Photos of the Week – May 28, 2020

Quick update – thanks to all of you who joined the webinar I gave this week on the topic of building resilience in prairies through restoration and management. I’m sorry again about the short notice I gave in my last post. If you missed the webinar, I have good news. It was recorded and you have two options for watching it. If you have a Zoom account, you should be able to just click HERE and watch it via that app. If you don’t have a Zoom account, you should be able to click HERE and get a downloadable MP4 file (it’s big…).

If you’re interested in a short tutorial on photography techniques, I’ll be giving a talk on that subject at 12:30 PM Central Time on June 3 and you can learn more/register for that HERE. The presentation is designed to be helpful no matter what camera you use. Quite a few people commented that they’d enjoy other webinars if I can put them together. If you have thoughts on that, including potential subject matter, please add your comments to this post or the previous one. Thanks!

Early this week, I drove up and back to the Niobrara Valley Preserve in an effort to collect data for an important collaborative research project. It was a really long day, made longer by the fact that the weather forecast greatly underestimated how long it was going to rain. I had planned to arrive after the rain had ended, do some vegetation clipping/collecting, and bring those samples home to dry and weigh. When I actually arrived, however, rain was still steadily falling. That was bad news since I needed to wait until the vegetation was dry to do my work.

Making lemonade, as they say, I took the opportunity to go look at my favorite pasqueflower hillside, curious to see if any flowers were still blooming. They weren’t, but the seed heads of pasqueflower are also very attractive, so as the clouds started to finally thin and break a little, I spent a little time photographing pasqueflower seedheads.

As I laid down on the steep rocky slopes to get close to the plants, I noticed two things. First, rocks are sharp. Second, there were a lot of crab spiders hanging out in the seedheads. The second overruled the first and I sacrificed bodily comfort to capture some images of spiders amongst the fuzzy seeds.

Here are some of those photos.

One of the seedheads, sans spider.
Based on the size of some of the green crab spiders I saw, I wonder if they spent the winter as adults.
There were also a lot of these smaller, more tan-colored crab spiders hanging about. This one is displaying the ambush posture typical of crab spiders, which have extra long front legs to grab prey that gets to close. Maybe they should be called ‘grab spiders’…
I didn’t see any pollinators or other insects visiting the seed heads (there being no pollen or nectar available) so I wonder if the spiders ever got anything to eat.
This one didn’t have a spider on it, but was starting to lose its seeds. Very pretty. You can also see that the sun had started to peek through the clouds here, so this was one of the last photos I took before heading back toward my research plots.

Eventually, the sun came out, the grass dried out, and I was able to do my work and start the long trip back home. It was a much longer day than I’d anticipated, but the unexpected delay turned out ok after all.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized 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.

5 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – May 28, 2020

  1. Ahhhh, the unending stream of up close and finely detailed shots. Hah, such a great collection and then you send on the email list. Wow, thanks. We get to see something I’m not sure our eyes will notice most of the time even when we are looking!!!!

  2. Thanks for letting us be a fly on the wall for your presentation! It is always a pleasure to listen to people who have been “thinking about” any topic.

  3. I have seen crab spiders on pasque flower seed heads too, and also wondered what they might be hunting. One speculation is that the feathery flower heads trap small flying insects blown in by the wind, almost like a spider web. The crab spider is poised to grab them as they struggle to get back in the air.

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