Photos of the Week – July 25, 2020

This week was a fun week for natural history observations at the Platte River Prairies. Mike Schrad, Master Naturalist, led a crew of small mammal trappers and confirmed the continued presence of plains pocket mice (and other species) in both the restored and remnant portions of our small area of sandhill prairie. Mike and I are hoping to learn how the pocket mouse (including an at-risk subspecies, Perognathus flavescens perniger) responds to our fire and grazing management over a decade or more. This is the seventh year Mike has been tracking populations, and it certainly appears the population is stable, though variance in trapping numbers makes it hard to say much more to date.

In addition, the Fellows and I conducted a bumble bee survey as part of the Nebraska Bumble Bee Atlas project and caught 44 bumble bees in 45 minutes of sampling time (15 minutes per person). That list of bees included three species – the brown-belted bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis), the American bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus), and the southern plains bumble bee (Bombus fraternus). The first of those is very common, the second seems to have strong populations here but is declining to the east of us, and the third is considered endangered by several conservation groups, including the Xerces Society.

In addition to those more formal investigations, I saw a wide diversity of other species – some of which I captured photos of. A selection of those is included here for your enjoyment.

Dogbane beetle. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 640, 1/100 sec, f11.
Planthopper in peril. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 640, 1/60 sec, f/13.
Metallic green bee on purple prairie clover. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/500 sec, f/14.
Damselfly. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/250 sec, f/18.
Illinois tickclover blossoms (Desmodium illinoense). Nikon 105mm macro lens, ISO 400, 1/500 sec, f/14.
Katydid nymph on purple prairie clover. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/500 sec, f14.
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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 – July 25, 2020

  1. That damselfly made me laugh, and the Illinois tickflower surprised me. Just this year I found Desmodium paniculatum — panicled ticktrefoil — in east Texas. The flowers look to me like little faces.

  2. My husband and I look forward to your posts every week! Thank you for sharing your information and enthusiasm! I have great respect and admiration for your beautiful Nikon photographs!

  3. Writing, photography, survey plots, and bumble bees … you are multi-talented. Controlling invasive species by itself is hard enough for me.

  4. Chris, I rarely comment, but I love, love, love your posts about the prairie of my childhood. Of particular notice today are the plant hopper in peril and the damselfly photos today. Thanks for doing your part (And mine) to restore and preserve the Nebraska prairie land.

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