Photo of the Week – March 1, 2019

The snow on the ground is slowing down some of our plans for March, but I do appreciate the opportunity to do some more winter photography. It’s also nice to have snow around as a way to gauge the kind of animal activity going on in the prairie. As I walked around the Platte River Prairies last weekend, I particularly noted an abundance of small mammal tracks. Once I started noticing and photographing the tracks, I saw more and more, so I just kept photographing them. As a result, I came home with an absurd number of mouse track photos.

No tracks in this photo, but this gives you a feel for what the afternoon was like on Sunday at the Platte River Prairies – attractive diffuse clouds in the sky and sparkling snow on the ground. A perfect day to obsess over a narrow range of photographic subject matter.

I’m only sharing a small subset of those track photos today. It may be difficult for some of you to appreciate the subtle differences between the photos, which, at first glance might appear nearly identical to each other. I tried to provide explanations in the captions for why each image is absolutely unique and worth sharing. It’s not just because I took a lot of very similar photos and felt compelled to justify that by sharing more than just one or two. Seriously, I could have filled the rest of your day with mouse tracks, but I restrained myself. Enjoy.

While I saw a lot of mouse tracks like this, including some that led to burrows in the snow, I didn’t see any evidence of what the mice were eating (if anything) while they were out and about.
This photo is really different from the previous one in that you can see the individual toe prints. Also, the tracks move from top left to bottom right of the frame instead of top right to bottom left…
THIS photo is different from the previous two because it was photographed later in the day when the sun was lower and providing more golden-colored light.
As the sun neared the horizon, I was still taking photos of mouse tracks. And yes, most of the other images were pretty similar to each other. But THIS one has a sun in it!
This entry was posted in Prairie Animals, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography 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 – March 1, 2019

  1. You are sweet and obsessed and very focused. I do enjoy it all. Lots of snow in Oregon and I too am seeing tracks and wondering to whom they belong. I appreciate that you know what you are looking at. Keep up the excellent work/play!

  2. While viewing your winter photos I can just feel that cold fresh air sneaking down my neck and with each step the crunch under my soles. Great for us shut-ins. Thanks.

  3. Either my sense of scale in these photos is waaaaay off, or those are gigantic mice. Are you sure they are rabbits? Mouse tracks quite often include tail drags.

    • The scale is difficult to see in photos like this. I guarantee you they are some kind of mouse or mouse-like creature. There were certainly rabbit tracks around too – both cottontail and jack rabbits, but these are tiny – maybe 3 inches across the entire pattern of four tracks.

  4. I’m beginning to sense a certain degree of cabin fever or snow madness, maybe a bit of winter willies here.

  5. I never would have taken those for mouse tracks. I was thinking rabbit, myself. Of course, I’m only really certain of deer, raccoon, and alligator tracks, so there’s that. It’s interesting that the last photo looks so warm, when it surely was cold.

  6. Up here in Northwest Sands country of Wisconsin, the snow is just another stunning dimension. Just dress differently! Love the varied animal tracks in our sand country. Looks like a freeway of animal tracks in the summer even though you did not SEE the traffic, you see the evidence! Same thing in the snow. Then occasionally you see the evidence of a small mouse or squirrel tracks then a Sudden Depression in the snow with signs of wing feathers and no further animal tacks! Hah, an owl or hawk ‘got em’! Ah the winter snow and the colors left over from autumn.

  7. I really appreciated your musings on how to keep a prairie a prairie over time. We have property in the Driftless Area of SW Wisconsin that we have done a lot of work on, and it is not clear if either of our kids will want or be able to take it on down the road. I loved the idea of having a dating site for conservation minded buyers and sellers! Such sites exist for young farmers looking for land to rent or buy, so why not prairie enthusiasts as well?


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