Photo of the Week – March 28, 2019

I photographed flowers this week! Ok, they were just flowers on the little speedwell plant (Veronica polita) that grows as a weed in our yard, but still. Flowers! My photography brain muscles were starting to atrophy and it was great to flex them a little.

Those flowers were a nice sign of spring. I’ve never understood why people point to the arrival of robins as a indication of spring since there are migratory flocks here during most of the winter, but it’s hard to argue with blooming flowers as a harbinger of seasonal change. It’ll be a while before most prairie flowers start to bloom, but the tiny blue blossoms in our garden are a great step in the right direction.

The other significant sign of spring in our yard this week was the big ol’ Woodhouse’s toad Kim spotted as she was cleaning up the landscaping around the edge of our house. The toad must have just recently emerged from its winter burrow because it still had dirt on top of its head. I was so excited to have a small animal to photograph that I took (no exaggeration) 270 photos of the toad as it sat cold and motionless in our yard. As a favor to you, I’ve winnowed that batch of photos down to the five that I’m including here. She’s just so pretty…

In this photo, you can see the nictitating membrane (a kind of transparent third eyelid) toads can use to protect their eyes from hazards.

Cooler temperatures, and maybe even a little snow this weekend, will set us back a little, but spring is still coming… In addition to the flowers and toad, Kim also heard chorus frogs calling this week. Oh, and of course, the Platte River is full of migratory sandhill cranes – here for their annual spring staging event. Before we know it, prairies will be greening up and we’ll start to see and hear all kinds of activity again. Just…another…few…weeks…?

Photo of the Week – March 1, 2019

The snow on the ground is slowing down some of our plans for March, but I do appreciate the opportunity to do some more winter photography. It’s also nice to have snow around as a way to gauge the kind of animal activity going on in the prairie. As I walked around the Platte River Prairies last weekend, I particularly noted an abundance of small mammal tracks. Once I started noticing and photographing the tracks, I saw more and more, so I just kept photographing them. As a result, I came home with an absurd number of mouse track photos.

No tracks in this photo, but this gives you a feel for what the afternoon was like on Sunday at the Platte River Prairies – attractive diffuse clouds in the sky and sparkling snow on the ground. A perfect day to obsess over a narrow range of photographic subject matter.

I’m only sharing a small subset of those track photos today. It may be difficult for some of you to appreciate the subtle differences between the photos, which, at first glance might appear nearly identical to each other. I tried to provide explanations in the captions for why each image is absolutely unique and worth sharing. It’s not just because I took a lot of very similar photos and felt compelled to justify that by sharing more than just one or two. Seriously, I could have filled the rest of your day with mouse tracks, but I restrained myself. Enjoy.

While I saw a lot of mouse tracks like this, including some that led to burrows in the snow, I didn’t see any evidence of what the mice were eating (if anything) while they were out and about.
This photo is really different from the previous one in that you can see the individual toe prints. Also, the tracks move from top left to bottom right of the frame instead of top right to bottom left…
THIS photo is different from the previous two because it was photographed later in the day when the sun was lower and providing more golden-colored light.
As the sun neared the horizon, I was still taking photos of mouse tracks. And yes, most of the other images were pretty similar to each other. But THIS one has a sun in it!