My morning sojourn with Cooper on the Northern Llano Estacado prairie is our daily ritual of fun, exploration, and light catching. Today is different. The high altitude air is heavy with humidity. White clouds billow against the deep blue canopy of New Mexico sky. Creatures, besides Red Harvester Ants, seem to be on the move.
My first encounter is a two to three-year old Ornate Box Turtle. On our approach it retreats into its fortified mobile home and thus foils my attempts of capturing an interesting image on digital film...strike one. One hundred yards down the dusty trail, I spot a viridescent shape stretched across my path of travel. I suspect a snake and call Cooper to my side. It’s a beautiful one-and-a-half foot long juvenile Desert Kingsnake. I pause to admire the striking coloration. As I ready my camera for an image, the reptile slides into the dense sea of prairie straw...strike two. One would think a black snake with striking yellow striations would be an easy target. Disappointed, I resume my trek, determined not to head home until I capture an image of a prairie denizen. A high plains Blue Samurai warrior obliges.
The Blue-margined Ground Beetle has prominent mandibles which make it a formidable predator in the shortgrass prairie. It’s a flightless beetle and closer examination confirms fused elytra (wing covers) on its back. The elytra are shiny, it’s a male. As it pauses I notice the thorax articulates. I’m on my stomach. From this vantage point I can see its body is a flat, bent shape. I ease closer. Now I can make out the palpi, just below the powerful mandibles. These function to move food into this warrior’s mouth. Suddenly the beetle scurries off and disappears in the prairie vegetation. Cut, print, the shoot is in the can.
© Ilija Lukić 2011
© Ilija Lukić 2011