Here are some photos from last weekend. Spring is progressing quickly and early wildflowers are already producing seed.
The first two photos show woolly locoweed (Oxytropis lambertii) at our familiy prairie. There’s just one small patch of this species and I visit it every year to gauge its slow expansion. Some years it doesn’t bloom, or produces just a few flowers. This year is the biggest and most florally-abundant the patch has been. It’s still only about 3 feet in diameter, but progress is progress. I photographed the flowers with three different lenses but will restrict myself to just two of the images.
Watching this kind of incremental improvement in plant diversity and abundance is one of the most gratifying parts of restoring a site over many years. Other species are spreading across the site too (moving out of small unplowed remnants into the larger prairie, most of which was farmed and then reseeded to grass in 1962). Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre), prairie violet (Viola pedatifida), American vetch (Vicia americana) and ground plum (Astragalus crassicarpus) are four examples I’ve been watching so far this spring. Also, as an aside, I don’t believe I’ve ever typed the word ‘Sisyrinchium’ without having to look up the spelling. It’s very annoying.
Last weekend, I also made a morning visit to Gjerloff Prairie and caught up on the spring progression there. I saw quite a few bees, but didn’t photograph any of them, but did manage to photograph a few of the abundant flies (lots of different species). I played around for a while with a population scarlet gaura (Oenothera suffrutescens) – a species I’ve yet to find on our family prairie. The first photo below shows a backlit fly perched on top of the plant but also illustrates the cool feature of the flowers, which start out white and then turn red as they age.
It was moderately breezy at Gjerloff prairie, which made flower photography a little challenging initially. As the sun rose higher, its brightness made things even more difficult. I spent a lot of time following the edges of the shadows cast by hills and photographed seed heads of ragwort and prairie dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata). The trick was to get the camera and tripod set up while the flowers/seeds were still in shadow and then take photos as the sunlight just started to kiss them and before it got too bright. Here are four of my favorites from that little game.
As I type this, I’m itching to get out to our family prairie on this Friday afternoon because I just bought some crop oil so I can do some basal bark treatment on a bunch of little honey locust trees that are starting to annoy me. I still haven’t figured out what birds are eating/moving those seeds around but I wish they’d stop it. Birds have to at least one vehicle for the seeds because a lot of the trees get started in fencelines where (presumably?) the birds are dropping or pooping them out. But what bird species are doing that? Bobwhites? The seeds are awfully big for songbirds.
Regardless, I’m off to fight back against the invasion. Enjoy your weekend!