Photo of the Week – March 9, 2017

I hope I’ve made it clear through the years that I am really grateful to have my job.  During each March, one of the major perks is access to viewing blinds that allow a front row seat to watch migratory sandhill cranes on their overnight roost.  This morning, I took my wife, two of our kids, and my in-laws out to the Platte River to watch the cranes wake up.

Atticus braved a cold morning breeze in his face to watch cranes dance and loaf around before lifting off to go feed in fields and meadows for the day.

Our viewing blinds aren’t fancy, but they put you right at the edge of the river to watch one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.

Most crane viewing tours I lead each year are for our current or prospective members and donors, and I really enjoy helping people experience one of the best migratory bird phenomena in the world – especially when our guests are seeing it for the first time.  On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to beat sharing that same experience with my family.  Did I mention how fortunate I am?

This morning provided good crane viewing (we had around 1000 cranes in front of the blind and maybe another 10,000 or more within view), but it was far from the most spectacular visit I’ve had.  The cranes weren’t close enough to our blind for me to get fantastic photos, but I played around a little with my camera anyway.  Today wasn’t about photography though, it was about family time in nature, and in that regard, it was pretty near perfect.

You can read more about the crane migration through Nebraska’s Platte River, and see many more photos, in a couple of previous posts here and here.

A couple small groups of sandhill cranes roosting in the river prior to sun-up.

Early morning silhouettes.



It’s not that I’m competitive, but I’ve decided that I’ll consider it a win when more of you guess a wrong answer than the right one in our Plant Game.  Using that criteria, I won twice this week.  In the first question, Earthsmoke got the most guesses as a fake plant (35%), but it’s actually a real plant (Fumaria officinalis), introduced from Europe, and present (though uncommon) in Nebraska.  The actual fake plant was Lady-of-the-Lake, which I totally made up.  To your credit, that got the second-most votes (32%).

For the second question, the fake plant was Mountain Oats, which sounds real enough that only 32% of you guessed it was fake.  Almost half of you (47%) guessed Raccoon Grape was the fake plant, though, and it’s actually a native vine that grows in eastern Nebraska (Ampelopsis cordata).  Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of chances to redeem yourselves in the future – but congratulations to those of you who guessed right!

Spines, Thorns, and the Plant Game

Ok, to be frank, this is kind of a weird post.  For some reason, during the last month or so, my brain has paid attention to spines and thorns as I’ve walked through prairies.  Given the relative scarcity of other photographic subjects, I’ve taken pictures of spines and thorns.  As a result, you get to see pictures of spines and thorns too.  I’m sorry.  To make it up to you, I added a couple more Plant Game questions to the end of the post because people seemed to enjoy them last time.  I still haven’t come up with the perfect name for the Plant Game, though I did appreciate the suggestions many of you provided.

While spines and thorns might seem like odd photo subjects, I’m hoping you’ll see some of the beauty I saw.  Plants employ them to help prevent herbivory, but if you look closely, those sharp pointy things are kind of pretty too.

Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) thorns. Hamilton County, Nebraska.

Buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum) seed pods. Hamilton County, Nebraska.

Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) thorn.

Woods rose (Rosa woodsii). Hall County, Nebraska.

Well, there you go.  Spines and thorns.



The rules are simple.  Just pick the fake plant name from each list.  Three of the names are official names of plants found in Nebraska.  The other is one that I made up.  Should be easy, right? GOOD LUCK.