Photos of the Week – May 7, 2021

The parade of spring wildflowers is still marching on, though it continues to be a fairly modest event featuring mostly small acts. The bigger, louder attractions are yet to make their appearance. Looking across our prairies, you might see a little color here and there, but most of the flowers are small and scattered enough you won’t see them unless/until you start walking around.

I did just that at our family prairie this week, trying to keep up with the progression of wildflowers, but also checking livestock fence and water and strategizing about upcoming work projects. Storms were moving out of the area, leaving behind some pretty great clouds, so I tried to capture wildflowers and clouds at the same time. A fisheye lens is a fun way to do that, but I didn’t get quite what I was envisioning. The effort wasn’t wasted, though – I came away with some decent photos and had a great time exploring.

Here are some photos from my Wednesday evening walk:

Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta). Helzer family prairie. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 320, f/20, 1/125 sec.
Prairie and sky. Helzer family prairie. Nikon 11-16mm lens @11mm. ISO 320, f/20, 1/125 sec.
Prairie violet (Viola pedatifida). Helzer family prairie. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 320, f/22, 1/80 sec.
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre). Helzer family prairie. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 320, f/22, 1/80 sec.
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre). Helzer family prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/320 sec.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale). Helzer family prairie. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 320, f/22, 1/200 sec.
Chokecherry blossoms (Prunus virginiana). Helzer family prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/1000 sec.

May the Fourth Celebration

A year ago, I posted the eighth in a series of ‘quarantine quizzes’ as a way to entertain both you and me during a difficult time. This year, many of us are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the vaccine is accessible to just about anyone who wants it in the United States. We still have a lot of work to do, including making the vaccine more available in all countries and convincing skeptics to get vaccinated, but May 2021 sure feels like a more optimistic time than May 2020. In celebration, here is a quiz that has nothing to do with quarantine (or any particular series of space-based movies). It’s just for fun. Enjoy.

Also, if you’re interested, I recorded a podcast episode on Michael Hawk’s ‘Nature’s Archive’ Podcast and it was released this week. You can listen to that episode at this link or by finding it through whatever app you use to listen to podcasts. The episode covers a lot of ground, from prairie ecology and management to the need to engage the public in conservation.

QUIZ:

Question 1 – What is the creature shown in the photo above? Hints: it is native to Nebraska and the dark splotch beneath its chin is a helpful identification mark.

A. Red-winged blackbird

B. Black-winged redbird

C. Woodhouse’s toad

D. Abbey Toad

E. Enigma Toad

F. Depeche Toad

G. Simon Cowell

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Question 2 – For the moment, assume the creature in question 1 is a Woodhouse’s toad. Which of the following is the best description of its call? (Listen to the call by clicking on the link to the right of the photo on this website.)

A. It’s like a grasshopper sparrow call played at half speed

B. It sounds like a very old and cantankerous man with a gravelly voice exasperatedly trying to mimic the ‘incessant’ crying sounds of the infant child in the apartment next to him as he complains bitterly about said crying to a cab driver who desperately regrets asking the man how his day was going.

C. Hi, this is A again. I want to retract my answer and change it to B.

D. I have nothing to add here. It’s clearly B.

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Question 3. We found this snake hiding under a log after a prescribed burn this spring at the Platte River Prairies. What kind of snake is it?

A. Plains garter snake

B. Red-sided garter snake (in winter plumage)

C. Lined snake

D. Spotted snake

E. Simon Cowell

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Question 4. For the moment, assume the creature in Question 3 is a lined snake. Is ‘lined snake’ a helpful and descriptive name or a useless and frustrating name since there are lots of other snakes with ‘lines’ on them?

A. Yes

B. No

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Question 5. Is this (above) a honey bee?

A. No. It is a long-horned bee (Melissodes agilis)

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Question 6. Is this (above) a honey bee?

A. No. It is a different long-horned bee (Melissodes trinodis)

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Question 7. Is this (above) a honey bee?

A. No. It is a sunflower bee (Svastra obliqua).

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Question 8. Is this (above) a honey bee?

A. No. it is a Halictid bee, probably Halictus ligatus.

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Question 9. Is this (above) a honey bee?

A. No. It is a sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens). You’re not even trying now.

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Question 10. Gosh, it seems like there are a lot of bees out there besides honey bees. Why do so many people think only about honey bees when they hear about the pollinator crisis and not the 4,000-5,000 bee species that are actually native to North America? Not to mention all the butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, and other creatures who are important pollinators and suffering from the same habitat losses? Plus, honey bees have a strong support system in that humans raise and care for them directly, basically ensuring they’ll not go extinct, right?

A. Yes