Thursday, September 27, 2018

Early Spring Nugget



After hitting it hard on the birding front this spring, my time spent birding dramatically fell off during the summer all the way through this fall migration. 

Being my first full green season in my new home, much of my "free" time was occupied with cultivating my yard to be more enticing to birds and pollinators. The other portions of my "free" time gravitated toward orchids, butterflies and insects. All in all I have to say, birding mostly in my backyard for last 4 months has had the benefit of adding several bird and insect species to my yard list.But I'll save that for another post...


When I look back on the incredible spring birding I witnessed this year, these Long-eared Owls take gold as the best birding patch nugget of spring and likely of all of 2018. Any day I see an owl is a damn good day. But a Long-eared Owl appearing IN MY PATCH places the encounter on the extreme of damn good, like damn fuckingfantastic.


What was thought to be one, turned out to be three!


Ah the owls. Relatively uncommon owls. Long-eared Owls!

That meant mum was the word. No eBirding. No broadcasting these birds, just whispered intel among a select few. Fortunately it seems these owls escaped the circus that can often ensue around such captivating birds.

Most of the images I captured were digiscoped including this video of the two of birds preening. Since scope viewing allows one to keep a reasonable distance, for the most part, they appeared oblivious to my presence.


Well except for this stink-eye reaction. 


Here's lookin' at ya!

Winter is coming...but not before fall vagrant season is upon us! There's nothing like a juicy vagrant to fire up the birding adrenaline!

Soul Soothing

I can think of nothing more soul-soothing than the enveloping rays of the sun bidding farewell at the end of a satisfying hike through a desert, marsh or bog.

Spring Green SNA, Sauk Co, WI 12Sept2018
Being more of a night owl than an early bird, I often find myself in these moments....Among the din of crickets and frogs. Cleansed. Harnessing that ephemeral inner peace. Fleeting, but magical nonetheless.

Spring Green SNA, Sauk Co, WI 12Sept2018
September 12th I found myself at Spring Green State Natural Area for my second and likely final trip of the year. Strange yet sensible to have found myself here for only two visits for 2018.

One trip for Prairie Fame-flower...

Prairie Fame-flower, Spring Green SNA (west), Sauk Co, WI 5Aug2018
...and most recently, this second trip to witness September's Splendid Tiger Beetles.

Spring Green SNA bluff Splendid Tiger Beetle habitat, 12Sept2018
Undoubtedly the Splendids are something I look forward to each September, an exquisite reward for a moderately strenuous climb to the top of the bluff.

Splendid Tiger Beetle 12Sept2018
The journey to the top reliably yielded nuggets of Nature's goodness along the way. Oblique Tiger Beetles were numerous along the sand path en route to bluff. This species seems quite prolific in early September whether it be the desert of Spring Green or sandy terrain of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Oblique Tiger Beetle 12Sept2018
Few plants were flowering which is to be expected during this season of senescence. A smattering of Rough Blazing Star and Asters dotted landscape.

Rough Blazing Star, 12Sept2018

Aster species, 12Sept2018
They provided islands of nectar for a small array of butterflies including Eastern Tailed-blue, a species that was present on both my visits to the desert prairie this year.

Eastern Tailed-blue, 12Sept2018
Eventually to the top of the bluff I climbed. Inevitably as I approached my destination, a niggling angst of dipping invaded the serenity of my cognition. However my fears were quickly allayed when my peripheral vision detected the frenetic flight of a Splendid along the path. As I walked slow and methodical I spied another, and another, hooking me into the moment.

Splendid Tiger Beetle 12Sept2018

"Hello grasshopper!" ~Splendid Tiger Beetle 12Sept2018
These metallic nuggets of eye-candy endeared me for a good part of nearly an hour at which point I nudged myself to begin my descent back to the desert prairie and my car.

Splendid Tiger Beetle 12Sept2018

Splendid Tiger Beetle 12Sept2018
Surprisingly, as glorious as the Splendid Tiger Beetles were, the Virginia Big-headed Tiger Beetles I found in the desert below were the pinnacle insect for the trip.

Virginia Big-headed Tiger Beetle, 12Sept2018
Having only seen this species once before, I was elated to find several that cooperated for photos. This species is known for being crepuscular. So I had hopes when I set out for Spring Green in the late afternoon that I might reap the reward of witnessing these buggers scurrying along the path near dusk. I could not have wished for more, or four to be exact.

Virginia Big-headed Tiger Beetle, 12Sept2018
Brimming with Nature's goodness, I hiked the remaining southern stretch of the trail in near darkness. Intermittently I found my thoughts being deafened by a crescendo of crickets. However, through the din of Nature's sometimes shrill accompaniment, I heard a distant and unseasonable call of a Whip-poor-will from the bluff. And as darkness continued to eclipse me, with the rising crescent moon by my side, my soul felt blanketed in the soothing near absence of light, in the stillness of the moment.

Peace had settled into my viscera along with a salient sense of satisfaction. Farewell to my dearest desert prairie. Until next year...



Wednesday, September 5, 2018

More Cow Path!

Saturday, August 25th, following my last trip north for hummingbird banding, I stopped on a whim to search for northern Wisconsin tiger beetles. Heading south through Vilas county, I spotted some promising sand on my Google satellite map. I could have continued south to chase a Wisconsin life Swallow-tailed Kite. Instead I opted to take advantage of one of my last opportunities of the year to find Cow Path and Boreal Long-lipped tiger beetles. Plus I figured if the kite stuck I could chase it another day.

Cow Path Tiger Beetle (Cicindela purpurea purpurea) , Vilas Co, WI 25Aug2018
I highly desired to find a Cow Path tiger beetle since I had only seen this species on one other occasion a few years ago. My wager on tiger beetles paid off in spades. I found both Cow Path and Boreal Long-lipped tiger beetles along with a numerous collection of a few other species.

Cow Path Tiger Beetle (Cicindela purpurea purpurea) , Vilas Co, WI 25Aug2018
This entomological honeypot didn't just host Cow Path and Boreal Long-lipped tiger beetles, but also an overall abundance of tiger beetles that I have not witnessed before.

Vilas County "honey pot"
In addition to the two Cow Path tiger beetles pictured above, I estimated seventy Cicindela scutellaris lecontei (Festive),

Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris lecontei), Vilas Co, 25Aug2018

Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris lecontei), Vilas Co, 25Aug2018

Eighteen Cicindela formosa generosa (Big Sand),

Big Sand Tiger Beetle (Cicindela formosa generosa), Vilas Co, WI 25Aug2018

Big Sand Tiger Beetle (Cicindela formosa generosa), Vilas Co, WI 25Aug2018

eight Cicindela tranquebarica tranquebarica (Oblique),

Obliqued-lined Tiger Beetle (Cicindela tranquebarica tranquebarica), Vilas Co, WI 25Aug2018

and one Cicindela longilabris longilabris (Borel Long-lipped).

Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle (Cicindela longilabris longilabris0, Vilas Co., WI 25August2018
The abundance of Festive tiger beetles made for a nice study of the variation in maculations seen on this species. Ten to twelve beetles were visible at a time as we methodically moved forward along a short stretch of sand two-track. Most were quite skittish, intolerable of close approach. Hence the doc shot quality of some of these photos. 

 A few butterflies and other insects were present as well. However I was too immersed in the tiger beetles to bother with identifying most of the other insects presents. I did find this obliging buffalo tree hopper right before my flash battery died.



And I even got the Swallow-tailed Kite the following day! 


Monday, July 23, 2018

Juniper Charms in Verdigris Bliss

I would like to think I have the wherewithal to roll out some extensive blog post sharing some goodies of recent weeks. But all I can say is, "Hell no!" I'll be lucky to get through this truncated post as I rise from several days of fevers and some horrible gastroenteritis.

Juniper Hairstreak, Dane Co, WI 23July2018
Against reason, in a cloud of a throbbing headache and trembling extremities from dehydration, I ventured out to Kahl Road in Dane County today to see if I could spot some Juniper Hairstreaks.

Juniper Hairstreak, Dane Co, WI 23July2018
Third time's a charm!

Juniper Hairstreak, Dane Co, WI 23July2018
For a spell of 20-30 minutes today I felt well, near normal. I was elated to find Kahl road could produce this species again. I had my life encounter with Juniper Hairstreaks at this same location last year.

Juniper Hairstreak, Dane Co, WI 23July2018
For a second year running I also found one of these lovely butterflies predated by an Ambush Bug. Bastard!

Ambush bug predating a Juniper Hairstreak, Dane Co, WI 23July2018
I knew not to spend too long in the direct sun since I was starting from below zero on the "hydrationometer."

Finally, I could time a visit to this road when weather was conducive to butterfly flight.

Juniper Hairstreak, Dane Co, WI 23July2018
On previous visits, despite a promising hourly forecast I had arrived to find overcast skies or rain. As one learns quickly when pursuing butterflies, rain and chillier temps will certainly hamper your odds for encounters with these beauties. Though no visit is entirely lost on me. During my last stop here a few days ago (while sick) I found a cooperative Ground Crab Spider to briefly amuse me.

Ground Crab Spider (Xysticus species), Dane Co, WI 19July2018 
Today's visit was all too brief. I would have loved to have had the endurance to pursue the ID of some of the other insects and butterflies or perfect my images of the Juniper Hairstreaks. However I knew not to push my luck as I felt the beads of precious fluids leaving my body by way of my forehead and I was still in the "do-not-trust-a-fart" phase of my illness (insert smiling pile of poo).

So back to the air conditioning I headed. I made quick stop for Pedialyte en route home which I am nursing as I write. Cheers to ridiculous summer viruses!


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, a gift that thrusted me on a 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!