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.

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