Over the next several weeks, Nebraska Children is sharing Anna Wishart’s Field Journal highlighting the experiences she oversaw as a one of two mentors participating in Nebraska Children’s Conservation Management Summer Internship program. Building on last week’s blog, we pick up with our group of youth from Omaha’s Girls Inc. as they travel West.
Our next stop in our statewide program exploring Nebraska’s environment was the Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary in Kearney. Rowe Sanctuary is located along the Platte River and is best known for the hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that migrate through the sanctuary every year. It too is a Nebraska treasure.
We were assigned to work with Andrew Pierson, Audubon’s Director of Conservation at Rowe, and Cody Wagner, Habitat and Outreach Program Assistant. Our projects for the first day were landscaping the nature center by weeding and mulching a native plant bed and cutting overgrown bromegrass.
We started off the next morning with the strenuous task of clearing a field of thistles before they dropped their seeds, which helps to prevent their spreading. After almost four hours of hard work in the heat, we finished our task, much to the surprise and elation of Andrew and Cody.
Our last project at Rowe Sanctuary was to help with grassland bird monitoring. We located 17 bird houses and collected information on the species and the number of eggs and/or baby birds for each house.
With our work completed at the sanctuary, we said goodbye to the staff and continued our drive west to a ranch near Hyannis.
After more than five hours of driving, we reached the Abbott Ranch, owned by Chris Abbott and his family. About 35 miles north of Hyannis, the Abbott ranch spans 50,000 magnificent acres of Sandhills prairie and produces some of the best locally grown, grass-fed beef in the state. Although they were still in Nebraska, for our students from Omaha, the Sandhills seemed as if they were in a different world.
Over the next four days, our internship work revolved around helping out with their spring cattle roundup and calf branding. Each day, we rode miles on horseback to round up an average of 500 cows and calves and drove them to a pen where the cows were separated from their calves. The calves were then roped to be branded, vaccinated, ear clipped, and the males castrated before being released back to their mothers.
I could not have been more proud of Jade, Nia, and Abby for their incredible work ethic and moxie. Our days would start at 5:30 a.m., and we would work through the heat of the day without stopping. Nia rode one of the biggest horses on the ranch, Abby had the guts (at least the stomach) to help with the castration, and Jade learned how to use a Nord Fork to wrestle the calves, a job for which only the strongest cowboys and cowgirls are responsible.
Although we worked hard, we also had time to enjoy ranch life by camping at the Snake River, learning how to drive a horse-drawn wagon, singing songs around a campfire, canoeing, driving four-wheelers, eating delicious beef, and getting to fly over the expansive ranch and take in an incredible view in Chris’s plane.
On June 13, we reluctantly departed the Abbott’s ranch to begin our journey northeast to Ponca State Park.
Stay tuned for the final installment in the series from Anna’s Field Journal!