Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Prairie White-fringed Orchids

Today I had the fortune to help with an orchid survey at a couple of Madison Audubon's Faville Grove Sanctuary sites. I was the only volunteer and probably the oldest among a group of interns from the sanctuary and the UW Arboretum. My friend, Matt kindly invited me along knowing I wanted to see the State Endangered Prairie White-fringed Orchid that we would be surveying. I'm not sure what was more engaging, seeing this orchid for the first time or being among a group of lively down-to-earth twenty-somethings.

Prairie White-fringed Orchid
Prairie White-fringed Orchid


Surveying for orchids is very similar to what birders do when they are trying to flush and observe skulking grassland birds. Observers spread out 10-20 feet apart in a line and walk across an expanse of prairie looking for the target species. Inevitably, although the goal in this case is not to flush anything, some birds and wildlife inevitably do flush. A few White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, Bobolink and a Timberdoodle, as one observer called out when an American Woodcock flushed, were among the creatures in our path .

I believe we ended with forty-six Prairie White-fringed Orchids tallied for the day. I also observed the state Special Concern, Prairie Indian Plantain which was a new plant I'd not seen. Other highlights included Turk's-cap Lily (Lillium michiganense) and Pale-Spike Lobelia among the palate of blooms in the prairie (not photographed).

Prairie Indian Plantain

Prairie Indian Plantain

During the course of surveying, I was intrigued by the conversations these young minds were having with one another. I appreciated listening to 20+ year-olds on the cusp of life's aspirations and dreams, not yet jaded by its rejection and disappointment. Given where I find myself in life, it felt refreshing to be among these vigorous souls. If only I could harness some of that enthusiastic naiveté now.


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