Photo of the Week – December 22, 2016

As I was putting together my slideshow of favorite photos of 2016, there were two photos I considered including but didn’t, mainly because they were in a vertical (portrait) format.  The two photos were taken within just a few minutes of each other on a beautiful June morning in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum ssp. virescens) in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum ssp. virescens) in the Nebraska Sandhills.

My friend Gerry and I were out looking for flowers to photograph and I ran across a patch of larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum) bathed in golden light from the rising sun.  After playing around with several different flowering stems and compositions, I finally got one I really liked.  I took versions with and without the horizon line showing behind it and decided later I liked the one with the horizon better.

As I was getting ready to leave the larkspur patch and look for something else to photograph, I noticed a flowering stem without any blossoms on it.  I bent down to take a closer look and found a pretty little green caterpillar with a satisfied look on its face.  Based on some quick internet searching, I’m thinking it’s likely a looper moth caterpillar, but I’m hoping someone will recognize it and either confirm or correct that.  Regardless, I liked the cut of the caterpillar’s jib, and was happy to be able to get a reasonably good photograph of it.

An apparent larkspur flower feeder...

An apparent larkspur flower feeder…

Everyone’s gotta eat, right?  Flower-feeding caterpillars can be seen as pests in gardens when gardeners are working hard to produce flowers or vegetables, but in the wild, they’re just another cog in the machine.  Caterpillars eat flowers, but in turn provide food for birds and other animals who also need to eat.  I’m happy to have opportunities for up-close views of the whole process.

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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 Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Photo of the Week – December 22, 2016

  1. Joanne says:

    Beautiful pictures again ! Looking forward to all you post in 2017

  2. Karen H. says:

    That caterpillar looks just like the ones that ate my larkspur flowers last year. They seemed to be very pleased with themselves as well! They didn’t reappear this year so I assume the birdies found them.

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