Photo of the Week – August 29, 2013

One of the great things about living in Aurora is that Prairie Plains Resource Institute has done some very nice prairie restoration projects right on the edge of town.  That works out really well for me on days when I don’t have time to go out to our Platte River Prairies, but can’t stand to stay inside because conditions are perfect for photography.  Last Friday was one of those times.

When I looked out my window at about 8:15 Friday morning, there were nice diffuse clouds covering the sun and only light winds blowing.  Knowing that I had to be on a conference call by 9am, I sprinted to the car and headed to Lincoln Creek Prairie (less than a mile from my house).  For about next 20 minutes, I wandered around the tiny restored prairie with my camera, shooting photos of flowers and bugs, and generally enjoying myself.  Within a half hour from the time I left my computer, I was back in the office and ready to join my conference call. It’s a pretty good life.

Here’s a shot from that morning walk:

A praying mantis nymph on rough blazing star (Liatris aspera).  Lincoln Creek Prairie - Aurora, Nebraska.

A praying mantis nymph on rough blazing star (Liatris aspera). Lincoln Creek Prairie – Aurora, Nebraska.

I was surprised to see a small mantis nymph this late in the season, especially because there were some full-grown Chinese mantids nearby (I don’t know what species this nymph is).  The little critter was hanging out near the top of a blazing star plant and eating a small fly when I first spotted it.  As I set up my tripod, it spit out (?) the remainder of the fly and turned to stare at me.  That worked out very nicely for me – but I hope it didn’t miss out on the last part of its meal on my account.

I was enjoying my little interaction with the nymph, but after taking a few shots at this angle, I decide to try a slightly different photo angle.  As I adjusted my tripod, I accidentally dislodged a big grass stem that had been trapped under one of the legs.  The stem whipped around and hit the flower right below the nymph – knocking the nymph into the vegetation below.  I’m sure it wasn’t hurt, but it did kind of spoil the moment.

Oh well, it was time to head back for my conference call anyway…

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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10 Responses to Photo of the Week – August 29, 2013

  1. elfinelvin says:

    Maybe the nymph thought you looked more tasty than the fly. :)

  2. Karma Larsen says:

    Wonderful blog, Chris, thanks. And yes, Prairie Plains Resource Institute does some wonderful work!

  3. Brian says:

    That is a very nice photo. Like looking at an old 50’s sci-fi movie or Men in Black. Don’t have any Liatris in western Colorado where I live. Gotta go east over the high peaks. Such beautiful flowers.

  4. Patrick says:

    Seems like a good year for mantids. Seen quite a few around the gardens this summer.

  5. John I. Blair says:

    Admittedly my opportunities to see similar photos are minimal, but you do take the most amazing bug pictures! Thanks any number of times for sharing them with us lay folk. They give me a renewed appreciation for all the wonderful life I am surrounded by, including even the smallest. (That being said, I just spent the past half hour swatting a bunch of flies hatched from a rotting rat in the garage. Ick.)

  6. Kathy Robbins-Wise says:

    On three different days this week I saw three Praying Mantis… all hanging out on the sidewalk near various stores in West Omaha. I have lived in Omaha, Nebraska for 13 years (coming from Southern California) and prior to this week had only seen a praying mantis once before in my life. About four years ago I came out of the supermarket and one had attached itself to my car. Why all the sudden am I seeing so many?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Kathy – it’s hard to say for sure. I’m not noticing any more this year than I usually see, but this is certainly the time of year mantids become more visible. The young of the year are maturing to adulthood, which means they larger, have wings and are flying around – and more visible. It might be that this has been a particularly good year for mantids, but my guess is that you’re just having a good week!

  7. Pingback: A Fuzzy Meal | The Prairie Ecologist

  8. Pingback: Photo of the Week – September 12, 2013 | The Prairie Ecologist

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