Prairie Ridge Ecostation

Prairie Ridge News Archive 2012

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.

For more Prairie Ridge news stories, please visit our News Archive!