Saturday, July 24, 2021


Elk were conspicuously absent during our recent visit to the Elk-Bison Prairie at Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky, but soon after our return to Nebraska Jessa suggested we visit the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park near Ashland, and the elk there were more cooperative—lounging in the shade, mostly, but lounging where we could see them.

[Oops. This one's actually a whitetail buck. I am not going to re-format this post.]

The Safari Park is affiliated with Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, and despite its proximity and reputation, I'd never been there. Like LBL, they have both elk and bison in a drive-through setting. When we were there, one cow—a traditionalist, evidently—was vigorously dustbathing, but most of the herd opted for the pond on this warm summer day.

There are a number of non-releasable rehabilitated birds on display as well. Jessa's sensitive eye ensured that even unflighted eagles, swans, and pelicans retained their dignity.

Also present are sandhill cranes. Accustomed as we are to seeing them in February and March, it struck us that the background colour in these photos was all wrong.

Speaking of greenery, several species of wildflowers were putting on a show.

[Swamp milkweed.]

[Ratibida and vervain.]

[Ratibida on its own.]


I'll close with two shots I held back for this purpose, in violation of Jessa's "no derpy pictures" policy. She usually refuses to publish any photo that presents its subject in an unflattering light—I have been the grateful beneficiary of this policy myself. But she agreed to make a one-time exception, so enjoy these "not ready for the yearbook" portraits.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Hitchin' a ride

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum

—Augustus De Morgan, "Siphonaptera", after Jonathan Swift

We recently published a picture of an alligator with a frog on its back, and when I saw Jessa's picture of a frog adorned with snails I thought immediately of the doggerel above, and wondered what sort of hitchhikers the snails might themselves be carrying. It's not quite "turtles all the way down", but there's sure to be more life here than the camera or our own eyes can see...

Monday, July 19, 2021


A few common dragonflies, all from a single pond in Cass County. Nothing we haven't photographed before, but we always enjoy them, so here you go.

[Blue dasher.]

[Meadowhawk of some kind, juvenile. Adults of our several local species are mostly red.]

[Mourning cloak.]

[Green darners. The male is contact-guarding the female while she lays eggs; he periodically takes flight, with her in tow, to select a new location for oviposition. This behaviour, according to Sidney Dunkle's excellent field guide Dragonflies Through Binoculars, is unique to green darners and some species of skimmers.]

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Northern water snake

When we saw a northern water snake in Virginia recently, I had difficulty in recognising it due to its large size and location atop a stone wall. This is more what we're accustomed to seeing: similar pattern but scaled way down and, you know, in the water.

This specimen was actively hunting the shallow margins of a Cass County pond, and very focused—you'd think such a small snake would be wary of tall bipeds, like great blue herons for example, but this one was seemingly paying no attention to Jessa and her camera. 

I say "seemingly" because there is a chance its attention was divided after all. A split second after Jessa took the photo below, the water snake made a lightning-fast strike at the frog—an easy opportunity, or so it seemed to us—but unaccountably missed. We decided to clear out just in case we were a distraction, and also because it was bloody hot and humid out in the sun.

Happy hunting, Nerodia.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Great crested flycatcher

Great crested flycatcher, Cass County, Nebraska. A common enough bird, Myiarchus crinitus, but not one that ordinarily gets a lot of attention. Its reep, reep call is heard more often than the bird itself is seen, but its colours are subtle and lovely. Photos by Jessica Farrell-Churchill.

Friday, July 16, 2021

The degeneracy of the aristocracy (Baltimore orioles)

Lord Baltimore is looking good...

Lady Baltimore is bringing home the bacon and keeping a careful eye on strangers with cameras...

...but Junior seems to be heavily into cannabis.