Hubbard Fellowship Blog – Sarah’s Advertisements of the Week

This post was written by Hubbard Fellow Sarah Lueder. She’s been playing with prairie slogans and asking other staff to help. In this post, she brings you into that world too. Enjoy! – Chris

Anyone who is open with their love for prairies is bound to be met with a less than enthusiastic response occasionally. I am guessing that is why Chris’s recent post, The Tribulations of a Prairie Evangelist, resonated with this audience. Inspired by the poster at the end of the post, I wanted to create more visuals that leaned into the fact that the uninitiated might have low expectations for prairies. I asked some of the Nature Conservancy staff to come up with some tongue-in-cheek slogans to help with this. Here are some of my favorites, made into very motivational posters.

Ok, admittedly, not everyone is even going to agree with this one. Some people are just going to like a short, cropped monoculture of Kentucky bluegrass more than a prairie. BUT, I would like to see them look over a field of waving big bluestem and Indian grass at sunset while a meadowlark sings nearby and a crisp wind rolls across the plains and tell me that a lawn is better. Maybe it still would be to them. If they liked being wrong.

This reminds me of a quote from Suzanne Winckler’s Prairie: A North American Guide (2004): “A prairie requests the favor of your closer attention. It does not divulge itself to a mere passerby.” Very wise, Winckler, and might I add, “Unlike forests, the most divulging of the ecosystems.” Don’t get me wrong, I love a forest! Just like the next person.

We all had our own path to prairies. Maybe it was an introduction from a friend, a meaningful moment on a hiking trail, or a class that turned your attention towards them. But I think it’s time that we champion a new prairie species to bring people in. That’s right… ticks! When it’s tick season they will be sure to do their best to welcome you with a hug and be right by your side as you explore. Admittedly, they can be a little clingy, but they were the most eager volunteers.  

I could amend this one to say “Prairies: the Midwest yard you don’t have to mow… but you can if you think that will bring you closer to your management objectives… or you can light it on fire if you want… or graze it… or do a combination of those things… just make sure you have some type of disturbance though.” However, for the sake of graphic design, I will leave it as is.

How do you draw people into prairies? Botanical accuracy! Just kidding. I don’t want to scare people away from prairies by throwing words like “forb” around. It’s all about meeting people where they are.

That’s the last of them, and now that you are filled to the brim with inspiration, I am sure you are wondering how to put it to use. To that I say, keep spreading the good word about prairies, however irreverent and sardonic it may be. To start, you might create your own slogan, and leave it in the comments!

Photos of the Week – October 8, 2021

Happy Friday, everyone! I wanted to start with another thank you to everyone who took the reader survey. As expected, the results were really helpful. I also really appreciate everyone who took the time to write additional comments – many were really touching and humbling.

Feel free to scroll quickly through these first few paragraphs, but I thought I’d quickly share a few high-level results, for anyone interested. First, 738 people responded – from 10 countries and 39 U.S. states. Unsurprisingly, Nebraska had the highest percentage of respondents (just under 20%) but Minnesota and Illinois were also high, followed by Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, and Colorado. About half of you have been following the blog for at least 4 years, and more than 10% have been here longer than 7 years (Hi old friends!).

About 64% of respondents identified as either a landowner, land manager, or conservation professional. In addition, there were a lot of photographers, educators, and conservation volunteers, and ‘nature enthusiast’ was selected by over 85% of people (you could choose as many options as applied). When asked what you’d like to see more of, the top answers included stories about the natural history and ecology of prairies and species, as well as management and restoration information. That, in particular, was helpful to hear.

I gleaned much more from the results, but those are some of the highlights. Now, let’s get to photos…

Variegated meadowhawk dragonfly in dew. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/18 1/60 sec.

This week has brought some of the best weather of the year for my particular brand of prairie photography. Sunrise has come with calm winds and lots of dew, which means lots of stationary, sparkly insects, combined with the golden colors of autumn prairie. I got up for sunrise several times this week and was very glad I did. Today’s photos are all from Wednesday morning at the Platte River Prairies. Click on any photo to see a bigger version of it.

The same dragonfly in different light. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/18 1/125 sec

Right before the sun rose on Wednesday, I was scanning one of our restored prairies for anything that would look good backlit against the sun when it popped up. I was hoping for dragonflies and managed to find one just in time. It was a variegated meadowhawk – probably a migrant roosting overnight on its southward journey. I circled it several times as the light hit it, changing lenses and perspectives as I went. These are just a few of the resulting images.

This is one of my favorite shots of the year so far, I think. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 800, f/22, 1/400 sec.
Tokina 11-20mm lens @20mm. ISO 800, f/22, 1/250 sec.

After I ran out of ideas for photographing that dragonfly, I moved on, looking for more. Along the way, since I had still had my wide-angle lens on, I tried to capture the autumn prairie itself. At least I did until I started finding more insects…

Canada wild rye against the green/golden background of autumn prairie. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 800, f/18, 1/125 sec.
Pitcher sage and sunrise. Tokina 11-20mm lens @16mm. ISO 800, f/18, 1/250 sec.
More pitcher sage. Tokina 11-20mm lens @20mm. ISO 800, f/22, 1/250 sec.
I wasn’t exclusively photographing dragonflies. I also found spiders, bees, flies, stink bugs, and this tree cricket. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/16 1/200 sec.

Eventually, I found six more dragonflies, and stopped to photograph three of them. In addition to variegated meadowhawks, I found what I’m pretty sure are autumn meadowhawks. They are late season dragonflies and suspected of being migrants, but I don’t think that’s been confirmed yet. They sure are gorgeous.

Autumn meadowhawk (I think). Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/14 1/100 sec.
Another autumn meadowhawk. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/16 1/200 sec.
Last shot of that final autumn meadowhawk. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/13 1/400 sec.

It’s getting to be the time of year when hard freezes are a possibility, so I feel a kind of low-level desperation to get out as much as I can before the dormant season starts. We’re trying to rake in as many seeds as we can too, so there are multiple reasons for me to be in the field a lot. I hope you’re all finding some time to enjoy the autumn wherever you are too (in at least 10 countries and 39 states, apparently!).

Be well.