A few years ago, with technical and financial help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, we fenced out the pond at our family’s land and installed solar-powered livestock watering facilities. It was something I’d wanted to do since taking over management of the land, and I was excited to see what positive impacts might result. As expected, keeping cattle out of the pond has really transformed it. The water is much less muddy and vegetation has grown up around and in the water, creating some really nice wetland habitat. Taking advantage of the new habitat conditions are hordes of dragonflies, damselflies along with many other invertebrates, frogs and water birds. In addition we find tracks of other wildlife all around the edge of the water.
Here is the shallow end of our pond last week, with lots of blue mud plantain, along with arrowhead, pondweed, and other wetland vegetation. We’ll still use cattle to manage habitat conditions, but now we can let them in when we want to, and for specific purposes, rather than having them stomp around the pond all the time.
One small but really pleasant surprise has been the establishment of a little plant called blue mud plantain (Heteranthera limosa). It’s an annual emergent wetland plant that is pretty common around Nebraska but it’s gorgeous and I’d never seen it on our land before this year. All of a sudden, it’s taken over much of the shallow water areas of our wetland and I couldn’t be happier. It’s not a rare plant, and I have no idea how valuable it might be for wildlife or pollinators – I’ve just always thought it was a pretty little wetland plant and I was excited to find it at our place. I spent a little time photographing it last week and came away with wet elbows, wet knees, and some nice images of this great little plant.
I made a quick run out to our family prairie this week to see how our grazing management was looking. It was a beautiful evening for a stroll, as the sun went down through layers of diffuse clouds. The abundant rain this year has fueled tremendous growth in the prairie and has filled up the wetland to its rim. As planned, a portion of the prairie is short-cropped by cattle grazing while other areas are either ungrazed or lightly grazed, and there was a lot of life on display.
Grasshoppers and katydids exploded around my feet as I walked around – most of them clearly adults since they were flying short distances before landing again (they only get wings after their final molt into adulthood). They were joined by hordes of other invertebrates, including caterpillars, bees, butterflies, and many others. I flushed a great horned owl from a big ash tree, and then was very pleased to see a rail (probably a Virginia rail) dangle its feet as it flew across our recovering wetland. Here are a few photos from the night.
I’ve seen this same species of caterpillar in a couple places this week. This one was munching on false boneset.
Dotted gayfeather and stiff goldenrod were both abundant uphill from the wetland.
A close-up view of dotted gayfeather.
Our wetland at sunset. The addition of a couple solar-powered wells for livestock water has allowed us to exclude cattle from the pond/wetland area, and the habitat improvements are obvious.
A quick note of thanks: This blog quietly passed two milestones this week. I posted my 500th post, and we passed the 1,800 mark on blog subscribers. Thank you for your continued support of this site – I hope it’s as useful and enjoyable to you as it is to me.