Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Walk In The Prairie

Over the years our learning more about the prairie landscape has given us a completely different perspective of it.  We used to drive through that sort of scene and simply find it repetitive.  Now, we are more aware of the fact that prairies are native habitat that is essential and significant to the health of our ecosystem.

This time around, driving through hundreds of miles of prairie grasslands was more exciting for us.  So, when we discovered a native section in the middle of farmlands in Minnesota that had been preserved we decided to pull over and take a walk around.

Rock Ridge Prairie Reserve is a combination of Short, Mixed and Tallgrass Paririe. 

A very conservative estimate is that less than 4% of the United States native prairies remain today. 

We left Annie on the side of the road and ventured off into the sometimes waist to head high grasses.

The Rock Ridge Prairie is a habitat for the rare Prairie Bush Clover.  So, much of the time we were looking to catch a glimpse of it.

We never did see the bush clover but we did see a bunch of other prairie plants like the Trifolium pratense - Red Clover - pictured above.

In the prairie, not all flowers are obvious.  Many are quite small and require close examination.

Sometimes they harbor critters like the Chauliognathus pensylvanicus - Goldenrod Soldier Beetle - on a Coneflower petal.

Goldenrod not yet bloomed

IMG_7845 Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera) Flower Plant (2)
The buds of the Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera) have the look of flowers themselves.

IMG_7852 Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera) Flower Plant (4)
However, this is what it looks like once it has bloomed.

IMG_7845 Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera) Flower Plant (3)
This Stink Bug Nymph was enjoying the Rough Blazing Star bud.

The seed umbrellas of the Salsify flower shined bright in the sun.

Bird Spotting in the Tall Grass

This Big Bluestem grass has gone to seed.

IMG_7865a D (3)
We've left Annie way back there.... see tiny spot in center of photo.

IMG_7867a D (7)
Walking through a sea of this...

And, like the bear, we're headed up there... 'to see what we can see'.

IMG_7867a D (3)
Pretty Trefoil Flowers

IMG_7871 Sedge Wren Bird (1)
This Sedge Wren, a new bird - lifer - for us, kept its distance but we still managed to snap a few shots.

The Silverleaf scurfpea still had some blooms on it.

Nicole spots a flower while Darlene spots a bird.

IMG_7889a D Dickcissel Bird (1)
The Dickcissel is a new bird for us.  We were able to spot both the male (above)

IMG_7896 Dickcissel Female Bird (1)
and this female.

IMG_7893 Unknown Butterfly (2)
Still working on the ID of this one.

Veronicastrum virginicum - Culver's Root

Still working on this one...

Verbena stricta - Hoary Vervain

While we were spotting flowers and birds...

Someone was spotting us.

She high-tailed it once she realized we were on to her.

Allium stellatum - (Prairie Onion)

As we neared the top end of the prairie, we came across more and more of the rock that gave it the name Rock Ridge.

Yes, it looks like any old rock but these solid formations of Sioux Quartzite are the reason this prairie was spared the farming that has gone on all around it.  Due to the mass of this 1.7 billion year old rock, the area could not be plowed.

We reached the top of the hill, peered over the other side and decided to turn around and head on down the road.   We had someplace we needed to be.


It was a beautiful day on the prairie...