Sunday, August 13, 2017

Observation and Adoration

"There is pleasure in the pathless woods. There is rapture on the lonely shore. There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea and music in its roar. I love not man the less, but Nature more."

― Lord Byron

Wood Duck and Spotted Sandpiper

A small mudflat formed at the confluence ponds where I was hoping to find a few shorebirds, but not many migrants came down from the north over the weekend. With my digiscoping gear ready, I watched as an immature (spotless) Spotted Sandpiper scooted past a young Wood Duck. The sandpiper made its way out to a point on the flat and then began to preen.

Spotted Sandpiper

Several minutes elapsed with the bird systematically checking its feathers, but eventually it returned to foraging from one end of the mudflat to the other. The morning was cool and there weren't as many mosquitos, but the calm was interrupted by a stream of people participating in some kind of running event. First the sandpiper flew, and then the Wood Duck. Apparently, Lord Byron's sentiment was to be found elsewhere. Exploring the rest of the North Fork and ponds, I found Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Swamp Sparrows, Eastern Kingbirds, Yellow Warblers, Willow Flycatchers, and many Barn Swallows.

Spotted Sandpiper

Cup Plant Silphium perfoliatum

My next stop was the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. As you can tell from these photographs, the skies were clear and the weather was beautiful. As per usual, the main gravel path was being used for physical fitness activities, so I headed into the prairie on one of the intersecting grassy paths. It takes a few minutes to get away from the sounds of joggers on gravel, their heavy breathing, and utterly banal conversations which are necessarily shouted.

Pheasant Branch Conservancy

There was a better conversation taking place, anyway.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinches are quite vocal right now on account of it being their breeding time―their's was the dominant avian voice throughout my morning hike. I came upon one particularly vociferous male perched atop a tall Compass Plant. And, no, I'm not too proud a nature photographer to pass up on such an opportunity. Sure, they're common ... but that's a good thing.

American Goldfinch

While spending time photographing August's wildflowers, I noticed flight calls of Purple Martins overhead. When I arrived at the big springs I found all five expected swallow species perched on the utility wire that passes over the stream. Most were Northern Rough-winged and Barn, but there were also Bank, Cliff, and a single Tree Swallow.

Sneezeweed Helenium autumnale

Hoary Vervain Verbena stricta

Prairie Ironweed Vernonia fasciculata

Chicory Cichorium intybus

And then it was time to move further south into the woods and creek corridor for insects. But first, one final wildflower. Deptford Pink is an introduced species, but I don't often encounter it and took time to obtain a nice portrait. Actually, I find them quite visually stunning, but so are many non-native wildflowers I suppose.

Deptford Pink Dianthus armeria

Like last year, there continues to be a dearth of hopper insects this summer. Throughout five miles of hiking I found only a few Buffalo Treehoppers on Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum). Where once I used to find dozens of Two-marked Treehoppers (Enchenopa binotata), I found only one, but it hopped away before I could get a photograph of it. I suspect there would be more enchenopa if pruning along the cul-de-sac leading to Parisi Park wasn't done so aggressively. But it's difficult convincing some that such insects are anything but pests. In truth, they probably don't even know they're there.

Buffalo Treehopper Ceresa taurina

Red-banded Leafhopper Graphocephala coccinea 

Planthopper Acanalonia conica

Finally, I seem to be frog-lucky this summer. After not seeing a tree frog for several years, I found another one while scanning plants for insects. Such adorable little creatures!

Eastern Gray Treefrog Hyla sp.

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
August 12th- 13th 
63 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Wild Turkey
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Tennessee Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

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