Earlier this week, I posted a photo of a female wolf spider carrying her brood on her back. We were collecting data at the Niobrara Valley Preserve this week, and it seemed there were babies all over the place. Young birds were hopping and flapping around, grasshopper and katydid nymphs were abundant – especially on wild rose flowers, and bison calves were following their moms around closely. Here are a few other photos of early season babies from this week.
Bison calves are at near-maximum cuteness at the moment.
A fledgling horned lark peers at me from its hiding place.
I belly crawled about 10 yards to get you this cute photo. Don’t worry, I think I got most of the sand burs out of my belly.
I’m pretty sure this is a fledgling grasshopper sparrow based on its size, coloration, and habitat.
A young katydid nymph feeds on wild rose pollen.
A grasshopper nymph stands out on a background of puccoon flowers.
I was a little surprised last week to find a fledgling meadowlark in the Platte River Prairies. The bird was young enough that it still couldn’t do much more than flutter clumsily away from me as I first approached it. The bird must have come out of a very late nest (probably the 3rd or 4th nesting attempt by its parents?) Multiple nest attempts aren’t unusual for grassland birds – many nests fail because of predators or other reasons – but I can’t remember ever seeing a bird so young this late in the season.
This young meadowlark peered through the grass at me as I crept close enough to photograph it. Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
While this particular meadowlark was unusually young for this time of year, it’s common for young-of-the-year birds of many species to hang around prairies longer than their parents, many of whom migrate south soon after their offspring leave the nest. Because they are not expert fliers and inexperienced with life’s challenges, those newly independent birds are vulnerable to everything from predators to haying equipment. In some species, young birds appear to take advantage of the adults’ absence by scouting for their own potential future nesting locations – a strategy that might help save them time when they return from migration next year. However, just knowing where you want to set up a territory doesn’t mean you can fight off a more experienced male who has the same idea!