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So long, summer

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I know everyone is excited for fall, but I would be remiss not to post some scenes from late summer.

It is always a good work day when I get to wade in the creek. Such was the case last week when I joined Nebraska fisheries biologists as they stocked about 1,000 cutthroat trout in the middle fork of Soldier Creek and the Wood Reserve Ponds. Here are just a few of those fish leaving the net. The fish, which were raised at Grove Trout Rearing Station near Royal, are of the Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat variety and are among the first to be stocked in the state since 2016. As my friend Daryl Bauer’s blog post notes, they’ve been stocked in about half a dozen other locations, too.  Those of you pursuing the Nebraska Trout Slam will surely take note of this.

While my son and I were dove hunting one evening, there was just enough of a break in the action for me to notice the sun highlighting a bumblebee as it visited a sunflower near my spot. The woolly exterior of a bumblebee not only aids in carrying pollen from plant to plant, but also helps retain warmth so it can forage later in the season than honeybees and many other insects. The fact that bumblebees forage in colder weather than other bees do makes them especially valuable pollinators. Unlike honeybees, most bumblebees – all but mated queens – die before winter.

Going back a ways, here’s a camera trap image of white-tailed deer fawns at the end of July. You’re seeing it now because I was slow at checking the set-up. White-tailed deer fawns have about 300 spots that help them blend in with their environment. Under the strobes of the camera trap system, though, they show up quite well. The spots disappear by 3-4 months after birth.

Speaking of young game animals, here’s a young-of-the-year ring-necked pheasant in Scotts Bluff County. Pheasant chicks begin hatching in mid-June and broods stay with mother hen until early autumn.

I was in that area for an open house for the new section of coldwater stream at Dry Spotted Tail Creek near Mitchell. It won’t be long before I’m casting a fly rod along this stream.

It was a foggy scene in the Wildcat Hills the following morning.

Despite the gloomy weather, the greeters at the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area’s Nature Trail were hard at work.

As were the red crossbills and spotted towhees.

The wet scene prompted me to catch some close-ups of some of the smaller creatures at Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area. It’s always a challenge for me to keep macro subjects in focus when the wind blows, as it occasionally does in western Nebraska.

This sunrise image is from Box Butte Reservoir in early September. I do not remember a time that we had water levels this high at Box Butte Reservoir so late in the year. The fishes should be enjoying all the water of recent months, even if it’s been a headache for land dwellers.

The leaves are just starting to change colors here in northwestern Nebraska, bringing on a whole new scene of beauty. I’m looking forward to photographing those pretty leaves … while pursuing some cutthroats and other critters, of course.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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