Sunday, June 21, 2015

Solstice Schmolstice. Pfft.

every year on this date, i have endure the mystical solstice fluff-talk of those who fancy themselves naturey spirits talk. WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? it's a day, the longest day, incrementally small in its magnitude when one considers the length of daylight leading to and from it.

a lonely wilted bouquet from another prairie a few nights ago

the lexical concept humans attribute to this day was absent from my cognition as stood out in a prairies and oak savannahs of the Southern Kettle Moraine this eve. i was surrounded by Whip-poor-wills, in stereo...and out of sync, the singular Chuck-will's-widow calling up the hill and the occasional interjection of a nocturnal Field Sparrow or Wood Thrush. at least one American Woodcock was still flight displaying, though no peents were heard. sounds traveled to and from my ears, periodically pulled in by my cupped hands.


i gazed across the serene fields where lightening bugs twinkled like eyes closing in around me. above the moon was joined by Jupiter with its four visible moons and Venus to its side appearing partially obstructed. this celestial production was punctuated by a single falling star in the remains of the dwindling twilight.

sensory awe? yes. mystical? no.

i simply gravitated toward this place close the day in darkness and light.

"aug-aug-aug" calls and wing claps of Chuck

Saturday, June 13, 2015


I've been kicking this one around between my ears for a couple weeks.

METAPHORS for ...???

  • Black and Blue: The Black-throated Blue Warbler is much more desired than a psyche that feels "black and blue." Up on Mission Hill near Brimley, Michigan one can look down across the treetops to behold these beauties singing at eye level with the vista of Spectacle and Monocle Lakes and the greatest lake of all, Lake Superior, as the background

  • In the Shadows: This female Spruce Grouse is looking mighty plump. I suspect she's got some babes in her belly. She works the shadows quite eloquently. Having spent 30+ years navigating the maze of two tracks in Luce and Chippewa Counties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I've become fairly adept at finding this species. Though the Duck Lake fire certainly took its toll on a few haunts where I historically had found this species.

  • Curled Up and Dying: Rain on foliage always strikes me as poetically sad and yet beautiful, doubly so on this corpse leaf.

  • Dead But Still Standing: I lobbied to save this old white pine after the fire at our cabin. Sadly it started showing signs of its demise last summer. Now it is all but dead, poised majestically, naked, while its insides are being gutted by beetles. Soon it will be felled and swallowed by the lake.

  • Stuck in a Web: Or maybe in the case of these water droplets, cushioned by a web. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tuesday's Trifecta

It appears spring migration and the stress of living finally caught up with me. As I write, I'm in the throes of a nasty summer cold. I began to sense a virus attempting to invade my system on the heels of my second near-24 hour birding big day in a 12 day span. However it was life's ugly unpleasantries that finally broke the camel's back earlier this week.

Up until Thursday when this bug really started kicking my ass, my summer 2015 cold had not thwarted my efforts to get outside in the consoling arms of Nature. This past Tuesday, I flushed life's shit down the can and went outdoors where Nature convened in a grand trifecta. It was as if Mother Nature was cutting me some slack in allowing me nearly effortless access to the birds and plants I sought to find.

Target one for Tuesday was the Yellow-breasted Chat recently reported at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. This bird is a rare but regular visitor to southern Wisconsin. Despite a late start to my morning and finding a Cooper's Hawk scattering the passerines upon my arrival, I quickly had the bird in view 20 minutes after my arrival. I wanted to photograph him, but he was perching out of decent reach for my 400mm lens. So I made the trek back to my vehicle to grab my digisoping rig. Unfortunately Mr. Chat decided to make himself scarce when I returned. I finally relocated him by sound at a spot closer to the trail, but for life of me could not get eyes on him. Only when I had muttered "fuck it" and was readying to leave, he suddenly appeared within 30 feet of me. Freeze frame! Target 1 of 3 in the bag.

My next stop was the Mazomanie Dog Training Grounds to try and pick up a Dane County Bell's Vireo. Within less than a quarter mile walk I came upon one singing its burry jumbled warble on a historic territory. I could not get eyes on the bugger, but did record his serenade. Had I not already seen this species in Sauk County this year I would have worked harder to visually locate the bird. I was hoping to get a Dane County Black-billed Cuckoo as a consolation here, but none were detected at what was now 1 p.m. on an 85+ F° day. However I was pleased with the ease in which target 2 of 3 was achieved.

Prairie Fame-flower (Phemeranthus rugospermus) with Hemipenthes sinuosa bee fly,
Following a late lunch at the Spring Green General Store, I headed to the blazing 90+ F° heat of Wisconsin's desert prairie, Spring Green Preserve. My third and final target of the day was the ephemeral late afternoon bloom of Prairie Fame-flower. At the west unit of the preserve I bee-lined up to the oaks where I had seen this species blooming last year. No evidence of the plants were visible. Hmm... I walked further north then retraced my steps back south, then east. By now I was sweating like a whore in church. There was no sane human in sight and no Prairie Fame-flowers either. Damn. Was I going to have to make the much longer hike in the east unit to find this flower? Could I make it without collapsing? More importantly did I have enough time before my ever important drinking engagement with a friend? I pondered these deep questions as I retraced my path back to the car scanning the terrain for all pink flowers. My eyes feasted on many Venus' Looking-glass blooms when suddenly, boom, the brilliant pink of the Prairie Fame-flower was before me in the center of the path. This flower must pack some sweet nectar as it was attracting several ants and a bee-fly to its bloom. Target 3 of 3 for the day was bagged with a bit more work, but as always there were other golden nuggets of sensory delight to occupy my eyes along the way.

Venus' Looking-glass
Though short on time, I decided to make a quick stop at the east unit of Spring Green Preserve where my consolation prizes for the day came in the form of a cooperative male Efferia albibarbis Robberfly with prey and some impressive unknown spider and its egg sack.

With that I was ready to hit the Craftsman Table and Tap for my fourth go at the Pearl St. Dankenstein IIPA. At 9.5% abv this beer is comfortably numbing.