Photos of the Week – September 20, 2019

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Big bluestem in glittering prairie.

Last weekend, I spent a magical morning in dew covered prairie along Lincoln Creek, here in Aurora. Everything around me glittered in the early morning light and I found easy photographic subjects everywhere I looked. I’ll share more photos from that morning in the future, but today am featuring big bluestem and the tiny flower flies that were feeding on its pollen.

More dew-covered big bluestem
A tiny flower fly (Syrphidae) patrolling big bluestem in search of pollen

It was hard to ignore the statuesque big bluestem flower heads all around me as I walked through the prairie, especially since they were covered in sparkling dew drops. I was particularly drawn to the anthers hanging from the actively-blooming flowers. As I was examining and photographing those anthers, I became aware of lots of tiny flower flies that seemed even more interested in them. I watched as the flies clambered about the dew-covered flowers, stopping to feed intently on anthers. Periodically, they would stop eating and zip away, circling back to land on the stem below the flower. There, they sat still for a minute or two – maybe scanning for predators or just catching their breath? Then they’d take off and fly back to the same flower to resume foraging.

Big bluestem anthers covered in dew. I’m telling you, it was a magical morning…
This flower fly with ragged wings was feeding on pollen while holding the anther in its front legs.
A flower fly during one of its rest breaks between feeding bouts

Once I established the pattern of feeding/resting, it was pretty easy to sidle up to a fly, set up my tripod, and photograph it for a while. If I moved too quickly and spooked it away, the fly usually returned to the same flower after a few moments. Among a morning with many highlights (literally and figuratively), the chance to spend some intimate time with those grass-feeding flower flies was pretty spectacular.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – September 20, 2019

  1. Pingback: Photos of the Week – November 8, 2019 | The Prairie Ecologist

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