Sunday, July 8, 2018

Season of the Ghost

Lately, my amygdala has been engaged in the absurd behavior of reflecting back on what Reason surmises is a vacuous slop of darkness and deceit. Wasting time occupying the spaces of my brain with such nonsense is troubling. 

Ghost Tiger Beetle, Sauk Co, WI 28June2018
Fortunately the evolving seasons have tethered me to Nature's forward momentum. I excitedly anticipate her grand seasonal displays. 

Late June through early July bring the season of the alluring state-threatened Ghost tiger beetle. Ghost tiger beetles decorated in cream and carmel patterns edged with frosted copper accents.


Nature's paintbrush is exquisite. Colors pleasingly coordinated...


In the "barren" sandscape that is anything but barren.

Tiger beetle (and then some!)  habitat

Where life and death are beautifully juxtaposed.

A carefully hidden Vesper Sparrow nest, Sauk Co, WI 28June2018
Parasitized by a Brown-headed Cowbird (Boooo!)
Either Cloudless or Orange Sulphur, Sauk Co, WI 27June2018
The seasons will continue in the form of particular flights of beetles and butterflies. Generally more insects will abound, more orchids will emerge. Birds are fledging. Shorebirds have begun their southward flight. That Spring Green Blue Grosbeak of recent years has returned only to be re-discovered in recent days. The wealth of critters and plants abound as they go about the business of thriving, reproducing, to eventually yielding to senescence.


I may orchestrate and plan. But nevertheless will always be surprised.

Absorb. Witness. Propel forward.

Time and Nature will not wait.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Between Then and Now

Time truly waits for no one. One glance over my shoulder assures me of that. Where did the glorious days of mid-May go? What has only been a month since spring migration's climax, feels like no less than six.

Time is peculiar like that. It unpredictably expands and contracts. Three weeks can feel like a year ago, while three years (facilitated by petulant reminders) can feel like mere weeks removed.

White Lady Slipper, Dane Co, WI 26May2018
By far, time mostly expands, full of countless blissful imprints of nature and people coming together in an elevated symphony that drowns out the dark noise.

White Lady Slipper, Dane Co, WI 26May2018
The perspective of time and its infinite wisdom teaches me that something which can feel like a penance at its onset is actually a gift in disguise. One that thrusted me on journey toward freedom from oppression. Survival feels grand. Indeed a gift.

The interim since the passing of spring migration has been brimming with activity. Between then and now nature has continued evolving in all her seemingly infinite ephemeral expressions. I have been there chasing her ever-changing mood. Harnessing her beauty in slivers of time. Stacking memories and images along the way.

Showy Orchis, Pleasant Valley SNA, Dane Co 25May2018
As soon as migration waned, I made haste to find the earlier spring-blooming orchids.

White lady slipper in northern Dane County,

White Lady Slipper, Dane Co, WI 26May2018

Yellow Lady Slipper at Pleasant Valley in Western Dane County


Yellow Lady Slipper, Pleasant Valley SNA, Dane Co 25May2018

...and my lifer, Showy Orchis.

Showy Orchis, Pleasant Valley SNA, Dane Co 25May2018
I have returned to "The Gorge" many times to immerse myself in its spring transformation. I continue to relish in the seclusion available to me so near, yet seemingly so far, from the bustle of the busy Madison area.

Acadian Flycatcher, "The Gorge," Dane Co, WI 25May2018
My yard and gardens have demanded tremendous time as I strive to add more native plants as well as exotic annuals to attract more birds and pollinators.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, my yard, Dane Co, WI 2June2018
I have meandered to several state natural areas including Hemlock Draw, Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie, Pleasant Valley, Town Corner Cedars, Dunbar Barrens, Kissick Alkaline Bog and Parrish Oak Savanna.

Dragon's Mouth Orchid, Sawyer Co, 17June2018
I have traveled north to Marinette County for my breeding bird surveys with some orchids and insects sprinkled in along the way...
Kirtland's Warbler, Marinette Co, WI 10June2018
...and to Sauk, Washburn and Rusk counties for hummingbird banding with more nature squeezed in my limited down-time between banding three locations.

Pink Lady Slippers "in spades," Marinette Co, WI 10June2018
I've logged nine orchid species, numerous robberflies, dragonflies and butterflies, six tiger beetle species and banded over two hundred and fifty Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, Ferry Bluff SNA, Sauk Co, 27May2018
Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle, Dunbar Barrens SNA, Marinette Co, WI 11June2018

Small Round-leaved Orchis, Sawyer Co, WI 17June2018
Other than the purposeful effort of finding select orchids, nature has mostly revealed herself in an incidental and always rewarding manner.

Showy Orchid, Sawyer Co, WI 17June2018

Pink Lady Slipper,  Marinette Co, WI 10June2018

Life has been busy and will remain so for the foreseeable future. I hope to find time to consolidate and log my observations here. However time will not wait for me. So for now, onward I go!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Is it a Wrap?

Early last week it appeared the excitement of migration through Dane county came to a screeching halt on May 15th. 

Black-throated Blue Warbler (male), Gallistel Woods, UW Arboretum, 14May2018
Our last push of impressive migrant numbers and diversity occurred the day prior. 

Chestnut-sided Warbler (at my feet), Pheasant Branch Conservancy, May 2018
Storms early that morning forced many migrants down. 

Philadelphia Vireo, Graber Pond, Dane Co, WI 14May2018
Wilson's Warbler, Graber Pond, Dane Co, WI 14May2018
Thrushes dominated the day at densities I don't recall seeing before in Dane county. 

Veery, Wingra Woods, UW Arboretum 14May2018
Gray-cheeked Thrush, Gardner Marsh, UW Arboretum, 14May2018
Swainson's Thrush, UW Arboretum, 14May2018
Spring migration 2018: It felt somewhat delayed, then came on fast and furious. It will certainly go down as one for the record books of my gray matter. 

Chestnut-sided Warbler (at my feet), Pheasant Branch Conservancy, May 2018
On the waning side of its climax, warblers continued at my feet, but with far less frequency. As temperatures climbed, birds moved to food sources high in the tree canopy. 

American Redstart, the iconic warbler of waning migration, Graber Pond, Dane Co, 14May2018
The serendipity of Black-throated Blue warblers was certainly with me this spring which contributed to its overall superior rating as far as migrations go. 

Black-throated Blue Warbler (male), Gallistel Woods, UW Arboretum, 14May2018
Throughout the first half of May, I was fortunate to encounter several of these captivating blue warblers at various locations. Frautschi Point delivered my FOY. The UW Arboretum offered stunning looks of both sexes over multiple days. And as we passsed migration's peak, I saw the last male I will likely see for the season at Graber Pond (May 15th). All in all, it simply does not get much better than a Black-throated Blue Warbler quietly sneaking up in serious face-melting proximity during a quiet afternoon stroll in Gallistel Woods. 

It appears the birding fairies knew before I did that there would likely be no additional Black-throated Blue magic for me in the coming months. Unfortunately my travel plans to visit the Black-throated Blue Warbler breeding grounds in the eastern U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) have been thwarted by my mother's unexpected hospitalization. This is keeping my part-time Yooper parents in the Lower Rio Grande Valley at least until mid summer which means my time in the U. P. will be limited this summer. Oh how I already miss the remote shores of southern Lake Superior...

Hooded Warbler (female), Wingra Woods, UW Arboretum May 2018
As migration wanes, there is still plenty of birding candy to behold. The Hooded Warblers present in Wingra and Gallistel Woods at the UW Arboretum are likely to breed there. Even with lulls in migration and the slowness of the afternoon, these birds are typically active getting about their business of trying to perpetuate their genes. 

I have also been following the progress of a Ruby-throated hummingbird nest  in the same woods where the Hooded Warblers appear to have taken up residence. You can hear the Hooded Warbler singing in the background of this video showing the bird building her nest. 

Ruby-throated hummingbird adding soft lining to her nest, UW Arboretum, Madison, Dane Co, 14May2018
And of course new blooming ephemerals continue to reveal themselves almost daily. 

Bird's Foot Violet, Mazomanie Wildlife Area, Dane Co, WI 17May2018
And as more plants are flowering and temperatures rise, butterfly diversity and numbers are also increasing. 

Juvenal's Duskywing, Mazomanie Wildlife Area, Dane Co, WI 17May2018
By Wednesday of last week I was certain migration was a wrap. Stick a fork in it. Finished in an abrupt and cruel fashion.

Sadly I had turned my attention to all the things I had been neglecting during my month of birding fever, my garden, home, etc.

But could it be so? Was migration really over?

What about the cuckoos? And the myriad of empidonax flycatchers? And Olive-sided flycatchers? So few have been reported this year...Surely there must be more.

Black-billed Cuckoo, Graber Pond, Dane Co, WI 21May2018
Today's verdict on the question of whether migration is a wrap is a resounding "HELL NO!"

Migration may be waning, but indeed there is still more!

Bay-breasted Warbler, Graber Pond, Dane Co, WI 21May2018
Olive-sided Flycatcher, Graber Pond, Dane Co, WI 21May2018



Monday, May 14, 2018

Migration Rushes

Woohoo! Much has transpired in the two weeks since I last posted. The great ephemeral rushes of migration are upon us. Birding is now in high gear. Between birding, work (gets in the way of birding), sleep (I'm deprived) and eating (popcorn, almonds and crackers on the fly) who has time to nestle into the box to process photos and document the fantastic rush of 2018's spring migration?

A confiding Hooded Warbler oblivious to my presence at UW Arboretum, Madison, Dane Co, 13May2018
As I embark to settle down to write. I can predict I will likely nod off into in-completion (yes it happened, finally finishing this 4 days later than intended). But here I go, the words have been kicking around in my brain for at least a week...

Blue-winged Warbler, Cherokee Marsh-South Unit, on a glorious day of birding after morning rain showers
4May2018
April in her notorious bipolar fashion had us desperately hanging on to her paucity of migrants as her end grew close. Warblers had been sparse in numbers and diversity. However only as manic April could do, she dutifully delivered on her final day with our first decent push of warblers numbering about a dozen species.

Spotted Sandpiper, Sub-zero Pkwy Ponds, Dane Co, WI 29April2018
We exploded from a steady trickle of of succulent shorebirds,

Dunlin, Sub-zero Pkwy Ponds, Dane Co, WI 29April2018
Wilson's Phalarope, Sub-zero Pkwy Ponds, Dane Co, WI 29April2018
swallows,

Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Goose Lake Conservation Area, Dane Co, WI 29April2018
and Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers...

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Goose Lake Conservation Area, Dane Co, WI 29April2018
to recurrent orgasms of birds and more birds, sparrows, warblers, shorebirds, and tanagers. The undulating waves of one bird rush after another have been exhilarating...

Smith's Longspur, Dane Co, WI 3May2018
It has left me breathless on occasion, often trembling from excitement and always desiring more!

Tennessee Warbler, Cherokee Marsh South Unit, Dane Co, WI 4May2018

Each day yields fresh delights...

Black-and-white Warbler, UW Arboretum, Dane Co, WI 8May2018

In the common and cryptic...

Eastern Whip-poor-will, "the gorge", Dane Co, WI 5May2018
Barred Owl, UW Lakeshore Preserve, Madison, WI 7May2018
The bold and beautiful...

Summer Tanager (Dane lifer), Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, Dane Co, 5May2018
One of two birds on my Dane life wish list for 2018
And the soul-soothing blues.

Black-throated Blue, Seen with my friend Shawn at Frautschi Point, UW-Lakeshore, Dane Co, WI 7May2018

Eastern Bluebird, Frautschi Pt, UW Lakeshore, Madison, WI 7May2018
I continue to fall in love with discovery, in love with finding a sense of place and harnessing the healing power of the quiet gorge, the nourishing seeps, the hidden springs and kindness of strangers, all yielding their gifts in incremental fashion with each return.

Swainson's Thrush, "the gorge" 4May2018
Solitude and beauty carry my spirit far from the crowded birding corridor where I am shunned like a modern day Hester Prynne, brandished with the scarlet letter "C" or "S" or perhaps,"FB..."

Golden-winged Warbler, "the gorge," Dane Co, WI 4May2018
The weight of human cruelty is no match for the power of a curious Golden-winged Warbler...

Golden-winged Warbler, "the gorge," Dane Co, WI 4May2018
Or a bluff decorated in sprays of white blooms...

"The gorge" 5May2018
Along "the gorge", hepatica and bloodroot have yielded to Dutchman's breeches which have now gone into senescence as well. The shooting stars are queued up for their spring debut. Bishop's Cap has just begun to bloom. Virginia Bluebell and Trout Lily have peaked in their poignant glory. Soon their blooms will also fade. All of it is so preciously ephemeral. Look up. Look down. The sensory overload at this time of year is immense. The forest floor is a constant changing menagerie of blooms rapidly transforming with the mere passing of a few days.

Wild Ginger, "the gorge," Dane Co, WI 5May2018
Truly there are so many birds and blooms, yet so little time. My attention and interests continue to be pulled in a multitude of directions. "The gorge" is beckoning me to return. However the bird activity at "the gorge" has been no match for the incredible deluge of warblers visiting the University of Wisconsin Arboretum.

Magnolia Warbler, UW Arboretum, 10May2018
My addiction to the forest sprites keeps me returning to the "Arb" for the time being. What's not to love in a place with scores of delightful birds and birders who welcome me with warm regard? With its vast landscape and hidden woodland benches, I can perfectly balance social versus solitary birding, choosing when to join my birder friends in a frenzied quest for warblers versus quietly strolling the wooded paths where the surprise of an intimate bird encounter is often lurking.

Northern Parula, UW Arboretum, Dane Co, 10May2018
The birding in Gallistel and Wingra Woods as well as at the north end of Gardner Marsh has been incredible over the past week.

In recent days I was wowed by a confiding Hooded Warbler at my feet...

Hooded Warbler, just walking right on by, busily foraging and singing within a few feet of me. 13May2018

...the delight of an unexpected Kentucky Warbler in my birding patch

Challenging light trying to capture this very vocal skulker
UW Arboretum, Dane Co, WI 13May2018

...an abundance of tantalizing warblers feeding low near the ground during our recent bout of chillier temperatures.

Black-throated Green Warbler, UW Arboretum, Dane Co, WI 8May2018

...gobs of Blackpoll Warblers concentrating at the north end of Gardner Marsh

Blackpoll Warbler, UW Arboretum, Dane Co, WI 10May2018

...and knockout views of several Scarlet Tanagers.

Scarlet Tanager, UW Arboretum, 10May2018

The past few days have also brought an influx of female warblers. Just today I saw my first fair lady Black-throated Blue Warbler as well a female Bay-breasted Warbler. These subtle beauties have joined the recently arrived female Tennessee, Nashville, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Blackpoll and Chestnut-sided Warblers along with female American Redstarts, a harbinger of migration's conclusion.

Bay-breasted Warbler, Cherokee Marsh South Unit, Dane Co, WI 10May2018

Soon this lovely madness will fade. Until then I will continue to relish one of the more memorable spring migrations I've experienced in recent years!

Prothonotary Warbler, Cherokee Marsh South Unit, Dane Co, Wi 10May2018
One of several I've seen this migration at various locations.