Photos of the Week – April 22, 2022

Grasses are really starting to grow in our local prairies and early wildflowers are starting to bloom as well. That’s fantastic and it’s a welcome end to a long dry winter. However, it would be even more fantastic IF THE WIND WOULD STOP BLOWING FOR JUST A FEW HOURS PLEASE. Good grief.

Despite the wind, I’ve managed to get some photography done this month. I’ve already shared some of it, but here are some miscellaneous photos I haven’t put on the blog yet. Have a great weekend!

This is a drone photo of a wetland restoration project at the Platte River Prairies that I started working on in 2003 and have been able to watch ever since. When we started, it was an old sand and gravel mining pit surrounded by trees. Now, it’s a stream with side channels and backwater wetlands that is currently well-dammed up by beavers.
This is the same wetland as shown above photographed about a half hour after the drone photo as the sun was nearing the horizon. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 800, f/22, 1/320 sec.
Here is one of many beaver dams that has currently transformed the stream channels in the restored wetland into bigger impoundments. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 320, f/22, 1/125 sec.
Along the edge of the wetland, I had fun exploring some bubbles in the algae lining the banks. This photo was taken as the sun was right at the horizon. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 640, f/10, 1/60 sec.
When I traveled to the Niobrara Valley Preserve to photograph sharp-tailed grouse earlier this week I arrived the evening before and scouted the blind to make sure I knew how to find it in the dark. Afterward, I stopped at a Sandhills blowout and photographed patterns in the sand created by this spring’s strong winds. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 400, f/13, 1/125 sec.
I was getting sandblasted by the wind as I took these photos and was trying to protect my lens (and face!) from getting scratched up, but I really loved the patterns and photographed them until the sun disappeared behind a cloud. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 320, f/13, 1/125 sec.
More of the same. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 320, f/14, 1/100 sec.
And one final shot of the blowout. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 320, f/14, 1/100 sec.
After leaving the blowout, I headed back toward headquarters but since it looked like the sun might pop out of the clouds one final time before hitting the horizon, I stopped at the Norden Chute on the Niobrara River. Here, the wind was blowing spray from the falls into my lens and face so I had to keep the lens turned away from the wind, squeeze off a quick shot, and then wipe the lens dry before trying again. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 320, f/13, 1/100 sec.
After leaving the grouse blind on Monday morning, I checked the hills north of the river for pasque flowers and found a few blooming, including this one. Spring is here! Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 640, f/22, 1/200 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.

10 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – April 22, 2022

  1. my heart swells for the prairie crocus! i had an older, similar, shot of yours as my desktop for a while. so cool to see the variety of other landscapes that make up the prairie, too.

  2. Chris: Appreciate all the photos and all your work! I had a question a while back that I wrote to you and never got a response. We have a riparian buffer project on a few acres of pasture land that we are slowly trying to introduce native grasses and trees. It borders Bottle Creek near Beatrice. The initial attempt to kill the smooth brome to seed in natives basically failed. Now we have learned it takes more than one application of herbicide to kill brome.
    So here’s our question. We feel the pasture brome will always live with us and we are ok with that. However could we kill small parcels of brome and plant natives within those plots to create more diversity. Say maybe 20-30 sq. ft parcels. The borders of the natives would need to be protected but is there a chance the natives would gradually work beyond the parcels?
    Thanks for your thoughts on this.
    Appreciate it, Mil and Ruth Penner

    • Hi Mil and Ruth. I’m sorry I missed your earlier question!

      I’ve had trouble killing brome too, and I would definitely recommend multiple treatments. I like your idea of working in small pieces. I agree that you’d have to defend the edges against the brome coming back, though. It might be smart to work from one edge and keep making your restored plot bigger, rather than working with multiple isolated patches. That’ll give you fewer edges to defend and you can learn as you go about what works best in terms of killing the brome and what species establish well.

      If you haven’t, you might also look into Poast Plus or Select herbicides – they are grass-selective, so won’t kill anything other than grasses. That can be a nice option for working in a situation where there are some decent plants mixed in with your brome.

      If you haven’t yet met Kent Pfeiffer with Northern Prairies Land Trust (works in cooperation with Game and Parks Commission) in Beatrice, he would be a great local resource person for you.

  3. Thank you, love these…and for the reminder that Pasque flower is a North American native plant. I have one that I covet…not locally native, but its poor lonely self has no mates.

  4. I love the prairies. They are like oceans you can breath in. Thank you for making this experience tangible through your photos and your blog. Maybe I’ll get there in person someday.

  5. Persistence pays off, Chris. The textures of the sand, the algae bubbles, the falls and then the glorious sunstar and flower. What a wonderful series of images, thanks. Hope the wind died down finally. 😄

  6. These photographs are always so spectacular. Especially the algae bubbles, the pasque blossom, and the sunlight in both; nice going! Almost 25 years ago, I read Jim Harrison’s ‘Road Home,’ and have wanted to explore the Niobrara area ever since. The blow out image is quite motivating for us to make it happen this year :) Thanks for all the effort you take to share the intangible values of the prairie!

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