A Week in the Sandhills

I’m in the Nebraska Sandhills all this week, doing field work.  Being in the middle of 12 million acres of intact native prairie has its advantages, but there’s not much time or internet connectivity for blog posting. I’m hoping I can get a few photos posted here pretty quickly before I lose my connection again.

Yucca is common throughout much of the Sandhills. Many of the plants are in full bloom right now, accompanied by the yucca moths that pollinate them.

Yucca is common throughout much of the Sandhills. Many of the plants are in full bloom right now, accompanied by the yucca moths that pollinate them.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis) is also in full bloom right now.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis) is also in full bloom right now.  It is one of my favorite flowers.

Needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata) is producing seeds, which look very much - and can act very much - like sharp spears.  Trying to figure out why this grass is blooming abundantly in some pastures and not others has been a fun mind puzzle for me this week.

Needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata) is producing seeds, which look very much – and can act very much – like sharp spears. Trying to figure out why this grass is blooming abundantly in some pastures and not others has been a fun mind puzzle for me this week.

Wetlands are all over many parts of the Sandhills.  Groundwater levels are high and often exposed between the vegetated sand dunes.  The wetlands are loaded with everything from frogs and salamanders to trumpeter swans and grebes.

Platte thistle (Cirsium canescens) is a great native thistle with a cream-colored flower.  It is loaded with pollinators right now.

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This bumblebee was one of many bees I’ve seen enjoying Platte thistle.

Wetlands are all over many parts of the Sandhills. Groundwater levels are high and often exposed between the vegetated sand dunes. The wetlands are loaded with everything from frogs and salamanders to trumpeter swans and grebes.

Wetlands are all over many parts of the Sandhills. Groundwater levels are high and often exposed between the vegetated sand dunes. The wetlands are loaded with everything from frogs and salamanders to trumpeter swans and grebes.

Lizards are common, especially in areas of bare sand.  They scurry to cover as we approach, but this prairie lizard (Sceloporus sp.) posed long enough for a photo.

Lizards are common, especially in areas of bare sand. They scurry to cover as we approach, but this prairie lizard (Sceloporus sp.) posed long enough for a photo.

 

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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.
This entry was posted in Prairie Animals, Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography, Prairie Plants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Week in the Sandhills

  1. Pat says:

    Glad you were able to get this post in. What a wonderful place to spend the week. Back when I had a garden spiderworts were included. Besides the wonderful flowers, the plant itself makes an interesting addition.

  2. Kody Unstad says:

    Nice, I am heading out there in 2 days myself. Always enjoy being in the sandhills. Ever find any white spiderwort? I don’t know how rare it is, but I only come across 2 plants when I spent a whole summer out there.

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