Photo of the Week – May 11, 2018

It turns out a broken ankle really cramps my style.  Despite that, I managed to get out into the prairie a few times this week.  While I’m pretty slow, spring is progressing at lightning speed.

Green grass is spurting up through last year’s thatch, flowers are erupting here and there, and most grassland breeding birds have returned, filling the air with song.  I paused a few minutes to watch some mound building ants this week, and their frenetic activity matched the crazy speed of the prairie all around them, as both plants and animals seem to be rushing to make up for lost time after an extra long winter.  Last night, a big spring thunderstorm passed through, bringing much needed moisture, and adding even more wild energy to the landscape.

Here are a few photos I managed to get this week.  If you haven’t already, get out and visit a prairie near you.  Things are HAPPENING!!

A very active colony of mound building ants in recently burned prairie.

Ants rapidly coming and going from of many tunnel openings into the colony.

Rain drops on spiderwort leaves in my backyard prairie garden this morning.

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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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6 Responses to Photo of the Week – May 11, 2018

  1. Paul Brewer says:

    Sorry to hear about your ankle Chris!! Hope you ‘heal up and hair over’ fast!! Great photos as always . . . appreciating the small all around us!

  2. shoreacres says:

    I’ve never seen an ant mound like that — very interesting.

    I’m curious about your header photo. I’m assuming the purple plant is liatris. Liatris pycnostachya is blooming on our prairies now. Is yours the same species? It doesn’t look like it, since it seems to be blooming from the bottom up rather than from the top down. So many species to learn, so little time!

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Well, it could be either L. lancifolia or L. pycnostachya. I can’t remember now which I identified it as when I photographed it. I think it is blooming from the top down, actually. If you look at the flower stalk on the far left, the blossoms about the ones actively blooming look like they have wilted petals(?), showing that they’ve completed their flowering.

  3. Cheri says:

    Hi, I had no idea my friend Shoreacres follows this blog but of course she would. We both love the prairie. I am here because of the bison. Did you hear that the fourteen of the bison herd from the Blackfoot Tribe have been transported to the Oakland Zoo? They will breed with two bison from the Yellowstone herd. So exciting! I live near the Oakland Zoo and will be photographing as soon as I am able. Thanks for this blog on the prairie and for all the devotion.

  4. marknupen says:

    Up here in Northwestern Wisconsin, “The Barrens” which is our ‘prairie’, the Pasque flower is one of our first best signs of spring even before the grasses come up!! Got get out of the car though.
    Thanks Chris

  5. James McGee says:

    You strike me as the kind of person who is always on the move. You could take advantage of your immobility by sitting in a blind and taking pictures. I think a whole new side of the prairie would make itself visible if you stopped chasing photos and simply waited for them to come to you.

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