Home Coming

We returned home from a 3 week trip to photograph several bird species in eastern Canada and New England to find a wonderful surprise in our back garden – a Queen-of-the-Prairie in bloom.

The Queen-of-the-Prairie (Filipendula rubra) is a tall plant preferring wet prairies. The pink buds and flowers are lacey and fluffy. It is considered threatened here in Iowa.

It is a delight and we hope multiplies. It appeared in the area we call “The Swamp.” Many years ago we buried a child’s large wading pool in which we put a mixture of sand and soil. There are irises and sometimes cardinal flowers and other plants that move about the yard at their own volition.

Like the Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganese) that surprised us several years ago and now has four long stems each fitted with a candelabra of lovely orange blossoms, it is in our small urban garden because Linda sprinkles seeds from the packets offered by seed  nurseries at prairie and environmental meetings. She also collects seeds in prairies where we photograph but has never knowingly seen the Queen-of-the-Prairie in the wild. Sometimes we purchase mixed seed packets from reputable native plant nurseries and sprinkle them about and hope for the best. The only seeds that became a problem are the Groundnuts that tangle in all the plants in our front yard. Neither of us has a particularly green thumb and take a casual approach to gardening.

Bob spent time with the Michigan Lilies yesterday while Linda unpacked the pickup camper. When he came in, he asked if she knew the name of a new flower in The Swamp. Early this morning, when the soft light was just over the trees, the edges of the yard were still in shade. The Queen-of-the-Prairie was lit by the sky reflecting down into the area. This separated the blossom from the dark background along with using a fairly shallow depth of field. This is one of Linda’s favorite light conditions for photographing native flowers.

We will be posting about some of the birds we saw – a pair of nesting Piping Plovers in Ontario, over 100,000 Northern Gannets on Quebec’s Bonaventure Island, Harlequin Ducks in Perce, Quebec, Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills and Murres in Maine, and Eider Duck females teaching their ducklings in the surf in Massachusetts. And there was the thrush that sang to us along Lake Michigan at the beginning of the trip.

And then we came home to find the Queen-of-the-Prairie. And there is a bird “soap opera” going on the Althea R. Sherman Chimney Swifts’ Tower that we must follow.

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