There's No Place Like Close-To-Home

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 13, 2010

owls aren’t just found out in the deep, dark woods.

Little Prairie in the City

I had hoped to take Rose to a conservation area out in the country where we could look for migrating monarch butterflies clustered in trees and feeding across acres of asters. It was my way of getting Rose outside and away from Spongebob Squarepants for a while.

As so often happens, however, time intruded. In the rush between the school bell, dinner and gymnastics there just wasn’t enough time to run out of town to look for butterflies.

I was disappointed, but then I remembered our urban conservation area. It had fields of asters and was only a 10-minute drive from our house. You might call it a local solution.

At the urban prairie, Rose and I talked about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories about living on a prairie in the 1830s. We held hands as we searched for butterflies and imagined she was the character Laura and I was Ma. The tall grasses brushed our cheeks and scratched our legs and the dry prairie earth crunched under our feet as we walked. It was like reliving history.

Our search for monarch butterflies gave us a good excuse to explore the wild land. Even though prairie grasses, a ruddy duck and the fuzzy leaves of mullein distracted us from our original pursuit, we eventually found our orange-and-black beauties clustered on a stand of common milkweed. It was the perfect end to a wild urban adventure.

Natural Character

I’ve visited several urban conservation areas, and each has its own blend of charm and beauty. For example, the Jim Bridger Urban Conservation Area in Blue Springs boasts a beautiful forest stream and feels very rural, even though busy Highway 7 is only a short distance away.

The rocky trail along the stream has an Ozark feel and is lined with prickly pear cactus. In spring, the stream flows smoothly over rock shelves, bubbles in stair-step waterfalls, and dips down between the rocky walls that channel it. Kinglets often accompany you on your hikes there.

The urban conservation area also offers you plenty of chances to admire bird craftsmanship. Its diverse habitat might house the basket nest of the oriole, the shrubby nest of the cardinal, or the flat flimsy nest of the mourning dove. I like to leave the iPod at home and listen to the chorus of

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