The Field  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.

Daybreak on the old field Grassland, Mashomack Perserve.

A sunrise meal of Atlantic Menhaden for a resident Bald Eagle. 

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

A first-year Eastern Bluebird.

Female Redstart in the early spring foliage.

A morning rainstorm reveals the architectural feat of an Orb-weaver Spider anchored to a colony of Flat-Topped, Seaside, and Wrinkle Leaf Goldenrod.

A Merlin perches on a Black Cherry branch.

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

An Indigo Bunting surveys from a Mulberry Tree.

A Cooper's Hawk hovers.

“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 male Eastern Towhee looking for insects along a trail. 

Juvenile Ruby-Throated Hummingbird making a stop to recharge on a White Mulberry Tree before the long migration south for winter.

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

"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

A Northern Mockingbird gets fed and the Smooth Sumac gets her seeds dispersed.

A female Common Yellowthroat scores an insect atop Roundleaf Greenbrier.

Mulberry branch hosting both a Carolina Wren and a Tree-Dwelling Lichen.

Orb-weaver Spider's newly built web shimmers with dew. 

A colony of Switchgrass in the morning sun. 

A Halloween Pennant dragonfly balances  for a meal. 

"When I am among the trees,  especially the willows and the honey locust,  equally the beech,  the oaks and the pines,  they give off such hints of gladness.I would almost say that they save me,  and daily."- Mary Oliver

Field Sparrows court on a  Black Cherry Tree.

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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