Every visit to a prairie is different – partially because the prairie is always changing, and partially because I focus on different aspects or species each time. This week, I was near Griffith Prairie (owned and managed by my friends at Prairie Plains Resource Institute) when the light coming through the diffused clouds was too much to resist. I popped over to see what was going on in the grassland…
A stink bug on coralberry (aka buckbrush or Symphoricarpus orbiculatus). Griffith Prairie – Nebraska.
On this particular day, wildflowers were blooming all over the place, but what kept catching my eye were stink bugs. I don’t know if they were particularly abundant or if I was just paying attention enough to notice how many there were. Either way, I seemed to see stink bugs on just about every plant species I looked at. They weren’t all the same kind of stink bug, but I don’t know enough about them to tell for sure how many species I was seeing.
Here are three more photos from that same day.
A stink bug on wavy-leaf thistle (Cirsium undulatum).
… and a stink bug on leadplant (Amorpha canescens)…
On Wednesday, our staff was out enjoying some beautiful fall weather and harvesting the last of our prairie seeds for the season. Walking along a gravel lane, we found a small snake basking in the sun. I didn’t recognize it, so I stopped to photograph it in case it was a species we hadn’t seen in our prairies before. Thanks to Mardell Jasnowski and Nelson Winkel for helping me get the photo. (And for being patient while I shot it from many different angles…)
A juvenile eastern racer (Coluber constrictor) – The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska. As always, you can click on the image to see a larger and sharper version of it.
Juvenile eastern racers look very different from the adults of that species. Adult racers don’t have any patterned markings on their backs, and are a uniform blue or green color on top and yellow on the belly. In fact, they’re often called green racers or blue racers because of that coloration (also yellowbelly racers). When I saw this juvenile, I didn’t even think about the possibility it might be a racer. I was running through the names of all the snake species I could think of with brown and black patterned backs, and none of them fit what I was seeing.
Eastern racers aren’t the only snake species in which the juvenile has a different, more camouflaged appearance than the adult (black rat snakes are another example). It’s also a phenomenon seen in other kinds of animals, including white-tailed deer and red-winged blackbirds – among many others. I guess a little extra camouflage when you’re young and inexperienced in the world is probably a good idea!