This week was a fun week for natural history observations at the Platte River Prairies. Mike Schrad, Master Naturalist, led a crew of small mammal trappers and confirmed the continued presence of plains pocket mice (and other species) in both the restored and remnant portions of our small area of sandhill prairie. Mike and I are hoping to learn how the pocket mouse (including an at-risk subspecies, Perognathus flavescens perniger) responds to our fire and grazing management over a decade or more. This is the seventh year Mike has been tracking populations, and it certainly appears the population is stable, though variance in trapping numbers makes it hard to say much more to date.
In addition, the Fellows and I conducted a bumble bee survey as part of the Nebraska Bumble Bee Atlas project and caught 44 bumble bees in 45 minutes of sampling time (15 minutes per person). That list of bees included three species – the brown-belted bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis), the American bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus), and the southern plains bumble bee (Bombus fraternus). The first of those is very common, the second seems to have strong populations here but is declining to the east of us, and the third is considered endangered by several conservation groups, including the Xerces Society.
In addition to those more formal investigations, I saw a wide diversity of other species – some of which I captured photos of. A selection of those is included here for your enjoyment.