April was a wonderful month on the prairie in many ways. After a long and windy winter, I could finally return to photographing actual flowers instead of seedheads. Plants that bloom in April are regarded “cool season” species because they only grow during spring and fall. They also earn my admiration for daring to expose themselves when a frost or blizzard could extinguish them at any moment. In doing so, they provide spring insects and photographers with much-needed relief.
I was equally happy to start seeing real, live insects again. My macro lens and I have been dreaming of them all winter, and the fun is here at last! It’s so wonderful to be able to spend twenty minutes lying on my belly watching the tiny dramas abundantly occurring around (and often beneath) our feet.
Below my doorstep one morning I found a sluggish Plains Garter Snake (Thamnophis radix) tentatively probing the spring air, as if unsure it would really hold out.
I’ve noticed that our mowed trails hold a unique assembly of plants, usually small ones that would otherwise be suppressed by taller vegetation. On one sunset walk I found what must be the prairie’s tiniest flower growing on a trail. I have no idea if that’s actually true, but boy was this thing small. I wonder what pollinates it…
On that walk, I confirmed my previous belief that there is a carnivorous fly haunting our prairies. Earlier I posted a video of a fly eating a gnat, but I wasn’t sure if it had actually caught the gnat or scavenged it. As I lay on my back watching a swarm of gnats buzzing overhead, I noticed a fly rapidly zig-zagging amongst them, occasionally grabbing one. When it landed, I confirmed that this was the same culprit as before.
The sun had already set when I heard a loud buzzing around my feet. I looked down and saw several scarab beetles making short flights low to the ground. Due to their abundance, I suspected some sort of mating activity. I got down on my hands and knees and looked for any such shenanigans. Sure enough, I found a pair in the act of larvae-making. ‘Tis the season, I ‘spose.