Merry

The Central Stoneroller is a small minnow 3-5 inches in length with a blunt snout and relatively small eyes. It is widespread in Kansas as well as most of the eastern and central United States. It prefers freshwater streams of mid to high gradients with riffles. It is active in the mid to bottom level of streams where it feeds predominantly on algae scraped from rocks with the cartilaginous ridge on its lower jaw. It will also consume rotifers, diatoms and microcrustacea plus the occasional aquatic insect. They may feed in schools and can often be seen leaping above the surface of the water. They in turn are part of the diet of smallmouth & largemouth bass, herons and bitterns. Adult males and females are similar in appearance, having a dark, olive colored dorsal surface fading to a white ventral surface. Randomly distributed dark spots are scattered along the length of the body. Fins are pale or nearly colorless. Breeding males are further distinguished by orange and black splashes on their fins and large pointed tubercles on their head (see photo above) with smaller one along the dorsal and lateral part of the body. In preparation for spawning, these fish may need to migrate upstream to calmer waters where breeding males build nests in late winter throughout midsummer. They excavate depressions in the stony bottom of calm waters using their noses to roll pebbles and stones out of the way. Females roam the available nests occupied by larger males. Eggs are attached by an adhesive substance to pebbles and hatch in less than 72 hours. Their population suffers with both aquatic and riparian habitat fragmentation, fluctuating stream flows, siltation, and excessive aquatic vegetation.

Cleanup at the De Soto Ramp – Oct. 18

Friends of the Kaw is working with the City of De Soto and Westar Green Team to clean up an area on the Kaw just below the De Soto access ramp (see photo below) and we need some volunteer assistance.  The clean up will start at 9:00am and end once the job is done or at 4pm so you can come for the morning or afternoon or both.  The Green Team will be using a line truck to lift objects over to the ramp where a skid loader will transport heavy items up the ramp to a dumpster. Because we are using heavy equipment the activity on the ramp is not appropriate for kids under 18 years old.  Younger folks are welcome to come and will be able to help do some maintenance on the demonstration rain garden near the access ramp or pick up litter in RiverfestPark.

Many of Friends of the Kaw’s group float trips start at the De Soto ramp and cleaning up this area will give float participants a better first impression of the river.  We are grateful for the efforts of the City of De Soto and Westar Green Team and also a grant from REI to accomplish this clean up.

Please wear long pants, gloves and sturdy shoes that can get wet.  We will do a hot dog roast for lunch at 12:30pm for volunteers.

It would help us get a count for the hot dog roast if folks would RSVP with the Kansas Riverkeeper – also contact us for more infomation!

Trash on the Kaw

Volunteer Water Monitoring Training by Kansas Riverkeeper

Friends of the Kaw is hosting a second 3 hour, hands-on, super fun volunteer training session on Saturday, October 18 from 1 to 4pm at the De Soto Access Ramp.  In this training, you will conduct both chemical and non-chemical water monitoring tests.  You will seine for macroinvertebrates and learn to identify them.  You will measure impervious surface area and determine runoff volumes.  You”ll have lots of fun and you might even accidentally learn something! Most of the training will be outside at a water site so please dress appropriately and wear shoes that can get wet! Lunch will be provided at 12:30pm.

We are training volunteers to help us with our new Kids About Water (KAW) project that we will implement in middle school and high school classes this year.  We had six people attend the session on Oct. 7 and all had a great time.

For more information or to RSVP contact the Kansas Riverkeeper!

Water Monitoring