Photo of the Week – September 6, 2013

Here are three photos from the last couple weeks that didn’t fit into any particular story or theme.  Each is from a different prairie, and each was the result of a quick opportunistic stop in the midst of doing something else.  The pitcher sage photo (immediately below) came after I walked past a patch of the flowers and then backed up to capture the image that stuck in my head when I first walked past.  I noticed the soldier beetle (second photo) as I was walking back to take more photos of the praying mantis eating the sphinx moth.  Finally, I spotted the bee sitting on a dew-covered gayfeather flower (third photo) as I got out of my truck to work on a fence project at our farm.

Pitcher sage (Salvia azurea) in our plant diversity research plots.  Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Pitcher sage (Salvia azurea) in our plant diversity research plots. Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

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A soldier beetle on a grass leaf.  Lincoln Creek Prairie - Aurora, Nebraska.

A soldier beetle on a grass leaf. Lincoln Creek Prairie – Aurora, Nebraska.

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A male long-horned bee (Melissodes sp) on dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata).  Helzer family prairie - south of Aurora, Nebraska.

A male long-horned bee (Melissodes sp) on dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata). Helzer family prairie – south of Aurora, Nebraska.

New Year Gratitude

With the dawning of another year, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who reads and responds to this blog.  I’ve been amazed and humbled by the number of you who regularly visit this site.  There are currently 437 of you who are email subscribers, and quite a few more of you who follow the blog in other ways.  On an average day, about 300 people visit the site, and that number continues to grow steadily.  It’s astonishing, really.

The readership of the blog spans quite a range of geography, backgrounds and interests.  There are naturalists, photographers, farmers, ranchers, scientists, birdwatchers, and many others.  I don’t know where most of you live, but I know that there are regular readers from all over North America, as well as from Australia and Europe.  Some of you follow the blog mainly for the photography while others enjoy the nitty gritty of prairie ecology, management and restoration discussions.  Hopefully, you’ll continue to find enough of what draws you here to hold your interest, but I also hope you’re enjoying being exposed to new and different ideas.

Late day light on prairie grasses - central Nebraska. As always, you can click on a photo to see a larger and sharper version of it.

I would love to hear from any or all of you about where you’re from, what you like or don’t like about the blog, and especially ideas you have for future topics we should explore together.  Please feel free to leave a comment below (if you don’t see a place to leave comments, click on the title of this blog post and then scroll down to the bottom).

Perhaps more than anything else, I really appreciate the tone of the discussions we’ve had.  There have been some topics that have brought out strong opinions and emotions from readers (e.g. the use of fire and/or grazing) and have stimulated numerous back and forth comments between you and me – as well as between readers.  While some of you have disagreed strongly with me and with comments from other readers, I have never yet had to censor or delete a comment to this blog.  All of the comments have been appropriately respectful of others and their opinions, even while disagreeing with them.  I can’t thank you enough for that.

Finally, I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned writing this blog.  I’ve made it a personal objective to publish something at least twice a week.  That frequency forces me to regularly explore new topics and expand upon familiar ones.  I learn from researching ideas, organizing my thoughts while writing, and – most of all – from your responses.

One of my greatest hopes for this blog is that it can help facilitate a sense of community among people who enjoy prairies.  I can see signs of that happening, which is fantastic.  Please continue to participate in discussions through this blog, and let me know if you have other ideas about how to make this a more effective platform.  Also, thank you to all of you who have helped expand our little group by forwarding posts to others you think would be interested.  Keep that up!

Thanks again, and have a spectacular New Year!