Photo of the Week – April 25, 2013

I made a quick trip up to our Niobrara Valley Preserve this week to help set up time lapse cameras that will help document recovery from last year’s massive wildfires.  More on that next week…

The weather followed the same pattern we’ve seen the last couple weeks; cold and wet early, followed by gradual warming.  We delayed the trip a day to wait for the latest snowstorm to move through, but three inches of snow were waiting when we arrived mid-day on Tuesday.

Late April snow covers the Niobrara Valley.

Late April snow covers the Niobrara Valley.  The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve – Nebraska.

Most of the snow had melted by Tuesday evening, leaving barren post-wildfire soils exposed once more.  The cool spring has slowed early vegetation growth, though there were some sedges and a very few other species starting to green up in the prairies.

A rivulet of water runs out of melting snow.

A rivulet of water runs out of melting snow in the burned pine woodland north of the river.

Some of the cameras we set up will watch for soil erosion.  I was pleased not to see any evidence that severe erosion started over the winter – even with some decent rain and snow events.  There has been some, of course, but less than I’d expected.  Some of the erosion created interesting patterns in the ashy sandy soils (below).

A bur oak leaf lies in a pattern of sand and ash.

A bur oak leaf lies in a pattern of sand and ash.

The next several weeks and months of green-up will bring big changes to the appearance of the Niobrara Valley, which has been largely barren and drab-colored since the wildfires last July.  It’ll be really nice to see some green there again.

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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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7 Responses to Photo of the Week – April 25, 2013

  1. Chris – no more snow pictures! Didn’t you know Spring finally started yesterday in Nebraska :)

    One good thing to come out of these cold, wet weather patterns is I got 4.3″ of liquid precipitation over the past few weeks. You get good moisture your way?

  2. Reblogged this on The Great Plains Trail and commented:
    This is very interesting information along with some nice late spring photos from the Niobrara River.

  3. Deb Kramer says:

    I really like the sand patterns – cool. Thanks for the update. Hopefully we’ll get more spring moisture. Thanks for the info.

  4. Jeanne smith says:

    I loved the post on the niobrara but what’s with the sick advertisement for Amy Schemer? Can’t you get that off, it’s degrading your post!

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Jeanne – sorry about the advertisements. Nothing I can do about them, and they don’t have anything to do with me (I certainly don’t get paid for them!). They seem to be especially prevalent on tablets…

  5. Pingback: Capturing Post-Wildfire Recovery Through Timelapse Photography | The Prairie Ecologist

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