Photo of the Week – April 10, 2014

I’m a terrible birder.  I used to be pretty good, but I’ve kind of lost my motivation – there are too many other things to look at when I’m out in the field.

Last Friday, I was at the annual Prairie Chicken Festival, near Burwell, Nebraska, hosted by Calamus Outfitters.  It was a great event, with lots of fun people and a fantastic setting.  In the early afternoon, I hopped on a bus full of people to go look at birds around the edges of Calamus reservoir.  I think the group saw several kinds of ducks and maybe some, uh, other things…

I, on the other hand, spent most of the time wandering through the sandhills looking down at the ground for signs of life in the prairie.  (It’s hard to see many birds while looking down…)  My biggest contribution to the birding portion of the trip was that I pointed out a couple owl pellets (on the ground, of course) to the group.  Apart from that, I was pretty useless.

Well, useless from a birding standpoint.  From a botanical standpoint, I actually found three different wildflower species blooming!  That was a surprise, given how cold it’s been this spring, and how little green there is across the landscape.  All three wildflowers were very short little annuals, and were near parking lots at the reservoir where they were exposed to full sun but sheltered from cool winds by nearby trees.

I have no idea what any of them are, so if any of you can identify them, I’d appreciate input…

A tiny wildflower at Calamus reservoir, near Burwell, Nebraska.  April 4, 2014

A tiny wildflower at Calamus reservoir, near Burwell, Nebraska. April 4, 2014

 

Another tiny flower.

Another tiny flower.

 

The third wildflower of the day.

The third wildflower of the day.

 

 

…Ok, I wasn’t completely unaware of the birds around me…  I actually did stop to take this photo of some pelicans late Friday morning, before heading over to the ranch to meet up with everyone else.

White pelicans at Calamus Reservoir.

White pelicans at Calamus Reservoir.

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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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19 Responses to Photo of the Week – April 10, 2014

  1. cedarmeadow says:

    the yellow flower might be a winter aconite – grows from a small bulb

  2. Mike says:

    The last white one has an nondescript common name that I know it by, prairie fame flower… it’s been many years since I last saw it! Am I wrong?

  3. Stuart Allison says:

    The top flower is almost certainly a Pink – Caryophyllaceae – (a few have only 4 petals) but it isn’t one I know. May be a more western species than we get in Illinois.

  4. Peter says:

    Top one looks like Draba verna to me. Not the 4 petals, 6 stamen configuration – typical of the Brassicaceae. Check out Leopold’s essay on this species in Sand County Almanac.

  5. James C. Trager says:

    I hate to argue with Stuart, but that first one is a mustard – four (though deeply cleft) petals and six stamens — probably a little Draba, possibly D. verna.
    Don’t know the yellow one, but it doesn’t look like the plant that usually goes by the name winter aconite http://tinyurl.com/Eranthis-hyemalis.
    Now that third one does look like it’s in Caryophyllaceae to me, maybe Arenaria, possibly A. serpyllifolia.

  6. Peter says:

    In our country (Washington), the yellow one looks like Ranunculus testiculatus. PLANTS database shows it growing in your neck of the woods as well.

  7. Pingback: Photo of the Week – April 10, 2014 | Gaia Gazette

  8. “He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba. He who despairs of spring with downcast eye steps on it, unknowingly. He who searches for spring with his knees in the mud finds it, in abundance.”–Also Leopold, A Sand County Almanac…though more likely in reference to D. reptans than the D. verna you’ve got above.

  9. Patrick says:

    No pasque flowers out that way, Chris? They’re in full bloom in the Loess Hills right now.

  10. Jeanine Lackey says:

    Thankfully birds sing and blurt out all sorts of sounds, so you COULD bird by ear AND still look down at the really cool plants.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Very true, Jeanine. Though harder with ducks sitting on a lake. They didn’t seem to be making much noise. I do notice other birds trying to break my concentration now and then as I try to look at bugs and flowers, though.

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