Photo of the Week – August 28, 2014

I made a quick run out to our family prairie this week to see how our grazing management was looking.  It was a beautiful evening for a stroll, as the sun went down through layers of diffuse clouds.  The abundant rain this year has fueled tremendous growth in the prairie and has filled up the wetland to its rim.  As planned, a portion of the prairie is short-cropped by cattle grazing while other areas are either ungrazed or lightly grazed, and there was a lot of life on display.

Grasshoppers and katydids exploded around my feet as I walked around – most of them clearly adults since they were flying short distances before landing again (they only get wings after their final molt into adulthood).  They were joined by hordes of other invertebrates, including caterpillars, bees, butterflies, and many others.  I flushed a great horned owl from a big ash tree, and then was very pleased to see a rail (probably a Virginia rail) dangle its feet as it flew across our recovering wetland.  Here are a few photos from the night.


I’ve seen this same species of caterpillar in a couple places this week.  This one was munching on false boneset.


Dotted gayfeather and stiff goldenrod were both abundant upslope of the wetland.

Dotted gayfeather and stiff goldenrod were both abundant uphill from the wetland.


A close-up view of dotted gayfeather.

A close-up view of dotted gayfeather.


Our wetland at sunset.

Our wetland at sunset.  The addition of a couple solar-powered wells for livestock water has allowed us to exclude cattle from the pond/wetland area, and the habitat improvements are obvious.

A quick note of thanks:  This blog quietly passed two milestones this week.  I posted my 500th post, and we passed the 1,800 mark on blog subscribers.  Thank you for your continued support of this site – I hope it’s as useful and enjoyable to you as it is to me.


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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12 Responses to Photo of the Week – August 28, 2014

  1. beingbodeker says:

    A fantastic place for sure.

  2. Patricia Mettenbrink says:

    that wooly caterpillar species completely devoured my philodendron that was outside for the summer!

  3. Joanne says:

    Beautiful photos – it was the sunset with the Sandhills endless sky that really touched me. Many thanks for sharing.

  4. All the pictures are wonderful as always, but the wetland at sunset is a gem!

  5. Nice shot of your wetland!

  6. Pat Halderman says:

    Congratulations on your 500th post! I have enjoyed all of the posts and especially the photos.
    Thank you for sharing your prairies with all of us.

  7. elfinelvin says:

    Thank you for those 500 posts! I hope you can manage another 500. The photo of your wetlands is quite striking. The wetlands look rather good, too.

  8. Kim S. says:

    The wetland looks great and I would be curious to know how long it took for you to see noticeable changes once the cows were removed. And did you do any supplemental plantings?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Kim – this is the first year we’ve had the cattle out of the wetland, and I’d say by mid-summer it was looking much better. Grasses a few wildflowers started to flesh out the banks a little, and wetland plants started to colonize the shallow water areas. I did throw some seed out, but haven’t seen much that I’d attribute to that yet.

  9. savannagal says:

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and seeing all the amazing photos you post. I hope you continue for many more years.

  10. goosejoose says:

    Love your photos, I always get a fresh perspective on the beauty of the prairie ecosystem from you. Thanks!

  11. Matt Darling says:

    This blog is by far my favorite to read, thanks for your love of our prairies and taking the time to educate all of us.


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