A Warm Kind of Cold

Last week, I complained about the long brown winter we’ve had, and wondered when spring was coming.  Well, it’s still brown – we missed out completely on the last snow, which had been forecast to give us up to four inches of photographic beauty.

On the upside, I went out to my favorite wetland yesterday, and while it was only 16 degrees F, it actually felt much warmer than that.  A lack of wind helped, as did periodic sunshine, but the air just felt like it was warming.  It’s an odd thing, isn’t it?  The unemotional thermometer said 16 degrees, but  I think my knowledge that the temperature was going to get above freezing later in the day (it did!) helped warm me up.

There were other signs of impending spring.  Red-winged blackbird males have returned to begin setting up and defending their territories. (Females, the smarter ones, are apparently content to wait a few more weeks until it warms up and the boys have fought their silly little battles.)  Sandhill cranes are starting to fill the sky as the annual migratory phenomenon begins again here on the Central Platte River.  I’m still waiting for the first song sparrow to begin singing, and I’m guessing it’ll be a while until I see the first bees emerging, but things are looking up.

Here’s a photograph from my short hike yesterday.  I’ll share more later this week.

A panoramic photo made up of nine different images stitched together.  The Nature Conservancy's Derr Wetland Restoration, Nebraska.

A panoramic photo made up of nine different images stitched together. The Nature Conservancy’s Derr Wetland Restoration, Nebraska.  Click on the photo to see a larger version of it that better portrays the feel of the site.

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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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9 Responses to A Warm Kind of Cold

  1. Teresa says:

    Just lovely. I know I’ve said it before, but your photos and posts are such a wonderful life-affirming window into the natural world. And you know, people think of winter as colorless – but look at all that lovely color. Thanks so much for your posts, Chris.

  2. James McGee says:

    Looking at the photo, I wonder if the line of woody species in the distance represents the edge of the floodplain?

    • Karen Hamburger says:

      Hey James
      I have visited this wet land many times and I can tell you that the woody tree line in the distance is another branch of the Platt river. The Platt has several streams. A braided river.
      Folklore has it that it was and inch deep and a mile wide.
      Unfortunately it no longer has the flows of a century ago.
      Karen Hamburger

      • James McGee says:

        When I was a kid, I walked across the Platte River in the section between Lincoln and Omaha. I was able to cross it without getting anything much above my knees wet. However, where the channel narrowed I saw people, who must have been quite insane, doing cannon balls from a sand bar into the very deep-swift moving current. Looking at aerial photos the Platte River looks like many underwater sand dunes. If you walk on the ridge crests of these underwater dunes you are able to walk right across. However, the troughs in between these underwater ridges can be quite deep.

        I nearly lost a fishing pole to what I assume must have been a big catfish in one of these deep areas. I never found out what pulled my pole through 20+ ft of weeds on the bank right to the edge of the river. I was barely able to grab my pole before it would have become one with the river. That fish was so big it probably straightened my little hook right out. You always regret the really big ones that get away.

  3. James C. Trager says:

    Gorgeous!
    And yes, I felt that anticipatory warmth yesterday in 15F weather, more so at 21F this morning. Spring will get here eventually.

  4. Joanne says:

    Amazing photo — from a gal with ‘sand in her shoes’

  5. kismet20 says:

    Makes me wish we had a wetland on our tiny bit of preserved prairie here in Arlington. We do have several very nice wetland areas elsewhere in the city though.

  6. Pingback: Photo of the Week – March 6, 2014 | The Prairie Ecologist

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