Prairie Dew

My favorite time to shoot macro is at sunrise, closely followed by those occasions where dew is present.  I can shoot with just one of them, but prefer having both at the same time.  I have been very fortunate over the last several weeks to have both.  Dew adds another whole dimension to a photograph of small subjects, including flowers.

This photo is a 9 shot image stack, all shot at the same setting, but at different focus points.  I was actually leaving the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve last Saturday, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw this flower glistening in the sunlight.  Upon closer inspection I realized I wanted to capture it, and in turn I’m sharing it with you.

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Silky Aster (Symphyotrichum pratense)

Damselfly in Dew on Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve

The Fragile Forktail Damselfly Ischnura posita is one of the smallest damselflies, measuring about 1 inch long.  The only thing that helps to locate them hiding in the grasses, are the big colorful eyes, and the colorful markings on their thorax.  It is difficult to tell from this angle, but Fragile Forktails are identified by having two distinguishing exclamation marks on their thorax.  They are most active spring through early fall.

In order to spot them you have to stop, crouch down low, and slowly scan a small area in front of you.  I can usually only spot one peripherally (from the corners of my eyes) as it slowly hovers back and forth, low to the ground.

Damselflies differ from most dragonflies in size, and by the fact that their wings are usually (not always) folded back onto their body when at rest.  They eat mosquitoes and flies, but will eat most anything they can catch.

At sunrise one morning, I spotted this one hovering as I slowly scanned the grasses in front of me.  Fortunately for me, it landed on a small twig with a great colored background.

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Fragile Forktail Damselfly Ischnura posita

Small Things in a Big Way

The Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve contains 300+ grasses and plants to date that have been identified, and listed in a database.  Many of them are readily seen by scanning your eyes over the prairie.  Many of them are small, and require closer inspection.  The same thing holds true for the subject of this post.

While Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) is tall and beautiful, this Yellow Jacket Hoverfly (Milesia virginiensis) at 1/2″ length can barely be seen without a closer look.  Photo taken Sunday September 19, 2014.

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Insects on the Prairie

 

It is easy to see the draw for nature lovers when you first lay eyes on the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve.  It is a large open 51 acre tract of land, populated with all manner of highly visible grasses and plants.  Many of those have flowers.  The fact that it is nestled in the middle of a very active urban city makes it even more impressive.

I made my first real foray onto the prairie after it had been recently cut.  There was a 7 acre section of prairie left uncut, to provide a glimpse into what the whole will look like as it grows back.  What is not readily evident, are the myriad small critters living within those prairie grasses and plants.  You have to stop and look closely to see many of them, since they are camouflaged quite well.

My first few steps onto the trail cut through the prairie grass garnered me an interesting subject to photograph.  The very first insect I saw was a mantis.  I had not seen one in years, so it was certainly a pleasant surprise to be able to photograph one.  Mantises are comprised of several different types, though they are all very efficient predators of the insect world.

It took me some time to finally get an accurate ID on this one, due to its unusual features.  The front legs were a slimmed down version of what most mantises look like.  The body also more resembled a walking stick, which is herbivorous (they mostly eat plants and leaves).  This one also did not have wings.

This is a Slim Mexican Mantis (Bactromantis mexicana) female.  They are found in Mexico through southern Arizona, and southernmost Texas.  The females are wingless.  I really like the eyes, and this one turned to look right at me as I photographed her.

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