I made a friend along the Fort Kearny Hike-Bike Trail on a cool, cloudy Sunday morning. I never saw a face, but I had a brief, intense conversation with “Bob.”
I don’t know if that’s short for Robert or even Roberta or Bobbie, but I clearly heard the full name my mysterious buddy preferred.
Those were the only two words in our conversation. Bob caught my ear with his constant calls from a grassy fence line at a restored prairie on Platte River Recovery Implementation Program land that’s west of the trail and beyond the north end of the old railroad bridge crossing the river’s main channel.
I’d hear “Bob White” and then whistle similar notes. My goal was to follow the sound to Bob’s location so I could photograph him. I soon realized he was too hidden and too shy for a photo.
I enjoyed responding to him with the only bird call I can come close to replicating. Our back-and-forth continued until I had returned to the bridge and we both were tired of the game.
Earlier Sunday, I played hide-and-seek with two camera-shy male cardinals. One was along the trail south of the bridge and the other flew around the Fort Kearny Pollinator Habitat Project plot north of the recreation area campsites.
The plot was my original destination because it was the site of a Wagon Wheels Thru the Prairie event on the last day of National Pollinator Week.
Dale Johnson and his team of horses, Bell and Bess, gave wagon rides to the weekend campers. At the pollinator plot, they learned about wildflowers planted to attract pollinators.
I took photos of bees on Indian blanket plants, milkweed and other flowers there and along the hike-bike trail. The highlight was photographing a monarch butterfly tasting milkweed flowers at the pollinator plot.
While walking the trail, I also captured images of an eastern kingbird sitting on the bridge railing and a Henslow’s sparrow — identified with an internet search for prairie grassland birds — in the PRRIP prairie.
Three days earlier, I photographed pollinators in grasslands along and near the Platte River at Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary: two kinds of dragonflies, white cabbage and yellow sulphur butterflies, and bees.
Pollinator week highlights the importance of pollination and the concern that some species are in decline.
In a press release, Craig Derickson, state conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, said 75 percent-95 percent of flowering plants need pollinators, including two-thirds of crop plants.
Pollinators — a diverse group of insects, birds and mammals — have an estimated $217 billion value to the global economy, but many are at risk. He said monarchs have declined by 90 percent the past 20 years and one-in-four bumblebee species are thought to be in serious decline.
Derickson said we can help by:
- Planting pollinator-friendly plants such as native black-eyed susans, purple coneflowers and milkweed.
- Avoiding pesticides and using as an alternative certain plants that ward off unwanted bugs.
- Asking local leaders to plant pollinator-friendly plants at parks, golf courses and other greenscapes.
- Asking local and state highway officials to allow native vegetation to colonize roadsides.
You can see photos of some pollinators and wildflowers that I saw the past week at kearneyhub.com.
Better yet, see some for yourself. Take a walk at Fort Kearny, Rowe Sanctuary, Cottonmill Park, The Nature Conservancy’s Platte Prairies south of Wood River, Lake Seldom at Holdrege, Funk and other Rainwater Basin Waterfowl Production Areas, or at other nearby areas with grasslands, wetlands and wildflowers attractive to pollinators, birds, deer and other wildlife.