Photos of the Week – August 13, 2022

In my last post, I shared photos from the trip I took to the Niobrara Valley Preserve earlier this week. Those photos showcased the drought conditions in the prairie and how they seem to be exacerbating the problem of shrub invasion. While the drought is severe and shrub invasion is a big concern, there was still a lot of beauty and inspiration to be found. I wanted to post some photos today that help illustrate that.

A drone photo of the Niobrara River and a very dry landscape around it.

After spending the day evaluating pasture condition and discussing grazing and weed management strategies, is was nice to spend time in the evening and the next morning just wandering aimlessly with my camera and drone. The above and below photos reinforce how dry it is at the Niobrara Valley Preserve and how much of the vegetation has gone dormant. At the same time, the bison are doing fine, there are still quite a few wildflowers blooming, and insects were abundant and very active.

A drone photo showing part of our east bison herd at The Niobrara Valley Preserve. The bison are feeding in a spring-burned flat in very dry prairie.
Robber fly in a sand blowout. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/14, 1/100 sec.
A bison calf stares at me as the sun goes down behind it. Tamron 100-400mm lens @400mm. ISO 640, f/6.3, 1/320 sec.
A brown-headed cowbird (I think) flew from the feet of a bison, perhaps chasing the dragonfly above it, as the bison walked toward me. Tamron 100-400mm lens @270mm. ISO 640, f/6, 1/500 sec.
Bison grazing at sunset. Tamron 100-400mm lens @290mm. ISO 640, f/6, 1/500 sec.
A bison cow and calves at sunset. Tamron 100-400mm lens @400mm. ISO640, f/6.3, 1/500 sec.
Antlion in the early morning. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/13, 1/400 sec.
Face-to-face with an antlion. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/11, 1/320 sec.

There was no morning dew for insects to be trapped in, which cramped my style a little, but I managed to get some bug photos anyway. Antlions were especially common in the morning, and it was easy to spot them as their wings were highlighted by the light of the rising sun. Some were too wary to be photographed, but others sat still for me as long as I approached them slowly and close to the ground. I found quite a few male bees and wasps on overnight roosts too, but I just shared a bunch of those kinds of photos a few weeks ago, so I won’t add them here.

Metallic green sweat bee on a plains sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris). Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/11, 1/320 sec.

Drought or no drought, prairies are resilient and full of life and beauty. I hope you can find an opportunity to go see some of that beauty at a prairie near you!

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.

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