Welcome to my Prairie (blog + photos)!

Some time ago, I read about some nearby prairie land that was owned and managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).  I decided a while back to check it out.  On my first attempt, I could not locate it since there were no road signs indicating where it was.  Subsequently, I did some more research and managed to find some more specific directions.  So, this past week I made my second attempt.  This time I was successful in finding the prairie land.  To get to it, you have to head straight into the woods from the parking lot.  After an 1/8 mile hike (all uphill!), you reach a clearing that contains a recently burned meadow.  I was only able to spend about an hour at the meadow on this trip, but vowed to go back to spend some more quality time there!

On this past Thursday, I drove back out to the prairie in the late afternoon and was able to spend ~3 hours there.  What a place!  I managed to find about 15 species of wildflowers, along with an assortment of dragonflies, bees and butterflies.  And while I was there, an MDC agent showed up to survey the wildflower population.  I took the opportunity to ask him some questions about the area.  I was amazed to find that this meadow had only been plowed once, back in the late 1800’s.  And for the last couple of years, the MDC had been working hard to rennovate the prairie land.  This includes frequent prescribed burns and reseeding the area with wildflower seeds (from existing wildflowers at this location).  And I learned that there is a second meadow at this location; from the hilltop meadow, there is a narrow trail that leads back down into a lower meadow.  And the MDC is currently using wildflower seeds from the upper meadow to help reseed this lower meadow.  The agent told me that the real wildflower display begins in summer at this location.  I was told that they currently have a continuous bloom here!  I can’t wait to see it!

Anyway, I’ll be going back very soon for more photography, but here is one of my favorites from last Thursday, a Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui) looking for nectar on a Rose Verbena wildflower (Verbena canadensis).  This image was made with my Canon 1D Mark III and Canon 180mm macro lens, using a tripod with a ball head:

I don’t know which I like more, the beauty of the Painted Lady, or the great color/texture of the Rose Verbena!  After looking at this image for a while, I became fascinated with the great textures of the Painted Lady:  the hairs on it’s wings and legs, the antennae that appear to have “lights” on the end of them, and the long proboscis (a long, tongue-like structure that acts like a straw to drink nectar and other liquids).  So, I decided I would closely crop the above image, blowing up the butterfly image to better study it:


First of all, notice the butterfly’s movement (the antenna closest to us, and the proboscis).  The proboscis appears to be looking for or collecting nectar from one of the Verbena’s flowers that is below the flowers on the surface.  I’m also fascinated with the “down-like” structure just above the butterfly’s front leg.  I would have loved to get an even tighter macro shot of this butterfly, but it was too wary. I had to settle for what he would give me … maybe next time!  Stay tuned, more images from my new-found prairie are forthcoming.

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