A Little Calm in a Noisy World

The world seems awfully turbulent and noisy right now, and I don’t know about you, but I could use a little calm and serenity.  In my world, calm and serenity often come from a quiet walk through a prairie early in the morning or late in the evening when the light is soft and the breeze is even softer.  I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a few of those mornings and evenings this month, and I’m hoping maybe a few photos from those tranquil times might bring a little peacefulness into your life as well.

Common milkweed seeds (Asclepias syriaca). Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.
A stinkbug posing on Canada tick clover (Desmodium canadense). Deep Well Wildlife Management Area, Nebraska.
Grasshopper on silky prairie clover (Dalea villosa). Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.
Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum) seeds. Deep Well Wildlife Management Area, Nebraska.
A painted lady butterfly settles in for the night on Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). Deep Well Wildlife Management Area, Nebraska.
Dew drops. Lincoln Creek Prairie. Aurora, Nebraska.

Peace be with you all, my friends.

Photos, not Politics

I felt like a little natural beauty might do us all some good today.

Four-point evening primrose (Oenothera rhombipetala) and sunrise in sand prairie at The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
Four-point evening primrose (Oenothera rhombipetala) and sunrise in sand prairie at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
Dragonfly in Pawnee County, Nebraska
Dragonfly in Pawnee County, Nebraska
TNC Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.
The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.
Liatris aspera, blazing star. Lincoln Creek Prairie.
 Blazing star (Liatris aspera). Lincoln Creek Prairie.  Aurora, Nebraska.
Katydid nymph on black-eyed susan. Aurora, Nebraska
Katydid nymph on black-eyed Susan. Aurora, Nebraska
Bison at The Nature Conservancy's Niobrara Valley Preserve - Nebraska.
Bison at The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve – Nebraska.
Shell leaf penstemon and rainwater. Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.
Shell leaf penstemon and rainwater. Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.
(INTERNAL RIGHTS ONLY, CREDIT IS MANDATORY) Sunrise over meadow along Central Platte River, Nebraska. Hall County, Nebraska. May 1995. TNC Caveny Tract. Cottonwood tree. Lowland tallgrass prairie. Central Mixed-Grass Ecoregion. © Chris Helzer
Cottonwood tree, fog, prairie, and sunrise.  The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies.
Caterpillar on pitcher sage (Salvia azurea). TNC's Derr Tract. Central Platte River, Nebraska
Caterpillar, ant and inchworm on pitcher sage (Salvia azurea). Platte River Prairies, Nebraska
Crab spider on annual sunflower in sandhills prairie at The Nature Conservancy's Niobrara Valley Preserve. North-central Nebraska.
Crab spider and ant on annual sunflower in sandhills prairie at The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve.
Water droplets on spider silk on a foggy day. The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
Water droplets on spider silk on a foggy day. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
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Autumn prairie. The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve.

Best of Prairie Ecologist Photos – 2013

As promised, here are some my favorite photos from 2013.  It was really tough to narrow these down to 22 (it was going to be 21, but see below) out of the roughly 1,800 images that were “keepers” from my various photography jaunts this year.

Of course, many of you joined in the winnowing process by helping me decide between two similar bison photos last week.  Or at least that’s what was supposed to happen.  Since the vote was nearly evenly split (and a lot of people voted “both”) I decided to include both photos.  You’ll see them displayed back to back below.

I hope you enjoy the photos.  If you let the slideshow run on its own, it’ll take a little under two minutes to cycle through.  You can speed up the process, if you like, by clicking on the arrows within the frame.

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If I had to choose a single favorite from the year, it would probably be the one below.  It tells a great story without having to use any words at all.

Ant and crab spider on an annual sunflower.  The Nature Conservancy's Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.
Ant and crab spider on an annual sunflower. The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.

I shot quite a few images of crab spider silhouettes that morning, trying to get one that was just right.  I got some pretty nice ones, but none that were as striking as I’d hoped – until I was photo bombed by this ant.  That’s often the way photography goes.  Equipment and technique are both important, but you really just have to be in the right place at the right time.

I’m looking forward to being in lots of right places in 2014.

Revised Slideshows of Nebraska Nature

At the request of many of you, I’ve added captions to the slideshow photos I posted last November.  Those slideshows can always be found from the home page of this blog (under the Photography Page).  In addition, I’ve provided links to each at the end of this post.

A dragonfly in the early morning - Pawnee County, Nebraska

Now that I’ve got them labeled, I’d appreciate any help you can give me in identifying species correctly.  I’m pretty confident about the vertebrates and plants, but could sure use some assistance with the invertebrates.  If you see one that I’ve got wrong, or you can identify it more specifically, please let me know by adding a comment below the slideshow.

Thank you – I hope you enjoy the photos.

Slideshows:

Invertebrates

Plants

Vertebrates

Landscapes

Winter