(click on any photo in this post to enlarge it)
I’ve visited Mount Mitchell in the past a couple of times and was fortunate to be able to photograph the spring burning of Mount Mitchell in 2009. The Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie is managed by the Audubon of Kansas in partnership with the Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards. The park is 30 acres (also listed as 46 acres here) of native prairie and has a number of hiking trails available. The park also has a lot of history associated with it. This year members of the Kansascapes Photo Alliance will be spending the year making photographs at Mount Mitchell (stayed tuned for the Kansascapes Gallery of Mitchell photographs to go online!).
As part of this year-long project at Mount Mitchell, I’ve recently spent some evenings wandering around the park. The first evening I was there one of the caretakers of the park, Michael Stubbs, was at the site and pointed out the location of this bird nest hidden down in the grass, possibly a Dickcissel’s nest.
On this particular evening the clouds were really diffusing the setting sun and creating some beautiful light. I was fascinated by this tree and the patterns of the sumac in front of it. I’m sure this tree will be a favorite subject of mine over the coming year.
The colors in the sky were fantastic and made a nice pairing with the rock in the foreground of this next photograph. I’ve been told that rocks like this one (maybe Sioux quartzite?) were carried into Kansas by glaciers in the distant past. This particular rock was perched on a hillside and made me wonder how long it had been there. For some reason I always think of rocks as being stubborn.
Probably my favorite wildflowers are the butterfly milkweed. I can’t wait for them to bloom each summer so I was really happy to see several of them at Mount Mitchell during my first trip there. They weren’t blooming during the first evening I spent at Mitchell, but when I returned 11 days later they were out in force and what a sight it was to see!
Butterfly milkweed is particularly striking due to how well the color of the flowers contrast with the green prairie. In the parts of the Flint Hills I’m most familiar with the butterfly milkweed flowers are normally orange to reddish. Last year while photographing at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge I was shocked to discover that they also come in yellow. I found the particular patch in the photograph above interesting because it had all 3 colors of milkweed in it. How cool is that?
Butterfly milkweed isn’t the only flower on the Mitchell Heritage prairie (far from it!), and on this particular trip the Echinacea were very abundant. Lit up by the setting sun they made a striking subject.
As pretty as the Echinacea were, I couldn’t stay away from the butterfly milkweed. The mosquitoes were out in force this evening and I had already found a couple of ticks by the time the sun was setting, but the evening was well worth the price I paid to the nasty biting bugs.
I was really sorry to see the sun sinking below the horizon and the last of the light fading away. I had actually returned to Mitchell on this particular evening to photograph moonrise over the park, and while I did manage to make a couple of interesting photographs of the moon rise, I wasn’t nearly as interested in a moon rise as I normally would be. The butterfly milkweed were just too pretty to ignore…the moon rise will be back again soon but by then the butterfly milkweed bloom will be over. If you haven’t been out to see the wildflowers blooming in the Flint Hills now would be a great time to get out there and Mount Mitchell would be a good place to start!