Things aren’t always what they seem.
Take, for instance, Thomson Memorial Prairie just south of Blue Mounds. Reconsider shrugging it off as just another field near expansive farmland, because it’s actually one of the few remaining dry prairies in Wisconsin.
I traveled there on June 4 for a field trip through The Nature Conservancy (which owns and manages over 600 acres of the prairie). TNC conservation director Steve Richter (pointing) and DNR conservation biologist Dave Sample (far left) have led the trip together for nearly 25 years.
The two experts helped point out what was pushing through the soil or flying above us. According to TNC, more than 68 species of plants grow here, and 34 species of birds nest or feed here.
And I was seeing many of them for the first time, like the little white flowers of sandwort and the silhouettes of upland sandpipers chattering overhead.
Rain had just moved through earlier in the morning, but soon the sun broke up the overcast sky and brought the prairie to life. There are no trails here, so we walked wherever we pleased.
Yellow seemed to be a recurring color in the prairie: from flower petals to bumblebee stripes and bobolink caps. We listened and watched for red-winged blackbirds, meadowlarks and dickcissels, which seemed to prefer a high vantage point to share their music from this well-used fence post.
Grasshopper sparrows were more difficult to track down because they tended to stay hidden in the long grass and occasionally let out a buzzing sound, just like their namesake.
But just before we left, guess who showed up on another post?
The view from the top of the hill stretched for miles, and shadows of clouds swept across the landscape. We breathed in the beauty and tried to identify dozens of plants around us.
I saw a few butterflies in the distance, but this red ladybug in a field of green caught my eye.
You don’t need a camera or pair of binoculars to enjoy the prairie. Just open your eyes and ears to the beauty around you and create your own adventure. And watch out for poison ivy.
For more photos from the day, visit my Flickr page.