September was another phenomenal month for my square meter photography project. There were lots of new species to add to my running total, but I also continue to be inspired by the simple process of trying to find beauty within a tiny space. The month started with a continuation of the Maximilian sunflower flush from August and the myriad insects visiting those blooms. However, as the sunflowers wilted, I continued to find plenty to photograph, including a few species I’d been hoping for and one (a vertebrate – see below) I’d never expected.
The growing season is quickly winding down now, and most of the plants in my little plot are well on their way toward winter dormancy. Cold wet weather has greatly reduced the number of insects moving around, and even on warm days, the numbers are pretty low. I’m going to keep photographing through the end of the year, but I’m guessing my species totals aren’t going to change much. Right now, I’m enjoying photographing fall colors, and waiting for the first frosts and snows to bring some highlights to the browning leaves and stems.
With the tremendous help of several smart people, I’ve put together a reasonably good summary of the species I’ve found within the plot so far. Counting a few from October as well, I have now photographed 98 different species of plants and animals in that square meter of prairie – all in 2018! And yes, I’m really really hoping I can find at least two more…
That species list includes 12 plant species, 21 flies, 15 beetles, and 14 bees, along with butterflies, moths, mantids, spiders, ants, bugs, hoppers, aphids, barklice, grasshoppers, mites, and katydids. Many thanks to Julie Peterson, James Trager, Mike Arduser, and Jim Kalisch for their identification help.
I’m really hoping this project will help raise awareness of and interest in prairies among people who might not otherwise think twice about an ecosystem they assume is just a bunch of grass. Additionally, I’m hoping people will see how accessible the diversity and beauty of prairies can be. I didn’t go looking for the best quality prairie in central Nebraska for this project – I chose the closest example of a restored (planted) prairie to my house. Once I chose the spot, I just sat down and started paying attention. Anyone can do the same thing in any prairie anywhere.
If you think this project might be helpful to your own efforts to convince your friends or neighbors that prairies are interesting, feel free to send them to the web page I’ve created for the project. I’m exploring several other ways to expand the reach of this effort, so stay tuned for more information on those, but for now, I’ve tried to synthesize the project within a single web page.