Photo of the Week – December 31, 2015

My wife and I have a tradition of spending part of our holiday break up at the Niobrara Valley Preserve.  It’s only a two year old tradition, but nevertheless…

This year, the weather was great for hiking, so we spent quite a bit of time exploring.  Here are a few photos from our trip.  Think of them as a Happy New Year gift from me.  (Sorry, it’s all you get.)

Happy New Year!


Kim and I spent a long afternoon on the north side of the river, exploring the former pine woodland (now grassland).


Evan Suhr (land manager) took us out to look at some of last year’s management results, and on the way back we came upon a couple big bison bulls.

rose hip

Rose hips provided some rare color in the winter landscape.


While almost all the ponderosa pines on the north side of the river (on Preserve property, at least) were killed by the 2012 wildfire, there are still numerous pines alive elsewhere on the Preserve, including this one.


A very light snow fell while we were at the Preserve, and it made for a very pretty Christmas Eve morning.

snow cup

This hoary vervain (Verbena stricta) leaf turned into a cup of snow.


On Christmas Day, we found several small springs and followed the stream they created all the way to the Niobrara River.  There were several great waterfalls along the way.


On Christmas Eve, a big full moon rose over the river not long after sunset.


Photo of the Week – January 9, 2014

Earlier this week, I found myself lying on my back in the tight crawlspace beneath a house at our Platte River Prairies, helping our land manager fix a ruptured water line.  For this claustrophobic prairie ecologist, the dark cramped space under that double wide trailer house was a test of psychological endurance.  As soon as the repair was finished, I found myself in desperate need of a walk under the big open sky.  Fortunately, that sky was mottled with attractive clouds, and one of our restored wetlands was close by, so I grabbed my camera and took a nice restorative hike.


This frozen stream/wetland had plenty of interesting textures and shapes to look at and photograph.  Most importantly, however, it was big, wide, and open.  The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.



The white streaks in the ice created an impression of flowing water even though they weren’t moving.  There was, however, water flowing beneath the ice, despite the cold snap we’ve had.


Cattail seeds

Recent strong winds scattered hybrid cattail seeds around the ice in a few places, making interesting photographs, but spelling work for us next year as we try to keep those cattails from taking over too much of the site.



Beavers have dammed up much of this restored stream/wetland area, helping us in our effort to create a variety of habitat conditions.  The strong groundwater influence of the stream usually keeps it from freezing up completely, even during the coldest periods of winter.