This morning most of us got a taste of Maria's regular schedule when we arrived at the Hjelm house by 6am for a special trip. We drove three hours Northwest to the Pembina Trail Preserve to help Gretel count western prairie fringed orchids for her work with the Nature Conservancy.
Unfortunately it seems to be a bad year for orchids and we only managed to find one that wasn't even in either of the grids we were searching (In previous years there have been as many as 2,000 in the combined grids). As we were searching we met another group that was surveying the entire preserve, and they reported that they had only found 23 flowering orchids, so I guess we were lucky to see any at all!
here is the one flowering orchid we did see:
Gretel isn't sure exactly what has caused this sad state, but a few of her hypotheses are the late frost, a potential disease, or drier conditions than in previous years.
Although we were disappointed by the lack of orchids, we did see many new plant species and wildlife that we haven't seen around K-town. Here are a few of them:
prairie loosestrife- Lysimachia quadriflora
Showy milkweed-Asclepias speciosa
along with an insect that I have yet to identify:
I wasn't able to get photos of any of the birds, but we saw northern harriers, red tailed hawks, meadow larks, king birds, bobolinks, a whole flock of sandhill cranes, an upland sandpiper, an american bittern (Stuart claims that they are also called prairie pump handles for the sound they make), and a dick cissel perched on a shrub near the path singing to whoever was listening.
On the way home, after ridding ourselves of as many ticks as possible, Gretel treated us all to delicious locally made ice cream, and dinner at a Mexican restaurant, in that order.
While we were all gone Katherine and Maria stayed behind to work on their projects.
Maria collected dichanthelium seeds and kept track of phenology at Hegg Lake, and Katherine cleaned and entered data.