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
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
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:
Update a previous CD that can be
used to describe the trip into and out of the Tallgrass Prairie
Preserve that people could listen to while driving in the preserve.
The referenced CD is one that was done by a Pawhuska entity and was
not a Nature Conservancy or Tallgrass Prairie Preserve item. At
this time, nothing else is planned.
Instead of a CD, a smart-phone application that uses the GPS to key audio
commentary at the appropriate point in the journey would be
better. It is technology that could be deployed by The Nature
Conservancy at all preserves. A generic application could
download appropriate commentary from Conservancy servers
depending on the current latitude and longitude [Editor].
Provide information leaflets or brochures to Pawhuska businesses
advertising what is available at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
It was noted that the Chamber of Commerce is given Tallgrass
Prairie Preserve brochures that are then made available for many
local businesses. In addition, Preserve staff provide brochures
to both local museums and the library.
Provide a new more visible sign to emphasize the location of the
Visitor’s Center, now noted with a metal spell out of
INFORMATION to one side of the building, possibly with a
lighted OPEN sign to make the center more visible to visitors as
they drive into the headquarters area.
Possible use of the website for questions and answers.
It was noted that the Tallgrass Facebook page has something
similar to this. And in addition, we would need to involve The
Nature Conservancy with any plans to host something on a public
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
To Export an Event
Open the event.
Click on the Share button which is on the top of your event view
or bottom if you are in the event editor
Select the calendar you want to export to, confirm to add to your
calendar, and you are all done!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Please remember to always politely request our visitors to sign the
Annual Number of Known Visitors to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Summarized by Month
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
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
Tallgrass Prairie Preserve Vistor’s Center Docent Coverage of Season Days Compared
Here we provide some links to other places worth visiting.
Observations from Oklahoma’s Osage Hills State Park by Ranger Kyle Thoreson.
This site has excellent photography by Ranger Thoreson. The Park
is downstream Sand Creek from the Visitor’s Center.
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
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.
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.
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.