Photos of the Week – March 18, 2022

I was a guest on The Natural Curiosity Podcast recently. If you or someone you know want to hear me ramble on for about 25 minutes extolling the virtues of prairies, check it out! I enjoyed the conversation and host Steven Shephard did a nice job of helping me distill what’s so great about prairies into a tight 25.

Sandhill cranes are in the Central Platte River valley in huge numbers right now, as they are each spring. Over half a million of them were counted in aerial surveys this week. As a result, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts have also flooded the valley.

I’ve spent much of the last week helping those folks celebrate and learn about cranes. I’ve also tried to build a little enthusiasm for prairies among that same audience. Leading tours through drab brown fields of dormant grass isn’t the easiest way to generate prairie excitement, but I’m doing my best! Thank goodness for photography and the opportunity to provide some visual evidence of what can be found during the growing season.

Every March, the skies above our Platte River Prairies are full of long-legged birds and their calls provide a soundtrack for all our outdoor work. Another less recognized feature of the spring crane season is an abundance of feathers lying around. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed photographing those feathers from various perspectives. If nothing else, feathers are a lot easier to sneak up on than the birds they come from. Here are a few favorites from past seasons.

Crane down feather on a sunflower stalk. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/320 sec.
Unfortunately, this photo was taken of a crane that didn’t survive migration, but it was a nice opportunity to highlight the way cranes color their gray feathers with oxidized iron deposits they find in the soil. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 250, f/25, 1/60 sec.
Close up of a crane feather with one stray barb. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/20, 1/100 sec.
Crane feather on a bed of grasses. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/125 sec.
Close up of another crane feather. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/18, 1/320 sec.
Another down feather. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/13, 1/320 sec.
Ok, I cheated on this one. This is actually a goose feather (I’m pretty sure) from our family prairie this spring. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/160 sec.
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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 – March 18, 2022

  1. As I was scrolling through the pictures without reading any of the captions the photo third from the bottom of the Crane feather macro caught my eye. It made me think that it was an aerial view of planted fields with a road running through the middle.
    I enjoyed all of your photos. Have a great weekend.

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