Photos of the Week – October 15, 2021

Ok, I know there are some milkweed seeds below, but I promise there’s more than just milkweed seeds in this week’s Photo of the Week post. Also, these are butterfly milkweed seeds and most of the others I’ve posted this year have been common milkweed. If you’re tired of milkweed seeds, just scroll down for more. If you’re not tired of milkweed seeds, scroll down anyway. If you want – it’s your life.

Also, “there is more than just milkweed seeds?” Or “there are more than just milkweed seeds?” You wouldn’t say, “There is milkweed seeds” so are is probably the right word to use but it also sounds wrong to say “there are more than just milkweed seeds.” English is hard… How about this – just pretend I said “There are photos of other subjects besides just milkweed seeds”. I’m on pretty solid ground there.

Butterfly milkweed seed, Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/11, 1/60 sec.
Butterfly milkweed seed, Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/14, 1/60 sec.
Butterfly milkweed seed, Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/14, 1/80 sec.

While photographing those milkweed seeds at Lincoln Creek Prairie last week, I got distracted by the red leaves of smooth sumac. I’m still waiting to get a perfect autumn leaf photo of smooth sumac, and these don’t qualify, but I still like them.

Smooth sumac leaves, Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/7, 1/200 sec.
Smooth sumac leaves, Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/8, 1/160 sec.

Earlier this week, I was at the Platte River Prairies at sunrise. We haven’t had a hard freeze yet, so insects are still fairly abundant. Flowers, however, are not. Other than a few stray asters, most of the prairie color now comes in shades of golds and browns.

Katydid and morning light. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/18, 1/80 sec.
Stiff goldenrod with autumn color. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 640, f/14, 1/320 sec.

I’ve been seeing an awful lot of spider shelters suspended near the tops of plants this year. I’m not saying there are more of them, I’m just noticing them more for some reason. I still don’t know what the shelters are for, though. This late in the season, I wonder if the shelters are for winter cover, but maybe they’re just a safe overnight hiding place. Or maybe they’re for something else altogether? This particular spider seemed be hanging out in the sun outside of its shelter. I hope she gets the chance to catch a few more insects before winter comes.

Crab spider outside its silken shelter. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/18, 1/80 sec.
Crab spider outside its silken shelter. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/16, 1/160 sec.

Some parts of Nebraska had a big snow this week but we’re still holding on desperately to our warm autumn days here. Soon enough, that’ll end, but I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can while it lasts. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Hubbard Fellowship Blog – Sarah’s Advertisements of the Week

This post was written by Hubbard Fellow Sarah Lueder. She’s been playing with prairie slogans and asking other staff to help. In this post, she brings you into that world too. Enjoy! – Chris

Anyone who is open with their love for prairies is bound to be met with a less than enthusiastic response occasionally. I am guessing that is why Chris’s recent post, The Tribulations of a Prairie Evangelist, resonated with this audience. Inspired by the poster at the end of the post, I wanted to create more visuals that leaned into the fact that the uninitiated might have low expectations for prairies. I asked some of the Nature Conservancy staff to come up with some tongue-in-cheek slogans to help with this. Here are some of my favorites, made into very motivational posters.

Ok, admittedly, not everyone is even going to agree with this one. Some people are just going to like a short, cropped monoculture of Kentucky bluegrass more than a prairie. BUT, I would like to see them look over a field of waving big bluestem and Indian grass at sunset while a meadowlark sings nearby and a crisp wind rolls across the plains and tell me that a lawn is better. Maybe it still would be to them. If they liked being wrong.

This reminds me of a quote from Suzanne Winckler’s Prairie: A North American Guide (2004): “A prairie requests the favor of your closer attention. It does not divulge itself to a mere passerby.” Very wise, Winckler, and might I add, “Unlike forests, the most divulging of the ecosystems.” Don’t get me wrong, I love a forest! Just like the next person.

We all had our own path to prairies. Maybe it was an introduction from a friend, a meaningful moment on a hiking trail, or a class that turned your attention towards them. But I think it’s time that we champion a new prairie species to bring people in. That’s right… ticks! When it’s tick season they will be sure to do their best to welcome you with a hug and be right by your side as you explore. Admittedly, they can be a little clingy, but they were the most eager volunteers.  

I could amend this one to say “Prairies: the Midwest yard you don’t have to mow… but you can if you think that will bring you closer to your management objectives… or you can light it on fire if you want… or graze it… or do a combination of those things… just make sure you have some type of disturbance though.” However, for the sake of graphic design, I will leave it as is.

How do you draw people into prairies? Botanical accuracy! Just kidding. I don’t want to scare people away from prairies by throwing words like “forb” around. It’s all about meeting people where they are.

That’s the last of them, and now that you are filled to the brim with inspiration, I am sure you are wondering how to put it to use. To that I say, keep spreading the good word about prairies, however irreverent and sardonic it may be. To start, you might create your own slogan, and leave it in the comments!