Photo of the Week – February 10, 2012

This has not been a great winter for snow photography.  Mild temperatures have made it nice for many outdoor activities (excluding ice skating, sledding, skiing, etc.) and for overwintering sandhill cranes, but there hasn’t been any snow on the ground since December.

That finally changed last weekend with about 11 inches of heavy snow and strong winds.  I haven’t had much time to get out and enjoy the snow yet, but I did manage a quick trip to a prairie west of town this week.  It was one of those days on which the sun comes up in a clear sky and there’s about 15 minutes of light between the time the sun pops over the horizon and the time when the sun becomes so bright that the glare makes photos difficult.  Because of that, I didn’t come home with very many photos.

Still, it was nice to be out in the snow.  Hopefully, it’ll stick around for a little while.

Canada milkvetch seed heads stick up above a snow drift. Restored prairie at Deep Well Wildlife Management Area near Phillips, Nebraska.

Snow changes things fairly dramatically for foraging animals.  This mild winter has made it relatively easy for animals to find what seeds and other food items are available.  With nearly a foot of snow on the ground, however, those animals have to either burrow around to find food or rely on food sticking out above the snow (like the seeds in these Canada milkvetch pods.)

The sandhill cranes along the Platte River right are suddenly unable to forage widely for waste corn in the fields, but are much more restricted to those areas where the wind scoured most of the snow off of high points in cropfields.  It appears that we’ll have cold temperatures for a while now, and that will keep the snow around.  It’ll be interesting to see if the cranes decide to tough it out here until warm temperatures return or head south a ways to find easier foraging.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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2 Responses to Photo of the Week – February 10, 2012

  1. Erica says:

    Wow, 11 inches? I agree to having missed the winter scenes and photography this year. Have had to snap a few shots here and there in the brief moments of snow and frost that we have had this year.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Yeah, it was nice to have after a long stretch of brown. Yesterday’s rain took most of what hadn’t already melted though, and temps in the high 40′s the rest of this week will get the rest…

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