Posts from the ‘prairie wildflowers’ Category

36 Hours on the Prairie: Felton Prairie, Minnesota

[August 17 & 18, 2018: I made a quick dash to the prairies of Western Minnesota in mid August. Much of my time is spent in the boreal forest and bogs of northeast Minnesota, and I was starting to get a bit claustrophobic. So off to the wide open prairies! I started at Otter Tail County’s Maplewood State Park, then on to Wilkin County (Town Hall Prairie, Western Prairie, Rothsay WMA) and continued north to the huge Felton Prairie complex in Clay County. The next day I hit Felton area again and headed north to the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in Polk County]

“Felton Prairie” is now a complex of state WMAs (Wildlife Management Areas), SNAs (Scientific and Natural Areas) and The Nature Conservancy prairie tracts in Clay County, Minnesota (northwest Minnesota). It is most famous for being the last stronghold for breeding Chestnut-collard Longspurs in the state (though none were seen or heard in 2018). Other summer breeders include Marbled Godwits, Loggerhead Shrikes and Grasshopper Sparrows. Baird’s Sparrows and Sprague’s Pipits formerly were found here but they have been gone for quite a while. Felton is also a dry gravelly prairie that is on the old beachline of Glacial Lake Agassiz. Much of this ridge has been mined for gravel, but thanks to the MN DNR and The Nature Conservancy big tracts of prairie have been preserved.

Merlin in the fog Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_1186

Merlin hunting on a hazy, foggy morning at Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)

cow cattle Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_0995

Forest fires in Manitoba and Ontario made for a very hazy sunset at Felton Prairie. This Bison herd morphed into cattle as they emerged from the distant horizon.

Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_1200

American Goldfinch and 3 Mourning Doves.  [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1239

Foggy morning prairie “garden” of Liatris (Blazing Star, goldenrods and sunflowers). [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Eastern Kingbird Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_1334

A pair of young Eastern Kingbirds waiting to be fed by mom and dad. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]; Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 USM lens; 1/1250 second at f5.6; ISO 400; hand-held out car window.

Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1375

Bumble Bee on thistle flower.  [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

meadowhawk Band-winged Meadowhawk Sympetrum semicinctum Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1401

Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) male. This distinctive dragonfly is uncommon except where its specific habitat of spring-fed pools and slow marshy waters is found.   [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

meadowhawk Band-winged Meadowhawk Sympetrum semicinctum Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1405

Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) male. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

meadowhawk Band-winged Meadowhawk Sympetrum semicinctum Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1412

Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) male. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1415

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on a sunflower.  [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1433

grasshopper on sunflower  [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1462

Regal Fritillary (Speyeria adalia) on Liatris (Blazing Star) at Felton WMA. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens; 1/1250 second at f4; ISO 250; hand-held.

fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1480

Regal Fritillary (Speyeria adalia) on Liatris (Blazing Star) at Felton WMA. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens; 1/1250 second at f4; ISO 250; hand-held.

Argiope trifasciata Banded Garden Spider Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1676

Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) is an orb-web building spider. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens with Canon 500D close-up lens attached to front; 1/250 second at f8; ISO 200; hand-held.

Argiope trifasciata Banded Garden Spider Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1687

Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) side view. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Argiope trifasciata Banded Garden Spider Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1232

Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) at the hub of its orb web waiting for a victim to become ensnared. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens with Canon 500D close-up lens attached to front; 1/250 second at f8; ISO 320; hand-held.

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36 Hours on the Prairie: Prairie Grasses & Domestic Sunflowers

[August 17 & 18, 2018: I made a quick dash to the prairies of Western Minnesota in mid August. Much of my time is spent in the boreal forest and bogs of northeast Minnesota, and I was starting to get a bit claustrophobic. So off to the wide open prairies! I started at Otter Tail County’s Maplewood State Park, then on to Wilkin County (Town Hall Prairie, Western Prairie, Rothsay WMA) and continued north to the huge Felton Prairie complex in Clay County. The next day I hit Felton area again and headed north to the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in Polk County]

Just outside of Moorhead near Dilworth is a field of domestic sunflowers. It was a foggy gray morning and my camera wanted to shoot the scene in very cool colors where the leaves all turned to blue. When I previewed the images on the back of my camera, I thought it looked ghastly, but upon reflection, I REALLY like the cool blue and yellow look. The “correct” color balance was hard to achieve even in Lightroom.

sunflowers near Moorhead MN IMG_1034sunflowers near Moorhead MN IMG_1038sunflowers near Moorhead MN IMG_1047sunflowers near Moorhead MN IMG_1050sunflowers near Moorhead MN IMG_1052

[All sunflower shots with Canon 7D with Canon 50mm f1.8 lens (shot wide open at f1.8).]

Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_0898

Six-foot tall Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) silhouetted by a hazy sunset caused by smoke in the atmosphere from wildfires in Manitoba and Ontario. Note that this plant is in full bloom. This is the grass that covered thousands of square miles of the Midwest prairies before settlement. Early settlers said that wherever “big blue” grew, corn would thrive…and that was about all of the tallgrass prairie and led to the “de-forb-ization” of the prairie in the upper midwest. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_0998

Six-foot tall Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) silhouetted by a hazy sunset caused by smoke in the atmosphere from wildfires in Manitoba and Ontario. Another common name for this grass is “turkey foot” which refers to the 3-branches of the infloresence. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge NWR Polk County MN IMG_1891

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) blooms in August and September. Note the tiny flowers of this very tall grass. [Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge (Polk County, Minnesota)]

Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge NWR Polk County MN IMG_1958

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is not even in the same genus as Big Bluestem; they just share part of their common name. This is a shorter grass than Big Bluestem and in late summer/early fall shows reddish-orange stems and fluffy rachilla hairs on the spikelets. [Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge (Polk County, Minnesota)]

Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge NWR Polk County MN IMG_1963

A non-native Foxtail grass (Setaria sp.) along the roadside. Although it is an alien, it is still very attractive.

Cactus in Minnesota?—Blue Mounds State Park: Part 2

Prickly Pear Cactus 3 1024x
CACTUS IN MINNESOTA?
Yes, actually two species of Prickly Pear Cactus occur in southwest Minnesota…Opuntia fragilis and Opuntia macrorhiza. And Blue Mounds State Park is a great place to see them for yourself. No, not giant cartoon-type cactus but a low-growing cactus with GORGEOUS and HUGE yellow blossoms. They should be blooming now! To make sure, call the park office in advance.
Purple Prairie Clover? 234_3452 copyIf you squint, you can almost imagine a time when tallgrass prairie covered the endless landscapes of southern and western Minnesota. And Purple Prairie-Clover (Dalea purpurea) was part of that rich mosaic of prairie wildflowers.
This species is a legume with a taproot that may reach down 6 feet into the soil! This root system helps prevent soil erosion. It is a true prairie plant that has evolved with fire, and does not tolerate shade. Pronghorns are even known to eat it.

Bison foursome Blue Mounds 153_5345 copyA looming thunderstorm provides a dramatic backdrop to these grazing Bison. Don’t let me mislead you…There is a fence around the entire herd, and they are not always visible to park visitors.

Bison run blur Blue Mounds State Park Luverne MN _MG_5157 copyIn 1961, the park added three bison from the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge near Valentine, Nebraska to start the present bison herd. Today, the Blue Mounds’ herd is maintained at more than 100 bison.

Coneflower Blue Mounds Rock Co MNNotice the deeply cut leaves and extemely reflexed ray petals of the Pinnate Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) (sometimes called Gray-headed Coneflower). To emphasize the incredible five-foot height of this prairie native, I crouched down with my wide angle lens and put the flowering heads “in the clouds” so to speak. This photo would not have had much impact if taken at “eye-level” with the flowers.

Gray Partridge near Blue Mounds State Park Rock Co MNGray Partridge, the bird formerly known as Hungarian Partridge, are not easy to find…anywhere. So I was very fortunate to run into this breeding-plumaged male near the park. They are one of the few birds that utilize seemingly barren crop fields that surround the park. I lost the original of this image when I dropped a hard drive years ago, but fortunately I printed a 4×6. This is a scan of that 4×6 print.

Turkey Vulture Blue Mounds State Park landscape Rock Co MN IMG_9978A Turkey Vulture soars over the prairie at Blue Mounds State Park. This is the same tree and Sioux Quartzite outcrop as in another photo in this post.

Great Horned Owl cliff, Blue Mounds S.P. MN _MG_5237Cliffs can be habitat too. This Great Horned Owl has made a home of the Quartzite cliffs on the east side of the park. Hiking trails parallel the cliffs along the base and also on top of the bluff.

GHOW-SS in flight, Blue Mounds S.P. MN _MG_5240We rarely see Great Horned Owls in flight during the day. So when this guy took off, I held down the shutter. He/she then obligingly banked to reveal the full spread of its large wings and a full tail fan. The fact that he/she peeked over his/her shoulder at me was a bonus.

Rock Wren BlueMoundsSP-Stensaas (1)RARE FIND
I found this singing Rock Wren at the top of a cliff several Junes ago. The closest this western bird regularly breeds to Minnesota would be the Black Hills of South Dakota, over 300 miles away! Unfortunately, this guy did not find a mate here and likely moved on.

Tree and Sioux Quartzite Blue Mounds State Park Rock Co MNSome outcrops of Sioux Quartzite are more red than others, and this one also has excellent patterning with crusted green lichens. This scene is near the drive up to the Interpretive Center. The Box Elder (I think it’s a Box Elder) adds to the composition that might be a little boring without it.

Bison Rainbow Blue Mounds-Stensaas copyA dawn rainstorm spawned a sunrise rainbow. The clouds, 180 degrees from the rising sun, lit up a beautiful pink color. In order to get the entire arc of the rainbow, I used my 10mm lens (equivalent of a 16mm lens as it was on my camera with a 1.6 crop factor) and placed the Bison underneath. I tried everything I could think of to get him to lift his head, but to no avail. I still like this unique image.