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.

12 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – August 28, 2014

  1. Patricia Mettenbrink August 28, 2014 / 2:04 pm

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

  2. Joanne August 28, 2014 / 2:12 pm

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

  3. patti holmlund August 28, 2014 / 2:26 pm

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

  4. Pat Halderman August 28, 2014 / 2:59 pm

    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.

  5. elfinelvin August 28, 2014 / 4:56 pm

    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.

  6. Kim S. August 29, 2014 / 9:01 am

    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 September 1, 2014 / 3:23 pm

      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.

  7. savannagal August 29, 2014 / 9:48 am

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

  8. goosejoose September 1, 2014 / 7:58 am

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

  9. Matt Darling September 2, 2014 / 5:27 am

    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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