Prairie Ridge Ecostation

Prairie Ridge News & Events

Fairies and Gnomes Visit the Prairie

girl dressed as fairy looking for ladybugsSpring has sprung, so it is time once again for the gnomes and fairies to make an appearance at Prairie Ridge!  Our Gnomes and Fairies Spring Up on the Prairie event welcomed over 300 people to Prairie Ridge on May 3 for a celebration of spring and spending time outdoors in nature.  The festivities included a mix of fun and learning for young children and featured a spring scavenger hunt, nature story time, citizen science ladybug hunts, a drum circle, and a parade of gnomes and fairies through the prairie.  Kids were also able to build gnome and fairy houses from natural materials, decorate wings and hats to dress up, play in the Nature PlaySpace, get a balloon animal, and blow bubbles.  The goal of this event is to get kids outside in nature in a fun and educational setting.  Judging from the smiles of hundreds of children, it was another successful year!

— posted 5/6/2014


Long Awaited Chimney Swift Tower Coming Soon to Prairie Ridge

Groundbreaking of the new chimney swift towerA new structure is coming soon to Prairie Ridge, one that we hope will allow us to easily view one of the most amazing spectacles of nature!  On April 17, we broke ground on a new Chimney Swift tower, a structure that will attract thousands of Chimney Swifts in the late summer and early fall as they prepare to migrate south for the winter.  As part of the ceremony, an audience of about 50 people was treated to brief talks about the origins of the project, how the tower will benefit the birds, and the benefits of the tower for ornithologists and bird enthusiasts.  Afterwards, everyone moved to the site of the future tower for the official groundbreaking and enjoyed a walk around Prairie Ridge to view birds, learn about citizen science projects anyone can do, and learn how bird banding supports research. 

The tower, supported largely by a Toyota TogetherGreen Innovation award, will feature webcams and other tools to allow researchers easy viewing access to roosting birds inside the tower.  A live feed of birds inside the tower will be made available to the public.  Visitors to Prairie Ridge will also be able to view the birds on-site while relaxing on the patios surrounding the tower.  We expect the tower to be both an excellent research tool and a great way for people to learn more about these amazing birds, so we look forward to its completion later this year!

posted 4/24/2014


Service Raleigh and PNC Grow Up Great Volunteers Make a Difference in the Nature PlaySpace

Service Raleigh volunteer group photoThe Prairie Ridge and Early Chidlhood staff welcomed several volunteers to our Nature PlaySpace on March 29 to make some exciting improvements! The group added seating to the hut, organized the space, and moved and improved the fire ring outside the PlaySpace, among several other tasks.  The team accomplished a lot in a short amount of time and made some major improvements to the space.  Thank you to all of the Service Raleigh and PNC Grow Up Great volunteers who helped out.  We appreciate your spending a Saturday helping us make our popular space for children even better!

posted 5/6/2014


Short Grass on the Prairie

Prairie before and afterIf you visit Prairie Ridge over the next month or so, you’ll likely notice that the grasses are shorter than usual in many areas of the grounds.  Part of the prairie (near the pond and along the lowlands of the Forest Trail) was burned in November during our annual prescribed burn.  Over the last few days, the grasses near the parking lot have also been reduced to nubs.  This part of the prairie was mowed, and for a good reason. The Prairie Ridge prairie is a demonstration of what the prairies of North Carolina looked like before they were eliminated due to proliferation of farmland and urbanization.  Back when prairies were part of North Carolina’s natural landscape, we had two things that helped keep them healthy and prevent encroachment of forests into the grasses: fire and large grazing mammals.  Species such as Bison and Elk used to roam North Carolina, and their grazing helped thin the grasses and fertilize the land.  We can’t bring in large grazing mammals to feed on our grasses now, but we can mimic some of the services they provided mechanically.  By mowing the prairie, we help replenish nutrients to the soil and remove vegetation, allowing the sun to reach new seedlings that will sprout up in the prairie come spring.

Fire and mowing are important management tools we use to keep our prairie looking its best.  It might not look like much now, but there are lots of animals making use of the bald patches!  Look for big flocks of Robins hunting seeds and insects, small mammals such as Hispid Cotton Rats darting across the surface, and birds of prey searching for food overhead.  Come on out and see what you can discover roaming over the short grass!

-- posted  2/28/2014


Burning the Prairie

Prairie burnThe annual Prairie Ridge controlled burn took place on November 19th.  As in past years, our natural resources manager, Brian Hahn, led a team of highly skilled firemen from the NC Division of Forest Resources and Western Wake Fire Department in the burn, focusing this year on the lower prairie.  Controlled burns mimic natural processes and are an important part of the management of our prairie, helping to reduce the competition from woody plants and replenish vital soil nutrients.  The underground roots and seeds of the grasses and wildflowers are protected from the effects of the fire and will quickly regrow into a healthier prairie.

You might see blackened areas near the pond and along the Forest Trail over the next few weeks, but keep an eye out for wildlife in the burned areas!  We often see increased activity in our small mammal populations and birds of prey in burn areas.

— posted 11/22/13


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