Photo of the Week – September 13, 2018

Hello from Wisconsin!  I’m spending this week in Madison, Wisconsin with about 250 colleagues at a conference for scientists, land managers, and other conservation staff of The Nature Conservancy.  It’s been a fantastic conference, but also an awful lot of time spent with crowds of people – something that drains me after a while.  As I write this, I’m holed up in my hotel room, grabbing a little peace and quiet before heading to supper.

On Tuesday, I went on a great tour of prairies in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area.  It’s a great site with a lot of 

Because I’ve been busy with the conference all week, I haven’t done much photography (and I really miss my square meter plot!) but I did manage a few photos during our Tuesday field trip west of Madison.  We had a few minutes to wander after arriving at our first stop, and I stopped to admire numerous Argiope spiders on their webs.  Even after our tour leader started talking, I wandered around the edge of the group – staying within earshot – and looked at some more spiders.  I hope I didn’t come off as rude, but the spiders were really pretty, and a few let me get within photo range.

This big female banded argiope (Argiope trifasciata) spider was feeding on an undetermined insect.

This little male Argiope spider was lurking at the edge of a female’s web, hoping to entice her to mate with him, rather than to kill and eat him.  I wish him luck.

I don’t know what species this is, but this small orb weaver spider was working to wrap and eat a leaf hopper.

After I took the previous photo, the spider suddenly noticed me and scurried up to the top corner of its web and hid itself beneath a little canopy.

Not long after I took these photos, the sunlight became too intense for good close up photos so I rejoined the tour group and behaved myself.  There is great conservation work going on in the Military Ridge area, with a great set of partners working together.  It is one of the best remaining landscapes in Wisconsin for grassland birds, and still has fairly stable populations of regal fritillary butterflies and other species.  Eric Mark with The Nature Conservancy is doing some grazing work to manage bird and butterfly habitat, and is working hard to build ties with the local community.  The local chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts is doing some tremendous prairie restoration work, converting brome fields to diverse prairies.  Those and other partners, including state, federal, and non-profit organizations, seem to have a strong and positive working relationship.

Oh, and there are some pretty cool spiders too.

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

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.

9 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – September 13, 2018

  1. I’ve sometimes resorted to leaving my camera at home when I’m exploring with a group. Otherwise, my tendency to dawdle either leaves me isolated, or bothers the group leader. At least when I’m at a place where I can easily return, I think of such days as scouting trips. It helps.

    Your mention of a conference reminds me that our chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas will be helping with the North American Prairie Conference at the University of Houston in June, 2019. From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be a fabulous event, with a multitude of speakers and field trips. I’m looking forward to it.

  2. Ahhh, regrets you did not get a chance to visit the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area, which is a different kind of open habitat maintained by fire. Stunningly beautiful and we have every kind of habitat.

  3. Don’t be too shy of crowds. After attending the Grassland Restoration Network’s conference at Fermi Lab I called the TNC and had my monthly donation increased by 50%.

      • Thank you for your work restoring grasslands. I had known grassland birds like upland sandpipers nested in some of the larger preserved areas in Illinois. I never made the trip to see one. Now they no longer nest in these preserves. If migratory paths and critical areas in South America are to be managed to stop the decline, and hopefully recover, grassland bird species then The Nature Conservancy is going to need much more than the little I can give.

  4. Welcome to Madison Chris! I so enjoy your weekly posts. Just have to mention a real gem of a place you would probably love. The Spring Green Preserve, about 35 miles west of Madison. The Nature Conservancy owns it, 432 acres of ‘Wisconsin Desert’, a sandy environment along the Wisconsin River low-land featuring prickly-pear cactus and many other desert-like plants. Above the ‘desert floor’ is a steep bluff vegetated with dry prairie and oak forest. There are three lizard species including the endangered slender glass lizard. But the thing you might find cool is there are lots of invertebrates; predatory wasps, 5 different cicadas, 8 species of tiger beetles and 10 kinds of burrowing wolf spiders. Great photo op for you and far from the madding crowds.


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