Photos of the Week – January 17, 2020

First things first – I really appreciate all the positive attention for the goofball post I wrote on Monday that included the parody field guide for roadside wildflowers. I write a lot of posts on topics I feel are important, and that I hope will be useful and shared widely. Some of those posts have done pretty well, but none have blown up as quickly as this week’s dumb collection of blurry photos. It’s a weird world we live in. Still, I’m still glad people enjoyed the field guide – especially after I spent a stupid amount of time working on it over the recent holiday break.

Now back to my normal boring posts… : )

Last Saturday, the day started frigidly cold. It was near zero degrees Fahrenheit and there was just enough breeze to cut through all but the thickest head coverings. All in all, it was a great day to stay in bed. So, obviously, I threw on my insulated coveralls and headed out to a nearby wetland to slide around on the ice with my camera.

Frost covered much of the ice and the lower parts of emergent plants. As I walked across the ice, it was clear which areas had been frozen for a while (mostly opaque ice) versus what had very recently been frozen (clear and dark). There was even a little bit of open water in one part of the large wetland. At one point, a put my foot down and a single long crack zipped out from beneath my boot and extended 40 yards or more. That seemed like a good indication that I’d gone far enough in that particular direction – even though the water below me was only a few feet deep.

The sunrise came with very little color in the sky because there were no clouds. Still, it created interesting patterns of light and shadow because of the low angle of the light.

Only one vehicle drove past the wetland while I was there. I heard it coming and quickly stood up to avoid any chance of them wanting to stop and ask why I had been lying down on the ice. I tried to look nonchalant as they drove by, but I’m pretty sure they noticed the white glaze up and down the front of my coveralls. While I’m sure they were curious, they apparently decided that unfulfilled curiosity was preferable to the risk of stopping to talk to someone who was clearly not in his right mind.

Older cracks in the ice had refrozen, but still created interesting patterns across the wetland’s surface.
How many times must these leaves have had to drag back and forth in the wind to create those markings in the ice?
Umbrella? Skirt? Regardless, it was an attractive little accessory on this wetland rush.

Several inches of snow fell here last night. I’m hoping I can clear enough work off my plate today to get out this evening and walk around (assuming the forecast holds and the clouds open up a little before sunset). I may or may not come back with photos I like, but I’m never disappointed with the overall results of deciding to venture out in the cold.

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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.

9 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – January 17, 2020

  1. Loved this post, living in AZ, your winter posts give me vicarious pleasure of what it’s like living and working in the snow and ice, without having to be cold. Thanks for braving the elements and finding the beauty, and sharing it.

  2. I loved your roadside guide! How about a guide to identifying CRP grasses/forbs in the middle of winter!!! I’m not great at it but field checks are required right now for the new CRP sign up. After a while they all start looking the same…..dead.

  3. Thanks for your pictures Chris. I always enjoy reading your posts and am often amazed by the beauty you find in small places.

  4. Despite the smile your blurry photos gave me, I love the detailed ones. They point out how much beauty we miss by not looking carefully at what we are looking at.


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