Another Visit to Cherokee Prairie

Most years, the vegetation at Cherokee Prairie is pretty much dry and dead by September, as is most flora in our region.  This year, though, was different.  On September 2, Labor Day, I drove by and saw late summer flowers and grasses.  Walking through the tall grass, I found flowers, spiders, butterflies and caterpillars.  It was a great, productive, and fun-filled couple of hours that morning…

Pearl Crescent butterfly; late summer

Pearl Crescent butterfly; late summer

Pearl_Crescent_Caterpillar

Pearl Crescent Caterpillar

In the background, you may have noticed a Purple Gerardia, aka Purple False Foxglove, (Agalinis purpurea).  There were a number of these flowers in bloom.

Purple Gerardia (aka Purple False Foxglove)  Agalinis purpurea

Purple Gerardia (aka Purple False Foxglove) Agalinis purpurea

An aster with a Crab spider in residence

An aster with a Crab spider in residence

Bicyclist passing by Cherokee Prairie on Highway 60

Bicyclist passing by Cherokee Prairie on Highway 60

Equipment included the Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod and Really Right Stuff ball head

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Cherokee Prairie

Cherokee Prairie

Each spring, I look forward to visiting Cherokee Prairie, an Arkansas Natural Heritage Site. There are a number of pieces of land in Arkansas similar to this; allowed to grow naturally, with only foot traffic allowed.
This spring, I’ve been able to make several visits to the Prairie, and here’s some of what I’ve seen – and photographed.
Among the first wildflowers to bloom is Indian Paintbrush. I visited once and they were just beginning to show color; a later visit and the Prairie was nearly covered with the colorful red flowers.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas

Then, in the midst of the red flowers was this yellow version.

 

A yellow version of Indian Paintbrush

A yellow version of Indian Paintbrush

 

Here’s another image (my favorite) of the same yellow flower, juxtaposed with the red ones in the background.

Yellow Indian Paintbrush, Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, AR

Yellow Indian Paintbrush, Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, AR

 

Next, a few weeks later, the Purple Coneflowers covered the Prairie:

Purple Coneflower Duo

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

 

Purple Coneflower 03689

Purple Coneflower framed by Doll’s Daisy, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

Large patch of Purple Coneflowers, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

Large patch of Purple Coneflowers, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

 

There are other wildflowers there; these are some of my favorites.

And, the visitor can also see some other “flying flowers”, such as this Eastern Tailed-Blue.  This was a first for me, and I appreciate our friend, Anne Sayers, helping identify it…

Eastern Tailed-Blue, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

Eastern Tailed-Blue, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

 

 

These images were all made with the Sony Alpha77, a Minolta 100mm macro lens and, more recently, a Tamron 180mm macro lens, Manfrotto tripod and Really Right Stuff ball head.  And, all the water drops were there before I was…  🙂

 

 

A Morning at the Nature Center

The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, actually.  That’s a mouthful; so those of us in the area simply say “The Nature Center.”  Regardless, it is a marvelous nature resource for the Western Arkansas region.

Recently, Jim Nieting and I spent a few morning hours walking some of the trails at the Nature Center, with cameras in hand.  Once again, I was amazed at the resource this is for us.  We saw or heard a number of bird species, numerous butterflies, a cottontail rabbit, and more…

At the Visitor Center, the staff has installed housing for Purple Martins, and it is very active.  Here are a couple of nestlings looking for their parents.

Purple Martin Chicks

Looking for their next meal on the wing

Also, near the Visitor Center, are a number of Canada Geese.  Most of us have more photos than we’ll ever need of this species, but I usually cannot resist taking another.

Canad Goose at the Nature Center

Canada Goose at the Nature Center

From the Visitor Center, we headed out on the Beaver Creek Trail, where we heard and eventually found probably the highlight of the morning:  a pair of yellow-billed cuckoos.  Here’s one of them.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, with snack

Lots of butterflies, including this Pipevine Swallowtail:

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail, enjoying the sun

On the Wells Lake Trail, we found this Cottontail Rabbit, very near Wells Lake.  He posed for us for quite some time.

Cottontail Rabbit

Cottontail Rabbit, near Wells Lake

Among the butterflies, we saw Hummingbird Moths.  Hard to photograph, because they never stop moving – and they move fast!  🙂

Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Moth at the Nature Center

Finally, as I was heading home, I saw this Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher on a high-line wire.  Technically, not at the Nature Center, but close enough to count as part of my morning adventures…

Scissortailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, near the Nature Center

The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center is one of 4 the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission has built across the state of Arkansas.  In Western Arkansas, we are appreciative of and thankful for the facility.  As you can see, there is a large variety of fauna as well as flora to be seen here; I’ve only touched on a small portion of it.

All photos were taken with a Sony Alpha 77, and a Tamron 200-500 lens.  Yes, I used a tripod, built by Manfrotto.

Also, a big thank you to my fellow photographer, Jim Nieting. Definitely a better birder than I; several he saw and identified before I knew they were around. 🙂

Butterfiles along the Cossatot

Driving the backroads within the Cossatot River State Park & Natural Area, it was warm, dry, and dusty.  I was exploring, and watching for interesting subjects.  Alongside the road was a patch of thistle, the flowers in full, fresh bloom.  Swallowtail butterflies were swarming the blooms – yellow tiger, spicebush, and two-tailed swallowtails were everywhere.  They were in a feeding frenzy, and paid little attention to me and my camera.  Again, I had the 70-210 f/4 Minolta lens mounted on the camera; a long enough lens that I could reach the butterflies without being too close to cause them discomfort, but short enough that I could find them in the viewfinder quickly.  I set the aperture to f/4, with a fast shutter speed of 1/1500 sec to freeze their movements.

Here are a couple of photos.  Butterflies, flying flowers…

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio [Pterourus] glaucusEastern Tiger Swallowtail