My last day at the Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival I took part in what was called the Prairie Ramble. Our fearless leaders were Julie Zickefoose (of The Bluebird Effect fame) and Keith Corliss (a local historian and birder) but Rick Bohn, a life long resident and expert in the plains (and an excellent photographer) was with us and had done much of the scouting and preparation for the outing. He had staked and labeled many of the wildflowers and grasses of interest in the short-grass prairie, and found us a nice set of tepee rings. Our primary destination was the School Sections between Carrington and Chase National Wildlife Refuge. The School Sections are land that was set aside by the government to support higher education in the state (part of the “land-grant college” movement). The idea was that the land would be put into production and the funds realized would go directly to support a state college. Much of the land has been sold off by now (in all states, not just in North Dakota) but these 4 sections (4 square miles) of prairie remain unbroken. They are grazed by cattle and sheep every summer, which maintains them in much the same state as they would have been in when wildfire and buffalo kept the grasses short and the woody plants out. As such they are a real treasure…a place where you can still experience something of the unbroken high prairie, with its wildflowers, its bugs, its reptiles, birds and mammals. 4 square miles sounds huge, but it is just a tiny dot in the farmlands that lap right up to its boarders.
It was still misting after an night of heavy rain when we got to the School Sections, the clouds still looked ominous, and the grasses were soaked and soaking, but we piled out of the bus with good-will, galoshes (those who remembered to pack them), and rain gear and set off on a long slow circuit of the hills above the road. By 10am. when this image was captured, the rain clouds were fleeing east ahead of a 20mph wind and the sun was breaking through big puffy cumulous clouds. These are Prairie Sunflowers, and got down low to catch them against the sky. For this image I left two of my fellow ramblers in for scale (and for fun).
The second shot is a more traditional composition (and is probably what my fellow ramblers thought I was taking in the first shot )
Canon SX40HS. Program with iContrast and –1/3EV exposure compensation. 1) 24mm equivalent field of view at the macro setting. f4 @ 1/800th @ ISO 100. 2) 62mm equivalent field of view and macro, f4 @ 1/1250th @ ISO 100. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.