Prairie Ridge Ecostation

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Gnomes and Fairies Coming Soon to Prairie Ridge!

Our popular Gnomes and Fairies Spring Up on the Prairie event is returning to Prairie Ridge on May 2, 2015 from 9am-noon.  This annual springtime celebration includes fun activities, games, and nature play and exploration geared toward our young visitors.  This year's event will feature mud kitchen chemistry, seed planting, bubbles, gnome and fairy house building, costumes, a nature story and more and will culminate with the annual Parade of Gnomes and Fairies.  Help us celebrate spring at this fun and educational family event!

For more information, please visit the event listing on the Programs & Events page.

-- posted 4/25/2015


Statewide Star Party Returns to Prairie Ridge

Star Party photo boothPrairie Ridge has been a part of the NC Science Festival's Statewide Star Party celebration since it began in 2013 and it has proven to be a very popular event each year.  The third annual Star Party was no exception!  Nearly 200 people visited Prairie Ridge to view planets and stars with our Raleigh Astronomy Club partners and participated in a variety of fun and educational activities in our Outdoor Classroom.  One straw powered rocket flew a whopping 31 feet and our astronomy-themed photo booth was a huge hit!  We also collected citizen science data for two astronomy projects and taught vistors about the composition of the planets in our solar system through an educational display created by one of our fabulous Prairie Ridge interns.

Thanks to the Raleigh Astronomy Club and all of the volunteers who made this event a rousing success once again!

-- posted 4/25/2015


New Pollinator Garden Planted at Prairie Ridge

pollinator garden crew after plantingPrairie Ridge has a beautiful Nature Neighborhood Garden, plantings in the Nature Playspace, and native plant areas along the Forest Trail, but we now have a brand new garden for visitors to enjoy on the grounds!  Our new pollinator garden is located by the Prairie Ridge entrance off the Reedy Creek Greenway and feature plants attractive to native pollinators.  With many native pollinator species in decline, the garden will make nectar and pollen sources available to a wide variety of species throughout their season.  It will also act as an educational garden to inform visitors of pollinator conservation as well as pollinator firendly plants that anyone can plant in their gardens.  Site preparation for the new garden began almost two years ago, so we are thrilled to see the new garden in place and look forward to observing the pollinators that use it!

Special thanks to the attendees of our Pollinator Gardens workshop who planted, watered, and mulched the new garden!  The workshop attendees made quick work of a large project and their efforts will be enjoyed by thousands of visitors over the next serveral years. 

-- posted 4/14/2015


Chimney Swift Tower, Now Under Construction!

Chimney Swift Tower against forestConstruction of the Prairie Ridge Chimney Swift tower began a few weeks ago and great progress has been made so far! Though it’s too late for the birds to use it this year, the tower itself has been completed and awaits the arrival of the birds next fall.

The brick tower, designed by local architect Frank Harmon and funded by Wake Audubon, provides habitat that the birds seek as they aggregate in the fall prior to migration. It is hoped that the tower will attract a large aggregation of Chimney Swifts each fall.

While the tower structure has been completed, the technology that will allow researchers to study the birds inside the tower has not yet been installed, nor have the viewing areas for the tower. Once installed, the viewing areas will allow visitors to relax on benches as they watch the Chimney Swifts return to their roost inside the tower during evenings in the fall.

We eagerly look forward to completion of the rest of the tower complex and hope that Chimney Swifts will colonize their beautiful new structure next fall!

— posted 11/21/2014


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


Prairie Ridge Nature PlaySpace Now Open!

PlaySpace hillAfter an opening preview event on Wednesday, September 25, the Nature PlaySpace at Prairie Ridge officially opened to the public on Saturday, September 28 during our annual Take a Child Outside (TACO) celebration.  Over 300 people attended the opening and TACO events and helped make the day a huge success!  After story time and a productive citizen science ladybug hunt, the PlaySpace was opened with great fanfare as our Director of Research and Collections, Dr. Jason Cryan, cut the vine and let everyone explore the new play area.  Visitors enjoyed facilitated free-play time in the tunnel, at the water stations, digging in the fossil pits, and exploring rotting logs while others explored the Prairie Ridge grounds with staff as we searched for grasshoppers and turtles.  It was a beautiful day, and people streamed in long after our opening ended.  We had a lot of fun, and we are excited to offer the PlaySpace as a new activity at Prairie Ridge.

The PlaySpace is now open to the public our regular hours, Monday–Saturday from 9am–4:30pm and Sunday from noon–4:30pm, so come on out and play!

— posted 10/4/13


Nature Stories Gets a Strong Start

nature storytimeThursday, August 22 marked the start of a new weekly program at Prairie Ridge aimed at young children: Nature Stories!  Children gathered around our outdoor amphitheater and enjoyed a story about a caterpillar transforming into an adult butterfly before acting out the steps of metamorphosis themselves.  After the story, everyone visited the Prairie Ridge garden to look for live butterflies.  Participants got a little sidetracked by a Black Rat Snake curled up in the American Wisteria, but everyone had a chance to see several beautiful butterflies and caterpillars and listen to the Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillars chewing the Woolly Pipevine.  Over 40 people attended our first Nature Stories, and we are looking forward to offering more stories and nature adventures each Thursday from 10-11am.  We hope you’ll join us!

— posted 8/29/13


Science in the Treetops

climber in treeAs part of a larger project researching tiny creatures called water bears, Dr. “Canopy Meg” Lowman brought students, volunteers, and the public to Prairie Ridge on August 9 to demonstrate how researchers get high into trees to collect scientific samples.  Tree climbing experts rigged several trees with ropes, then invited everyone to take a turn scaling a tree.  People of all ages and mobilities, including several wheelchair-dependent people, climbed high into the treetops to see how canopy researchers do their work.  People streamed in all day and dozens of people had a chance to experience what it’s like to be a canopy researcher.  It was a fun opportunity for everyone involved, and one we hope to have repeated!

— posted 8/15/13


Moth Enthusiasts Swarm to the Lights

moth enthusiasts at a blacklightIn spite of the rainy beginnings, the second annual celebration of National Moth Week at Prairie Ridge proved to be a popular event! Dozens of visitors came out to view moths at our five light stations and enjoyed a walk through the forest to visit trees painted in moth bait. Many of our evening’s moth-ers snapped photos for a variety of citizen science projects as well, making valuable contributions to our scientific understanding of moths. We even added several new species of moths to the Prairie Ridge moth list, including the spectacular Tulip-tree Silkmoth! Most visitors got a rare glimpse of our resident flying squirrel and everyone took home at least a few new facts about moths. It was a great night!

— posted 8/2/13


WRAL Weather Broadcasts from Prairie Ridge

Elizabeth Gardner and Charles YeltonPrairie Ridge played host to a special guest on Thursday, June 5: WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner! She and her crew broadcast the noon weather report live from the grounds. Before each weather segment, Ms. Gardner did a quick interview with Museum staff members. The head of the Museum’s summer camps, Megan Chesser, was first, teaching viewers about dragonflies and upcoming summer camp opportunities. In the second segment, Prairie Ridge director Charles Yelton showed off the Purple Martin babies from the nests near our outdoor classroom and encouraged viewers to attend our weekly Citizen Science Saturday walks on Saturdays from 10:30-11:30. We enjoyed having Ms. Gardner and her crew here and hope they will come back to do more weather reports in the future!

— posted 5/24/13


Gnomes and Fairies Abound at Prairie Ridge

Fairy Gnome Day 2013Prairie Ridge’s annual celebration of nature for young children, Gnomes and Fairies Spring Up at Prairie Ridge, took place Saturday, May 18. Over 200 visitors of all ages took advantage of a variety of activities, including a nature scavenger hunt, a citizen science ladybug hunt, nature crafts, science story time, and child-friendly outdoor activities during the three-hour event. Children and parents were also given their first opportunity to give feedback on our upcoming Nature Play Space. The event culminated in a parade of fairies and gnomes raucously shaking their homemade noise makers as they walked through the prairie in a long procession. Everyone had a great time learning and playing together outside, and we are already looking forward to next year’s event!

— posted 5/24/13 


Homeschool Day Returns to Prairie Ridge

Homeschool DayPrairie Ridge hosted the semi-annual NC Museum of Natural Sciences Homeschool Day on April 15, a day of nature-based learning geared toward homeschool families. Several Museum and Prairie Ridge educators worked together to offer a variety of lessons for homeschool students of all ages, such as looking for animals under logs, studying decomposers, going on a bird hike, or joining a ladybug hunt to collect data for the Lost Ladybug citizen science project. We had a great group of visitors this year, with over 50 children and teens participating in the lessons. Homeschool Day is always a fun day of nature learning, discovery, and activities, so consider joining us next year!

— posted 4/18/2013


Statewide Star Party a Huge Success!

Star Party visitorsPrairie Ridge participated in the kick-off event of the NC Science Festival, the Statewide Star Party, on Friday, April 5, 2013. Even though we were one of nearly 50 Star Party sites throughout the state, we still had a great turnout of over 200 people! Visitors were able to get an up-close look at the stars thanks to members of the Raleigh Astronomy Club who brought telescopes out for star and nebula gazing throughout the evening. Our wonderful volunteers taught visitors how to participate in sky- and space-themed citizen science projects, such as Globe at Night, and led several activities for kids in our outdoor classrooms. It looked like the weather wouldn’t cooperate, but things cleared up perfectly and we ended up having a beautiful evening of stargazing, learning, and star-themed fun!Special thanks to the Raleigh Astronomy Club and the NC Science Festival for helping make this event possible!

posted 4/10/2013


Fire on the Prairie

prairie firePrairies like that at Prairie Ridge depend on periodic wildfires to prevent the growth of trees in the fields.  Fire kills small trees and saplings, clears the land, and fertilizes the soil, essentially wiping the slate clean so that the prairie plants can grow back strong from underground seeds and roots.  To mimic what occurs in nature, our prairie is divided into three sections and one section is burned each year.  Our latest burn took place on February 18 when the wind speed and direction, humidity, temperature, and prairie moisture were just right so that the section of the prairie closest to the entrance could be burned.  The prescribed fire was led by our own Brian Hahn with help from the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources and the Western Wake Fire Department.  About 30 onlookers watched the hour-long fire consume the grasses, saplings, and other vegetation on the prairie.

You’ll see blackened areas at Prairie Ridge over the next month or so, but the grasses will grow back come spring.  Until then, look for increased bird activity over the burn area!  The fire opens the prairie up, making the burn area an excellent place for birds to hunt. 

 posted 2/20/2013


Bird Banding at Prairie Ridge

banded birdA team of ornithologists has been studying the birds of Prairie Ridge since 2006. Birds are safely trapped in mist nets on the grounds every two weeks, weighed and measured, and released. If the birds captured do not have leg bands, a sort of identification bracelet that harmlessly and permanently wraps around the leg of the bird, a band is added before the bird is released. By reading the bands on all the birds captured in the mist nets, scientists can learn many things about their biology. By comparing weights and measurements to previous captures, longevity and health can be assessed. We can also track migrations and territoriality through banding programs.

A number of species have been captured and banded at Prairie Ridge, including Northern Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, American Goldfinches, and White-throated Sparrows. Many of these birds have been recaptured on the grounds since, suggesting that some of these birds consider Prairie Ridge home and either remain on the grounds year round or return to the site after migrations. The most commonly recaptured birds are Northern Cardinals, hardly surprising considering they do not migrate like many other birds in the area. However, some remarkable recaptures have been made as well, each long after the initial banding date. For example, one Northern Mockingbird and one Eastern Tufted Titmouse were each recaptured on the grounds 4 years and 4 months after their initial banding. One Northern Cardinal reappeared on the grounds after a 5-year, 2-month absence!

While the Northern Cardinals are by far the most commonly recaptured bird at Prairie Ridge, several other species have been recaptured multiple times. These include several sparrows (White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and Field Sparrow), Northern Mockingbirds, and Carolina Chickadees. Other birds have only rarely been captured on the grounds, such as the Loggerhead Shrike, the Swamp Sparrow, and the Yellow Palm Warbler. Oddly, Eastern Bluebirds are a common sight at Prairie Ridge during the summer and fall, yet recaptures are rarely made on site.

These data are being used to fuel a variety of studies by researchers at the Museum, but can also help other researchers with their work. By submitting our band and recapture data, researchers from around the country, and even around the globe, can learn more about the biology of birds. And perhaps you can learn something new about birds! Now is a great time to see winter birds at our feeders, so why not make a trip out and see what new things you can discover?

posted 1/4/2013


Cattail Cleanup

Cattail CleanupYesterday, we were lucky to have a team of our neighbors at the Division of Water Quality visit Prairie Ridge to do a service project. Alongside our weekly garden volunteers, we tackled the cattail problem in the upper pond. The cattails are too thick in that pond and were covering nearly the entire water surface, so we manually removed as many as we could over the course of a morning.

Cattails spread via rhizomes in the soil at the bottom of the pond, so it is hard work to remove them as the entire plant has to be pulled out to prevent their immediate return. We had a team in the water pulling cattails and another hauling them away to dry and decompose. The volunteers were amazing and worked for several hours nearly non-stop! By the time they left, we had removed about 20% of the cattails from the pond.

Invasive species removal and the control of weedy plant species are ongoing jobs at Prairie Ridge. With the help of groups like the Water Quality volunteers and our fabulous crew of weekly garden volunteers, we are able to help keep problematic plant species in check. Thank you to everyone who helped make Prairie Ridge such an amazing place in 2012!

- posted 12/20/2012


Take a Child Outside Returns to Prairie Ridge

ladybugHere at the Ecostation, we love to get people outside to experience nature! One of our favorite events each year is Take a Child Outside, an evening where we keep our gates open late so families can bring their kids for an educational outdoor experience. On September 28, visitors followed a self-guided tour through the grounds, stopping to learn about insect sounds, pond insects, and trees along the way. They also helped gather data for the Lost Ladybug Project, made suet logs for the birds in their yards, and decorated reusable water bottles. Visitors went home with a simple explorer’s kit so that everyone can continue their outdoor adventures and observations on their own.

Everyone had a great time, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s Take a Child Outside event. We hope to see you there!

- posted 10/5/2012


Odeing at Prairie Ridge

widow skimmer dragonfly

Dragonfly enthusiasts of all ages visited Prairie Ridge on two weekends in September to learn about these charismatic insects. After a brief introduction to the odonates (dragonflies and damselflies), we visited the pond and split into two groups. We took turns spending time at the pond “odeing” (dragonfly watching) and taking a leisurely walk to the stream to look for flowing water species. Everyone learned how to identify the common local dragonfly species, including Green Darners, Black Saddlebags, Carolina Saddlebags, Eastern Pondhawks, and Common Whitetails. We also discussed ways that anyone can become involved in dragonfly research as citizen scientists. Everyone went home with an identification guide and armed with new knowledge they can apply to their nearby ponds, lakes, and rivers.

The dragonflies are declinging for the winter, but we will have more dragonfly walks in the spring. If you love dragonflies, we’d love to have you join us! Visit our Public Programs page for more information.

- posted 10/5/2012


Annual Wake County Audubon Butterfly Count Returns to Prairie Ridge

eastern tiger swallowtailPrairie Ridge was once again one of the sites for Wake County Audubon’s annual butterfly count on Saturday, August 18.  Most of the 5 attendees had been to Prairie Ridge for butterfly counts before, so the nearly 2 hour trip around the grounds was familiar to most of them.  Still, the day held several surprises.  Multiple Gulf Fritillaries were observed flitting about the prairie as we walked toward the garden and many Red-banded Hairstreaks were congregated in the blooming Devil’s Walkingstick.  There were several common butterflies and skippers counted as well, such as Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and Zabulon Skippers.  We have yet to receive the official results of the count, but at least one species will be a new addition to the Prairie Ridge species list, so we consider the count a success!

For a complete list of the butterflies known to visit Prairie Ridge, please view our species list.  Or, come on out and look for butterflies yourself.  There are a lot of great things to see!

- posted 8/22/2012


Monarch Workshop Trains Area Citizen Scientists

monarch caterpillar

Fifteen Monarch lovers arrived at Prairie Ridge on Friday, August 17 to attend a citizen science training workshop for the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP).  Prairie Ridge has participated in MLMP for several years and volunteers help monitor our Common Milkweed once a week during the summer, so it was the natural setting for an in-depth, hands-on training session.  Participants spent the morning learning about Monarch biology and were trained to identify eggs, the five stages of larvae, pupae, and male and female adults in our outdoor classroom.  Then everyone headed out to our Common Milkweed patches for some in-field training using the MLMP protocol for sampling Monarchs and Milkweeds.  The workshop ended with participants practicing their larval identification skills on Milkweed plants outdoors and then entering data on the MLMP website.  Everyone was in high spirits and excited about Monarchs by the time the training ended, so we suspect several new area Milkweed patches will be registered with MLMP soon!

Excitingly, a reporter and photographer from the News and Observer came out to cover the workshop.  A photo gallery appeared in the News and Observer on August 18th and an article accompanied by photos was in the North Raleigh News the following day.  To read more about the workshop, please visit the links below.

News and Observer photo gallery:
North Raleigh News article:

- posted 8/22/2012


Viewing Moths in the Rain

National Moth Week was July 23-29 and we celebrated at Prairie Ridge with Moths All Night! For this all-night evening program, we set up several moth viewing stations around the grounds and then opened our gates to the public for moth observation and learning.  Unfortunately a nasty storm rolled in about 45 minutes into the program and half of the nearly 50 visitors left early, but everyone got to see at least a few moths before they headed home.  The rest of us rode out the beautiful storm in the outdoor classroom and resumed viewing moths after the rain stopped.  We spent the next several hours watching our blacklights and mercury vapor lights, photographing the moths we saw, and documenting our findings.  Several visitors left moth photos with us and we’ll upload them to Butterflies and Moths of North America so that our moth sightings will be available to scientists for their research.  We photo-documented over 50 species altogether, not half bad considering the poor weather!

If you missed out on Moths All Night, don’t worry! We’ll host another moth night soon.

- posted 7/31/2012


Monarch Larva Monitoring at Prairie Ridge

monarch monitors in the milkweed patch

Prairie Ridge participates in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP), a Minnesota-based citizen science project aimed at discovering how monarch populations change in time and space.  With the help of our intrepid garden volunteers, we’ve been sampling our milkweed patch for monarch eggs, caterpillars, and adults once a week for the last month.  Participating in MLMP is easy!   We use our handy dandy spinner to randomly select a path through our milkweed patch, lay down a rope to mark the path, and inspect every common milkweed plant within an arm’s length of the rope.  We count every monarch egg and larva we find on 100 plants, then we submit our data to MLMP online.

If you would like to get involved in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, Prairie Ridge can help you get started!  We’re hosting an MLMP training workshop August 17, 2012 from 8AM-noon.  Join us and learn everything you need to know to start monitoring your own site for MLMP!   Details about the workshop, including how to register, are available on our Public Programs page.

- posted 7/18/2012


Fireflies Light Up the Night at Prairie Ridge

Firefly in flightWho doesn't love fireflies?  The 30 people who attended the Firefly Watch program do!  Participants learned about fireflies with Prairie Ridge and Museum personnel before heading out onto the grounds to capture a few of these charismatic beetles for observation.  Several unlucky fireflies were discovered in spider webs, but many more were flying about the priairie looking for mates and brightening the dark sky with their flashes.  After some time outside collecting, everyone gathered inside to try to identify the species we saw.  Almost all of the fireflies were the Eastern Firefly, Photinus pyralis, a common species in our part of the country with a yellow-green light and distinctive flash pattern. 

One goal of the evening was to educate the attendees about a scientific study focused on fireflies that everyone can participate in.  Firefly Watch is a citizen science project, a scientific study that relies on a partnership between scientists and the public to acheive results.  In this case, participants observe fireflies in their yards or other local areas and report their findings to the Firefly Watch researchers at the Museum of Science in Boston.  There, researchers use the data to learn more about fireflies, especially why the number of fireflies is declining.  If you love fireflies and want to help scientists discover more about them, please visit the Firefly Watch website for more information.  They've got some great educational resources available and everything you need so that YOU can participate in scientific research!

—posted 6/19/12

* Image used with permission from Terry Priest.


Families search for groundhogs at Prairie RidgeRecord Numbers Search for Groundhogs at Prairie Ridge


A mild February afternoon greeted over 50 woodchuck watchers to Prairie Ridge in their search for groundhogs. A Groundhog Day weather forecast by Sir Walter Wally has become an annual tradition at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Downtown Raleigh. Prairie Ridge has joined the fun by offering an annual search for our resident wild groundhogs and their burrows. Although we did not catch glimpse of one of our groundhogs this year, participants enjoyed the warm afternoon during the guided tour of the place local groundhogs call home.

—posted 2/7/11



Annual Butterfly Count at Prairie Ridge 

A citizen scientist counts butterflies at Prairie RidgePrairie Ridge Ecostation was one of a half dozen sites where citizen scientists counted butterflies on Friday, August 6 as part of the North American Butterfly Association’s 2010 count. Seven participants spent 1.5 hours traipsing the prairie in search of butterflies. Although there is a mid-August lull in prairie blooming flowers butterflies were found nectaring in the garden, and on patches of Ironweed, Goldenrod and on Devil’s Walkingstick in the arboretum.

A total of 19 species of butterflies were found at Prairie Ridge and included 112 individual butterflies. Noteworthy sightings included: 3 Monarch butterflies, the only American Lady reported on count day, 3 Little Glassy-wing Skippers and 4 Dun Skippers.



Prairie Ridge becomes the subject of area artists

Painters at Prairie RidgeThe PAINT North Carolina group, a group of local painters, has begun using the picturesque landscapes of Prairie Ridge as the subject for their recent works. The group specializes in “en plein air”, or in the open air, painting. They have an upcoming show of their works celebrating Prairie Ridge at the Museum’s Nature Art Gallery scheduled for February 2010.

The group will also be at the Ecostation for two dates in the fall. One of these dates will coincide with the Nature Journaling Workshop held on Tuesday, October 13, 2009. The next time you explore your artistic talents be sure to keep Prairie Ridge in mind.

— posted 5/1/09


Injured Snapping Turtle makes full recovery

An injured snapping turtle awaits transport to the NCSU Vet SchoolTwo State Facility Management staff members found an injured Common Snapping Turtle near the intersection of Edwards Mill Road and Reedy Creek Road on May 4, 2009. They brought the injured animal to Prairie Ridge Ecostation where Brian Hahn photographed the turtle and arranged for the North Carolina State University Veterinary School to treat its injuries.

The rehabilitated turtle was released on May 13, 2009 after a brief introduction to students engaged in a program at Prairie Ridge. Vet School officials estimated the male turtle to be between 15 and 30 years old, and had no idea why it would be found so far from water. Thanks to the quick action of the State Facility Management staff and the Vet School this turtle can look forward to a long and healthy life. If you find an injured turtle please call the Vet School’s turtle rehabilitation program at 919.982.5923.

— posted 5/1/09


Earth Day 2009

DENR Secretary Dee Freeman halps plant a treeThis Earth Day at Prairie Ridge Ecostation we celebrated by planting a native Pond Cypress tree. We were joined by a group of kindergartners from Brooks Museums Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh who spent part of the day enjoying a Discovery Fun program at Prairie Ridge. We also had the pleasure of hosting Mr. Dee A. Freeman, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Secretary Freeman and a group of the visiting students planted the Pond Cypress tree on the banks of Prairie Ridge's largest pond. As Red-winged Blackbirds sang overhead to establish their nesting sites, we observed tadpoles, dragonfly nymphs, and other small creatures as part of the students' pond study.


A family of Canada Geese at Prairie Ridge

The windy day ended with a family of Canada Geese making their way to the pond with their four new hatchlings. Consider coming out to Prairie Ridge this spring and enjoying all of the sights and sounds that nature has to offer.

— posted 4/24/09