Newsletter title

July 2015

In This Edition


Docent Council Meeting Summary

—Kay Krebbs

A docent council meeting was held at 1:00 pm on Saturday, June 13, 2015 at the Research Station at Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. Those in attendance included: Bill Alexander, Dave Dolcater, Debra King, Kathy Eschbach, Nancy Irby, Karen Johnson, Lee Johnson, Kay Krebbs, Betty Turner, David Turner, Lucy Weberling, Patricia Davenport, Mary Ann Davis, Emily Roberts and Evelyn Roberts.

Kay Krebbs opened the meeting and welcomed everyone. Docent Council meetings are open to all docents, and docents are encouraged to come and provide input to Visitor’s Center operations.

Intern Training at the Visitor’s Center

Intern Coordinator Bill Alexander reported on the progress of the Visitor’s Center portion of the intern training. Of the 59 people active in the 2015 Docent Class:

59 (100%) have completed or scheduled Session One (57 are completed)
57 (97%) have completed or scheduled Session Two (55 are completed)
30 (51%) have completed or scheduled Day Three at the visitor center (29 completed)
Three days service as a docent in the visitor center are needed to become an active docent; new name badges are ordered for docents once the third shift is completed.

Interns are encouraged to complete their third day by going online via their link with embedded password to schedule their day and complete the process of becoming an active docent. If anyone has any issues or questions, please contact Bill Alexander at

With the new docent class coming onboard, the Visitor’s Center coverage has improved to effectively 100-percent. From the start of this season to the current date, only one day has not had a docent sign up to open the visitor center. There have been six days where the Visitor’s Center was not opened due to weather, with four days in the first week of March. Docents may need to plan further ahead than last year to get a preferred day.

Bill noted that everyone is pleased with the enthusiastic 2015 Docent Class. This class has made a dramatic improvement in Visitor’s Center coverage overall; and this, in turn, enhances the experience of our visitors to the preserve. We appreciate David and Betty Turner for their roles in setting up the training for this year. The Turners want everyone to know that the total effort by all team members led to the success of the 2015 training. We also appreciate the commitment of the mentors who have worked individually with the interns to bring new docents onboard so quickly in the year.

Docent Appreciation Day

Nancy Irby noted that the docent appreciation day has been set for Saturday, September 26th this year. The meeting is scheduled earlier to get away from the busy period at the Preserve, beginning in November. Everyone is encouraged to attend. The day will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Research Station seminar room. It should be another fun day, so be sure to sign-up to attend. Nancy said that she would appreciate having other docents contact her to help with planning and hosting this event.

The Docent Appreciation day schedule will include a presentation from Jona Tucker, Preserve Director, Ponotoc Ridge Preserve south of Ada, which is a premier cross-timbers property. Tentative plans also call for hosting a docent art show as part of the day’s schedule. This would be an area set aside in the Research Station to allow our multi-talented docents to showcase one or two photos or other items related to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve they have created. This should be a fun and interesting part of the day, as docents share and discuss their common love of the prairie expressed in various art forms. If you are interested in helping with this event, please contact Nancy at

Visitor’s Center Education

Betty Turner first passed out a survey to see if docents were interested in helping with various aspects of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve volunteer program. The changes to the educational area in the Visitor’s Center were noted. Plans are underway for a Roundup display, and eventually some folding display floor panels that would permit more information to be displayed. A flapper board display is also being investigated; this display would be able to contain several posters that a visitor could flip through to view. Also, please be sure to read the note on the bulletin board concerning new items in the educational area, such as the sand foot footprints that can be used by children in the northeast corner of the visitor area.

Docent Recruiting & Training for 2016

David Turner plans to continue as Chairperson for the New Docent Training for 2016. He hopes to use the same approach as was used this year. However, his personal plans call for him to be gone during the recruiting and setup time for the class—most of which is handled in January. Therefore, volunteers are needed to help carry the load for much of the preparations; he hopes to delegate tasks to individuals in bite-size pieces so that no one will feel overwhelmed. The training sessions have been scheduled for the first two Saturdays in February 2016. David will manage the coordination of the actual training presenters and materials. He is soliciting help from other docents interested in helping with recruiting and training, i.e. roster preparation, docent manual update-printing-assembly, creation of the name badges, and mentors. He hopes to expand the role of the mentor to include not only the onsite training, but also to be the first point-of-contact for a few (5-6?) people who have indicated an interest in becoming a docent in order to gather and confirm the contact information. Please contact David at if you are interested in helping in any area.

Work Days Leadership Opportunity

Dennis Bires submitted that he has been work-days leader for over a decade now, and is interested in passing leadership to another docent for new ideas and fresh approaches to this area of operations. To ease the transition, Dennis is willing to mentor the new leader until that person feels comfortable with the work-day process.

Bison Roundup Docent Day

Docent Day during Bison Roundup will be held on Saturday, November 7th. If you would like to view the bison working, please plan to meet at the Visitor’s Center at 1:00 p.m. You will receive a short presentation (usually by Harvey) to give a quick overview of what to expect and what you should and should not do while at the corrals, etc. You are welcome to invite one guest to join you that day.

Future Topics for Discussion

Docents brought up some other possibilities listed below for potential consideration in future meetings:

Automated Schedule Reminders

—Kay Krebbs

Some docents have asked about automated reminders for their Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Visitor’s Center schedules. While our Team-up calendar does not support that directly, it does permit you to export your schedule to your personal calendar, which can then give you a reminder. The method is described by the Team-up web page as follows:

Event Reminders: A Simple Workaround

Currently Teamup Calendar does not support the setting up of reminders or alerts for when a scheduled event is approaching.

In the meantime, if you need reminders for a specific event in your team-based group calendar, you may want to consider the option of exporting Teamup events to a personal calendar such as Google Calendar or iCal on your iPhone, then set up the reminder in that calendar.

To Export an Event
  1. Open the event.
  2. Click on the Share button which is on the top of your event view or bottom if you are in the event editor
  3. Select the calendar you want to export to, confirm to add to your calendar, and you are all done!
Exporting events from TeamUp

For more information see this link to the TeamUp web-site:

Talking It Up

—Debbie King

I ventured out to the Tallgrass Prairie
Sometime late in February.
I knew that it was here but see
I never visited, not me.

We miss the beauty that’s close by
But I have opened up my eyes.
Right here in my own backyard
A chance for us to do our part

A scrap of prairie still remains
A chance for remediation
Too rocky to plow it’s mostly the same
As it was before European invasion.

I love to see the bison roam
Upon the open range
And smell the grasses going up in flame
Nothing remains the same.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

—Nicholas DelGrosso

The Short-eared Owl is a winter resident of Oklahoma, but it has a world-wide distribution across North and South America and Eurasia. In fact the only place it is not found is in Australia and the Antarctic. This makes them one of the most widely distributed birds in the world. Here in Oklahoma we can start looking for this Owl in October and if past records are a good guide, it should stay in our area through the end of April. The northern owls are migratory but most southern populations are not. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 3 million with 14-percent spending some part of the year in the U.S., 11-percent in Canada, and 3-percent wintering in Mexico. The Short-eared Owl ranges across our state from the central mixed grass prairie in the west through the oaks and prairies of the central part of the state into the eastern tallgrass prairie.

Short-eared Owl by Nicholas DelGrosso

The Short-eared Owl is a bird of the open country. I have often seen this Owl in the early morning flying over the tallgrass prairie hawking prey or flying low, rolling and darting for the simple joy of flight, as it welcomes the dawn. It is a tawny colored Owl with irregular flopping flight. These irregular wing beats make the Owl’s flight look moth- or bat-like. Its Latin name, flammeus, roughly translates into fiery, an apt description of the tawny streaked coloration on its breast. It is roughly fifteen inches long, with the females being slightly larger than the males. One of their distinguishing field marks are their buffy wing patches on the tops of their wings and the black carpal (wrist) patches visible on the underside of their wings.

Short-eared Owls are ground roosting birds, while most owls roost in trees during the day, the Short-eared Owl will roost on the ground in medium growth grasses, about two to three years post burn. These grasses provide good cover during the day, they usually try to locate a mound hidden by the tallgrass in the field and roost around these areas.

Short-eared Owl by Nicholas DelGrosso

There are only two methodologies that can be used to spot a Short-eared Owl, (1) Luck, and (2) Hard work. The most active time to spot a flying Short-eared Owl is in the early morning or just prior to dusk. During the middle part of the day they will roost with other Short-eared Owls or Northern Harriers, whose ecological niche they share. Driving up to the headquarters in the early morning or back to Pawhuska in the evening between October and April, I have often seen Short-eared Owls flying along the road. These are both good times to spot this acrobatic Owl flying low over the tall-grass hawking prey. You can’t mistake this bird for a Northern Harrier because it is short and compact in flight and lacks the graceful wing beats of the Harrier. When this Owl hunts during the day it flies low over the ground looking for rodents, one of its favorite prey are meadow voles. It uses both sound and sight to locate prey. Much like a Northern Harrier, its facial discs transmits sounds to its ears and aid in echo locating prey. Once it becomes aware of its prey it will hover before dropping on its prey, using the same hunting techniques as a Northern Harrier.

Short-eared Owl by Nicholas DelGrosso

If the Short-eared Owl is roosting you will need to use a more strenuous method to find it. I have walked up this Owl in the medium growth at the John Dahl Wildlife Management Area. It is very exciting to flush this bird in the tall grass; they jump up with noisy wing beats like a pheasant, reach the top of the grass and are off. Whenever I have been fortunate enough to do this, it has been on a cloudy afternoon. The Owl was usually located in mid-field in the waist high grass. Before it took off it always emitted a high raspy bark. I have done this several times during the Christmas Bird Count at the Preserve. If you’re lucky and know what and where to look you can usually find this Owl.

Hunting occurs mostly at night (nocturnal), but this Owl is also known to be diurnal (active in the daylight) and crespuscular (active during the twilight). Its daylight hunting seems to coincide with the high activity periods of its favorite prey, the meadow vole. It kills its prey with a bite to the back of the skull, often swallowing the prey whole. 90-percent of its prey is small mammals or rodents, but it will sometimes take small birds though they are not a staple. Because the the stomach of all Owls is alkaline, high pH, they have a reduced ability to digest bone and other hard parts so instead they eject pellets containing the remains of their prey. I have seen the Short-eared Owl hawking prey in the air, hovering and diving, I have also seen them hunting from a perch.

Short-eared Owl by Nicholas DelGrosso

The conservation status of this Owl is mixed. Across the southern portion of its range it is listed as a species of special concern, threatened, or endangered. However in the northern portion of its breeding range it is listed as common. Habitat loss seems to be the driving factor; changing agricultural practices have negative effect on roosting and breeding areas. The Short-eared Owl may also compete with the Barn Owl in some areas. Research has shown that some successful Barn Owl nest box programs have coincided with the decline of the Short-eared Owl in the same area. Sometimes when you help a species there are unintended adverse effects on other species, populations also fluctuate greatly along with prey population cycles. Because of their ground nesting preference Short-eared Owls nests are prone to predation from a variety of predators like foxes, raccoons, skunks, and domestic cats and dogs. In addition intensification of agricultural practices, urban expansion and use of rodent poisons and other pesticides impacts Short-eared Owl populations.

If you watch a species long enough you see remarkable things: once at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve I saw two Short eared Owls locking talons in midair. It certainly was one of the highlights I will always remember about this Owl. After a few seconds they separated and went on their way. Conservation of this remarkable Owl depends upon protecting relatively large open sites that support small rodents. By doing this it will also help protect other grassland birds, which require similar habitats.

Common Butterflies of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve:
Orange Sulphur (Colius eurytheme)

—George Pierson

The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve hosts several species of sulphurs, white/yellow/orange butterflies that range in size from small to quite large. The orange sulphur, formerly called the alfalfa butterfly, is probably the most common of the group that can be seen from mid-spring to mid-fall on the Preserve. It is one of the medium sized sulphurs with a wing span ranging from 1⅜″ to 2¾″. They can be found nectaring on many of the flowering plants of the prairie, including milkweeds, goldenrod and clover. The caterpillars feed on members of the pea family.

Orange Sulphur by George Pierson

Yellow form female orange sulphur above left. White form female orange sulphur above right. Below, courting orange sulphurs with male at upper left; the upturned abdomen of the female means buzz off in butterfly speak.

Orange Sulphur by George Pierson

Male orange sulphurs are yellow with an orange patch on the forewing. They have a broad dark band on the trailing edge of the top side of both wings. Females can be yellow or white with a similar dark band, except that it is irregular and generally contains some pale spots. Both sexes have some dark spots on the underside of the forewing near the edge of the dark band. The clouded sulphur is very similar to the orange sulphur but has no orange color showing at all. They also have a white form female that is almost identical to the white female orange sulphurs.

Prairie Watching: Legumes Illustrate Need for Diversity

—Dwight Thomas, Ph.D.

Although the Tallgrass Prairie Ecosystem has dwindled to just a small percentage of the acreage of tall grasses that covered the central part of North America about 200 years ago, the relatively small acreage that remains still has a high level of diversity. Grasses are the dominant species of the tall-grass prairies, but there are many other species cohabiting and many kinds of communities within them. The photograph below shows some diversity, a bottomland forest community at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve with Redbud and Plum trees flowering.

Redbuds & Plums by Dwight Thomas

We usually identify four species of grasses that are listed as the dominant tall-grass species: Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman), Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash), Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), and Little Bluestem (Shizachrium scoparium (Michx) Nash).

But Dr. Michael W. Palmer of Oklahoma State University lists 763 plant species for the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, and 112 of those 763 plant species are grasses.1 There are truly only four dominant species, but a walk in the tallgrass prairie any time of the year will confirm quickly that Palmer’s numbers are likely correct. The National Park Service information on the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills of Kansas says that the grasses make up as much as 80-percent of the biomass of the tallgrass prairie.2 Again, a walk in the prairie will let us know that there are many non-grass plants on the tallgrass prairie. Using the quoted information and a little arithmetic, we can deduce that there are 652 species of plants that can be found in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve that are not grasses, and they make up about 20-percent of the biomass. The tallgrass prairie is one of the more diverse ecosystems on Earth.

When we find extensive plant diversity, we usually also find extensive animal diversity and extensive diversity of non-plants and non-animals such as fungus and bacteria, and other prokaryotic organisms. We also find that each species has a specific niche in its community and performs tasks that are important, or even essential, for the community’s continued existence. One group of plants that really stands out in every natural land community is the group of plants known as legumes. They stand out because their role is critical to the survival of the community. Examples of legumes are beans and peas. A list and description of some common legumes found at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve follows this discussion. The photograph above shows a common legume that is found at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Redbud (Cercis canadensis L.). These small trees are found along almost every stream in the Preserve.

Generic Amino Acid by Dwight Thomas

Legumes are important to the living world because most of them host bacteria in their roots that can fix Nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for living organisms; it is the basis for amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins, of course, are necessary for the structure and functioning of all living organisms. They are the enzymes and genetic material as well as material of cell membranes and muscle tissues. The generic drawing of an amino acid shown here allows us to see that Nitrogen in its amine (NH2) grouping is always present on one end of every amino acid molecule. The COOH on the other end says it is an organic acid, and the R at the top of the drawing represents a complex set of atoms that tells us the kind of amino acid.

Rhizobia Nodules by Dwight Thomas

Since Nitrogen is essential for life, the good news is that Nitrogen is abundantly present on the Earth. It makes up about eighty-percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. The bad news is that atmospheric Nitrogen exists as tightly bound diatomic molecules, N2, that are difficult to separate from each other and use in chemical reactions. Thus, most organisms cannot use Nitrogen from the atmosphere. Plants, except for legumes and a few other groups, must get Nitrogen from the soil; animals and decomposers must get Nitrogen from their food. Rhizobium, a genus of bacteria, is one of the few organisms that can use atmospheric Nitrogen to produce ammonia, the chemical that is needed to produce the amino acids. But to do their job, the bacteria need a host organism to provide the energy that is required for this chemical activity. Legumes provide that energy along with providing a place for the bacteria to live. The Rhizobia infect the legume roots and form nodules on those roots. The nodules can be seen easily on most legume roots as is shown in the photograph of the nodules on the roots of a Clover plant (Trifolium spp.) that I dug up recently in a prairie setting in Osage County.

The relationship between the legume and the Rhizobium is a symbiotic relationship in which both organisms benefit. In return for the energy from the plant, the bacteria provide Nitrogen in a usable form, ammonia. The legume plant absorbs the ammonia and produces amino acids. Then if the legume plant is eaten, that Nitrogen is made available to the consumer. When the legume plant dies, it decomposes through the action of consumers and decomposers and provides that Nitrogen to the soil in the form of nitrates. As I mentioned above, the proteins built from amino acids are structural material for all organisms, but they are also the molecules that create movement and control the chemistry and genetics of the organism. Thus without the legumes and the few other plants that host the Nitrogen-fixing bacteria, the living world, as we know it, could not exist.

According to Dr. Palmer, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve hosts sixty-two species of legumes.1 Legumes are in the Fabaceae family of plants. In Latin, Faba means bean. The most recognizable and well-known species of legumes are beans and peas. We find legume species throughout the tall-grass prairies with adaptations that allow them to live in almost every prairie habitat. Most legumes of the tall-grass prairie are forbs, but some are shrubs and even trees as we saw with the Redbuds.

The legumes are very important plants because they provide nutrients that all organisms need. At the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the sixty-two species of legumes in conjunction with their partner bacteria, Rhizobium, constantly produce tons of usable Nitrogen. Thus, they support all the living organisms in the Preserve. We see that diversity is indeed important. This relatively small group of plants provides a service that makes higher forms of life on Earth possible.

Peanut Farming by Dwight Thomas

The tall-grass prairie lands that have been converted to farmland and grazing land for cattle do not produce usable Nitrogen in nearly as great a quantity as the prairie lands in original prairie condition. Most farmers tend to reduce diversity to a minimum, usually only the intended crop. If that crop is not a legume, then no Nitrogen is fixed. Many crops such as corn are serious gleaners of nitrates from the soil, leaving it completely depleted. And even legume crops such as peanuts do not help build up nitrates in the soil that can be used by other plants because much of the plant material of the crop is harvested. I remember on the peanut farm that we harvested the nuts, but we also harvested the vines for cattle feed. Some material, but not much, was left for the soil.

Bison Nitrogen Services by Dwight Thomas

By-the-way, Bison eat grass mainly. Grasses get their nitrogen from the soil. Native soil gets most of its Nitrogen from legumes. So legume growth in the prairie is critical for producing nutritious grass and healthy Bison. The Bison also do their part in spreading the Nitrogen. Some Nitrogen compounds from metabolism of proteins in the grasses will pass on through their digestive systems and urinary systems and will be deposited on the prairie. Our proverbial walk in the prairie will show us how much Nitrogen spreading the Bison do. As always, here is a photograph that illustrates this. And if you look under these piles, you might find American Burying Beetles, a Federally listed endangered species—they have to eat something.

Some tall-grass prairie legume species are described below.

Blue False Wild Indigo, Baptisia australis L.

This species grows abundantly out in the open prairies with an upright flower spike of up to three feet tall. The spike is covered with large blue flowers that bloom in the Spring.

Blue False Wild Indigo & Fruit by Dwight Thomas

The leaves are large and palmately compound, either trifoliate or with four or five leaflets, and have a slightly grayish color. The flowers are typical bean-type flowers, having five sepals and petals. The sepals are small and green and the petals are larger and colored. The flower is bilaterally symmetrical with the top petal standing up, the two side petals folded inward, and the two bottom petals protruding from the bottom of the flower (banner, wings, and keel). The fruit is a large bean-type pod with several seeds inside. This is not the species that is commonly used for blue dye. That too is a legume, but it is native to India. However, this species does have a quantity of blue pigment and has been used by Native Americans as a blue die. The photographs above show a flowering stalk and a fruiting stalk.

The Preserve hosts two additional species of this genus: White False Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba L.) and Cream-Colored False Wild Indigo (Baptisia bracteata Muhl.). These are similar to the Blue False Wild Indigo except for flower color, and the Cream-Colored False Wild Indigo has a less upright growth habit.

Cream False Wild Indigo by Dwight Thomas


Scurfy Pea, Psoralidium tennuflorum (Pursh.) Rydb.

This species is very common in the Spring. It grows in large populations of bushy two-foot tall plants. Each plant will be covered with small dark blue-purple bean-type flowers. The palmate compound leaves and stems have a slight gray color.

Scurfy Pea by Dwight Thomas


Lead Plant, Amorpha canescens Pursh.

This plant is a common shrub that grows up to three feet high throughout the prairie on well-drained soils. It is deciduous with small pinnately compound leaves that are covered with fine hair giving it a gray appearance, hence the name Lead Plant. It has an extensive root system, which allows it to withstand fire and drought. The purple flowers bloom in the summer and are small, with only one petal. The flowers grow on branched stalks at the top of the plant. The fruits are small bean-type pods with one seed in each pod.

Lead Plant by Dwight Thomas


Sensitive Briar, Mimosa nuttallii (D.C.) B.L. Turner

The Sensitive Briar is a herbaceous perennial. The plant is a trailing semiwoody vine covered with small recurved prickles. The stems usually grow to four feet. or more and are branched but only one to two feet tall. The leaves are pinnately compound and sensitive to the touch. A touch will release a valve that allows water to drain from the leaves making them close. The fruit are elongated prickly pods. The flowers are small and clustered into a globose head. The stamens are long and pink with yellow anthers on the ends of the stamens forming a globe shape.

Sensitive Briar by Dwight Thomas


Illinois Bundleflower. Desmanthes illinioisensis (Michx) MacM.

The Illinois Bundleflower plants are slender and weedy standing up to four feet tall. The leaves are bipinnately compound with small leaflets. The leaves are similar to those of the Sensitive Briar, but they do not close when touched. They do close at night. The flowers are similar to those of the Sensitive Briar without the color. The globose heads just appear white. The fruits are beans that form from each flower in the head and remain curled around to continue the globose head appearance. The fruits are a dark brown and persist into the winter, which makes the plant with fruit the most noticeable phase of the plant.

Illinois Bundleflower by Dwight Thomas


Showy Partridge Pea, Chamechrista fasciculatus (Michx) Greene

Partridge peas are an annual legume. They grow in masses and are about one to two feet tall. The masses are thick enough to provide excellent cover for wildlife. The leaves are bipinnately compound and are sensitive to the touch but do not respond as quickly as Sensitive Briar. The flowers have yellow petals and are more open and showy than other legumes. The stamens are conspicuously long and brown, showing up against the yellow petals. The fruit is a long narrow bean that will split open at maturity with the sides curling to propel the seeds some distance from the plant. The seeds are excellent wildlife food, especially birds such as quail and prairie chickens. Partridge Peas are exclusively pollenated by bees. The honey those bees make is prized for its flavor.

Showy Partridge Pea by Dwight Thomas


Kentucky Coffee Tree, Gymnocladus dioicus (L.) Koch

The Kentucky Coffee Tree is a large tree up to seventy feet tall. It ranges throughout eastern United States, but it is not common, growing mainly in floodplains. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve would be about as far west as it would ever be found native. The leaves are bipinnately compound and fall early in the Fall giving it a bare appearance for about half of the year. The flowers are small and greenish-white growing in racemes with separate male and female flowers and trees. The fruit is a large pod up to six inches long with a hard thick covering and a sticky mass of fibrous material inside. The seeds in the pods are hard. This makes the fruit almost inedible for any currently living wildlife. To germinate, the pod and the seed must lie in the wet ground until the pods and seedcoats essentially decay. On the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, this tree is near Sand Creek just north of the shorter hiking trail.

Kentucky Coffee Tree by Dwight Thomas



  1. Palmer, Michael W., Department of Botany, Oklahoma State University, The Vascular Flora of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Osage County, Oklahoma, Castenea 72(4): 234-246. December 2007.
  2. The National Park Service, A Complex Prairie Ecosystem.

Oh Bison, Bison, Buffalo…

—Debbie King

Oh bison, bison, buffalo.
You made this world so long ago.
Generations revered you.
You gave them food, shelter and clothes.
They honored your sacrifices as your spirit rose.
Our entrance was small, at first, and so you sheltered our fathers from wind and snow.
Too soon our evil ways we showed and took from you and laid you low.
Reservations, loss of pride, massacres, no horse to ride.
And when we left you without hope, your bison were shot for tongues and robes.
Their meat lay rotting on the plain, the great herds never to return again.
But all is not lost as good hearted folks are increasing your numbers and returning your hope.
You are part of this prairie, you and the fire.
And we are determined it will not expire.

Visitor Counts

—Iris McPherson

We had a good month with a total of 700 visitors in April. That was aided when we, for the second year in a row, had the international Fulbright scholars come to visit the preserve. We had six new countries added to our list. I must admit I’m not sure if all of those were independent countries. I especially had difficulty with whether Bosnia & Herzegovina was the name of a single country and whether Macedonia and Montenegro were two separate countries. I’m sure that Ivory Coast, Mali and Uzbekistan were actually individual countries. I tried checking the atlas, but it was still not very clear. I would appreciate any insight that someone might have on my country listings. There were 39 visitors from 19 foreign countries according to my list of foreign countries.

There were a total of 700 visitors in April. Of that total there were 661 from the US (42 states) and 38 from foreign countries. Of those from the US there were 407 from Oklahoma with KS (22) and TX and CA tied with (18) each were the next three most highly represented states.

The number of visitors dropped some during May. There were not the large groups like the previous two months. For the month of May there were a total of 515 visitors. Of that number there were 505 from the US with a breakdown of 347 from OK and MO (15) and TX (14) represented the next highest numbers from a state. We only had 10 international visitors from five countries.

The table below will give you a look at how this year started compared to previous years.

We have a lot of new docents this year, which is a real delight for the rest of us. One of the things that we must emphasize in the training is that each docent on duty should encourage visitors to sign the guest register outside the front door. From my experience in working with the new docents, I’d say they are doing a good job, so keep up the good work. The numbers give us an idea of where our visitors live, which helps us figure out the states and countries are not being represented. One of the things I enjoy most as a docent is getting to visit with people from all the US states and many foreign countries. It is amazing when you stop and think about our opportunities to spread The Nature Conservancy’s message about the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, as well as the Conservancy’s many other preserves.

Please remember to always politely request our visitors to sign the guest register.

Annual Number of Known Visitors to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Summarized by Month
YearJanFebMar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep OctNovDecTotals
1994260280569 9511,4561,5291,5651,0451,0101,11767233810,792
19952824206681,1671,6021,7001,4851,598 9921,58877026212,534
19983173406091,1781,4561,2581,182 960 8841,13366728910,273
1999215417628 7771,7121,8571,209 703 7541,54992234211,085
20002292825831,1761,6241,6141,017 597 8181,125438 93 9,596
YearJanFebMar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep OctNovDecTotals
2001131149855 9101,8111,5501,100 6381,0491,25065325210,348
2002217114761 7251,7451,3831,057 685 951 688517140 9,010
2003 98 39527 8081,190 832 594 6721,008 ????????? 7,125
2006????????? 586 810 629 709 310 605 641405 68 4,763
2007 47 35361 575 810 737 756 407 660 688396 81 5,553
2008 26 74299 507 941 664 629 436 488 724560111 5,459
2009117 72482 428 9691,026 790 688 746 615443 25 6,401
2010 23194471 735 979 739 898 538 769 793450 72 6,661
YearJanFebMar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep OctNovDecTotals
2011 35 42478 547 612 587 634 293 494 672313 92 4,799
2012 73 42368 436 732 699 446 293 389 416466 36 4,396
2013 64 33437 466 720 760 846 580 543 612391104 5,556
2014 81 41482 811 784 635 874 601 464 687385114 5,959
2015 92 78822 700 515 2,207

As of December 2014, we have received 154,605 visitors who took the trouble to announce their presence in the Visitor’s Book.

In 1994, George Myers started recording the numbers of visitors to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and from whence they came. He did this for almost ten years. His last report appeared in the September 2003 edition of the newsletter.

Beginning in April 2006, Iris McPherson took up the task of chronicling Tallgrass Prairie Preserve visitation, as recorded in the Visitor’s Book.

Docent Coverage Of Season Days

—Bill Alexander

The June coverage was perfect, with no closing days reported during the month. Only four days of the month had only one docent serving, the remainder had two or more. Our year-to-date coverage jumped up to 94-percent at the end of June with weather closings. If you exclude the six days this year that the Visitor’s Center was closed due to weather, then the year-to-date average jumps up to an incredible 99-percent coverage. THANKS so much to everyone for their diligence in making sure that we have the Visitor’s Center open for Tallgrass Prairie Preserve visitors.

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
Vistor’s Center Docent Coverage of Season Days Compared
2014DaysClosedCoverage 2015DaysClosedCoverage
March 311165% March 315 84%
April 30 873% April 300100%
May 31 584% May 312 94%
June 301067% June 300100%
July 31 487% July 31
August 31 487% August 31
September 301163% September 30
October 31 777% October 31
November 30 873% November 30
December 14 471% December 14
Year2897275%Year to date1227 94%
Docent Coverage of Season Days Annual History

Other Places to Visit

Here we provide some links to other places worth visiting.

Visitor’s Center Latitude & Longitude

Here is the latitude and longitude of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Visitor’s Center that you can give to visitors for entry into their GPS navigation device.

These coordinates are a verified position on the parking lot in front of the Visitor’s Center. This link to Google maps shows the position superimposed on satellite imagery:

Back Issues

Some printed back issues of the Docent Newsletter, to February 2009, can be found in the two green and one blue-black zip-binders, stored in the Perspex rack by the file cabinet in the office of the Visitor’s Center.

All back issues are available electronically via the links shown below. All newsletters prior to December 2007 are available in Portable Document Format (PDF), which means that you will need Adobe Reader installed on your computer to read these files. All newsletters from December 2007 onwards are in HTML format that is easily read using your web-browser.

Available Back Issues:

2015January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December—2015
2014January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2014
2013January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2013
2012January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2012
2011January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2011
2010January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2010
2009January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2009
2008January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2008
2007January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2007
2006—January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2006
2005January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2005
2004—January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2004
2003—January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December—2003
2002—January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2002
2001January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2001
2000January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December2000
1999January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December1999
1998January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December1998
1997January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December1997
1996—January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December1996
1995—January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December1995

Selected Topics Index

This persistent index of selected topics should make finding articles of interest easier. The list will grow as I move further into the past and it will grow as I add interesting topics from each new newsletter. Iris McPherson lent me the paper copies of the newsletter from the very early years of the docent program; I ran them through a scanner equipped with a document feeder, saving them as PDF files, then added them to Back Issues section above. Let me know of any dead links that you discover. Also, please lend me any paper copies of the newsletter that are missing so that I can scan and add them to the list of back issues.




Bison Roundup




Butterfly Counts


Docent Recognition Luncheons

Docent Reorientations

Docent Council Meetings




Haiku on the Prairie


Josie of the Prairie



Prairie Watching

Rangeland Management







Visitor’s Center

Visitor’s Center Kiosk


Newsletter Publication

Deadline for submission of articles for inclusion in the newsletter is the 10th of each month. Publication date is on the 15th. All docents, Nature Conservancy staff, university scientists, philosophers, and historians are welcome to submit articles and pictures about the various preserves in Oklahoma, but of course the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in particular.