Photo of the Week – December 28, 2017

Kim and I spent a few days at the Niobrara Valley Preserve this week, something that has become an annual holiday tradition for us.  As always, it was beautiful, peaceful, and we were alone in a big wild place – the three components of a perfect getaway.  We saw plenty of wildlife, including multitudes of eagles and deer, as well as flocks of meadowlarks, robins, tree sparrows, and grouse.  In addition, tracks of many other animals were abundant in the recently-fallen snow.  I kept hopeful eyes out for mountain lion tracks, but didn’t see any – though I did have a strong sense of being watched one night, while out photographing night scenes under a half moon.  It wasn’t just the cold temperatures that made me shiver a little.

A skeletal stick frames the rising sun over the frosty Niobrara River.

I spent one particularly nice hour or so exploring the partially frozen river one morning, and was able to get some photos before heavy overcast skies took over.  The temperature was hovering around zero, but it was nevertheless a pleasant calm morning.  I enjoyed the solitude and sunrise and then walked back up to a hot breakfast before Kim and I headed out for a longer hike.  Here are a few photos from my sunrise walk.

Tracks of some kind of water bird on a sand bar.  The individual toe prints were approximately an inch long, maybe a little longer.  

Slushy ice floats down the Niobrara River as the sun comes up.

I wish you all a wonderful and happy new year; something I’m very much looking forward to myself.

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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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5 Responses to Photo of the Week – December 28, 2017

  1. brucemohn says:

    Your bird footprint tracks don’t strike me as being waterfowl generated. Looks more like a cursorial fowl. Quail, prairie chicken, grouse?

    • James C. Trager says:

      I was thinking perhaps coot, but they don’t look qute right compared to what I could find in the web.

  2. Evelyn Jackson says:

    I’ve enjoyed all your posts this past year and learned so much about prairies. I love how you manage to find beauty even in a cold,frozen landscape! The rising sun/stick photo is wonderful.

  3. Laura Bryson says:

    Happy New Year to you and your family, Chris! Thanks for maintaining this wonderful blog. I do enjoy it tremendously!

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