Grass Lands This photo essay was shot entirely at The Nature Conservancy's Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island which hosts and maintains one of the most endangered habitats on the planet: Grassland. Known by other names, meadow and prairie, these open areas team with biodiversity like no other. Old growth Grasslands can be home to hundreds of native grasses, shrubs, wildflowers, birds and insects, and scientists are still uncovering previously unknown species.   Though our collective imagination inaccurately places them west of the Mississippi only, Grasslands naturally existed from Long Island south to Florida, sweeping west to The Great Plains. Their destruction for housing developments and farmland has left precious little.  We have yet to fully understand what we are truly losing and how critical it is to the survival of every living thing on earth.

“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Day breaks over the old field Grassland, Mashomack Perserve.

A Bald Eagle with an Atlantic Menhaden retreats to the safety of the grassland with her meal. 

A Yellow-Rumped Warbler eyes a fresh Myrmicine Ant hatch from a Sassafras tree. 

A Blue-Winged Warbler singing atop a cherry sapling. 

The meadow grasses in the morning light: Little Bluestem, Silver Hairgrass,  and Broomsedge Bluestem. 

An Indigo Bunting surveys from a Mulberry Tree.

Female Redstart in the early spring foliage.

A first-year Eastern Bluebird.

A Merlin perches on a Black Cherry branch.

The  dawn chorus soundscape:  A soloist Field Sparrow with background singers: House Wren, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow Warbler,  and American Robin 

A kaleidoscope of Cabbage White Butterflies.

“And by experiencing prairie---over the four seasons, and at various times of day, in all weathers---you develop a heightened sense of awe and wonder that will spill over into every other area of your life.”-Cindy Crosby, The Tallgrass Prairie: An Introduction

A Cooper's Hawk hovers.

A rare find for the grassland, otter scat full of fish bones, scales and bits of crab shell. A Red-winged Black bird sings the solo over Cardinals, Carolina wrens, and an Indigo Bunting. 

A male Common Yellowthroat balances on a Prairie Rose's thorny branch.

A female Common Yellowthroat scores an insect atop Roundleaf Greenbrier.

An Eastern Raccoon happily asleep with a full belly of ripe mulberries.

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” -Rachel Carson

Orb-Weaver Spider's newly built web shimmers with dew anchored  to the Slender and Flat-Top Goldenrod. 

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo waits patiently for an insect meal.

Common Milkweed above and Butterfly Milkweed below... essential to the Monarch Butterfly's lifecycle.

A Halloween Pennant Dragonfly balances  for a meal. 

A dead tree supplies nesting, food storing, hunting, roosting, and resting for the resident bird population. 

A moment's rest away from the nest for this Osprey.

"To reconnect with nature is key if we want to save the planet. If we kill off the wild, then we are killing a part of our souls...there is no sharp line between humans and the rest."-Jane Goodall

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