Monday, July 27, 2015

Afternoon Delights

During the warmer months I try to get outside for at least an hour or two most days. Nature is my one solace even though last week one would be hard-pressed to know that. Between nearly passing out in the 90+ degree weather, losing my eye cup for my binoculars and falling in a turtle hole smashing both my knee and scope on the unforgiving gravel, I had a momentary case of "piss on this." My entire body still feels the lingering aches and spinal misalignment from the fall, but that hasn't kept me inside. However I may rethink ever returning to Zeloski Marsh. I loathe grueling walks in the blazing sun for little reward which seems to be the case most visits to that marsh.

This Green Heron is the bird I took out my knee cap for. Instead of looking where I was stepping I was walking along watching the heron to find an angle where there would be greenery instead of sky behind the bird.  Suddenly, "BAM!" I went down, crying like a child while I writhed in pain. After mustering myself up, I did manage to get the shot I was looking for. The setting sun provided perfect light for digiscoping this stunning ABA Bird of the Year 2015.

Today's outdoor escape took me to the Mazomanie Oak Barrens in Dane County, WI. The plants and insects were "meh" for the most part. However the abundantly blooming Asclepias verticillata (Whorled milkweed) was attracting a variety of bees, a few butterflies and two species of "hummingbird" moths. Even on the most "meh" days outdoors, I typically experience at least one mind-blowing encounter with an insect or bird. My most golden moment from last week was a butterfly that approached me under the shaded canopy of an old growth forest. It circled my neck within inches of my ears. The audible fluttering of its wings in my ears was spine-tingling magic. Today's prize was finding this Titan Sphinx Moth that allowed close approach where I could hear the whirring of its wings as it nectared on the milkweed.

This Snowberry Clearwing was not so confiding. I settled for a distant photo of it enjoying the host plant of the day.

I also came across this leafhopper, but simply have no motivation to attempt any formal ID. What's in a name anyway?  I dub this one Dr. Seuss Fish Treehopper.

Tomorrow a familiar locale is calling my name. Hopefully I'll motivate early enough to get outside before things really start heating up.

Sand Critters

Having spent most of my summer devoted to atlasing in my breeding bird block, I decided I needed a change of pace focused on something other than birds. Thus this afternoon I ventured out on a decompression mission to simply soak in the afternoon sun and leisurely photograph interesting insects along the way.

Sandy Stream Tiger Beetle
My route took me west toward the Wisconsin River in Sauk County. At my first stop I encountered a fellow nature enthusiast who tipped me off to be on the lookout for a tiger beetle I had not seen before, the Sandy Stream Tiger Beetle. While he had reported the individuals he found to be rather ninja in their movements, the pair I eventually came across tolerated my repeated approach and circling for the 20+ minutes I spent admiring them.

I didn't realize until today the ravenous manner in which tiger beetles spread their mandible to clench their partner while shagging. Yikes.

Given the lateness of the day, the beetles were not as numerous, but I still managed to find Bronzed Tiger Beetles "in the act."

Of all the tiger beetles I've encountered, Punctured Tiger Beetle strikes me as being the most ninja-like. I find sneaking up on this species to be rather challenging despite them being the most numerous tiger beetle species I've seen. The particular individual I was able to capture today actually advanced toward me after I had several failed attempts trying to photograph his friends. Perhaps he had been stripped of his ninja powers when his antenna went gimpy. Note the bent right antenna.

Where there are tiger beetles one inevitably finds robberflies. I've been quite successful with my incidental photography of various robberflies this summer. Though from my lack of posts on this blog or at my Flickr site, one would never know. The two species I observed today were Stichopogon trifasciatus and Efferia albibarbis (if I identified them correctly). Both are common species in Wisconsin.

Stichopogon trifasciatus
Efferia albibarbis
Finally where there is sand one is bound to find a Sand Wasp furiously digging in the sand as this one was doing.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

West Texas

Last week I headed down Toe Nail Trail southeast of Christoval, Texas to the Hummer House to band Black-chinned Hummingbirds. Per the usual in my bird related travels I encountered kind supportive people I've come to regard as friends.

This particular visit was dubbed a "Hummingbird Boot Camp" where I completed my required training to be permitted to band hummingbirds.I had little time for photography, but managed to sneak in a few hours to capture some Texas nature.

The stars of my visit, Black-chinned Hummingbirds:

Nearly just as abundant were the Painted Buntings, another specialty bird of the Hummer House which holds the longevity records for both Painted Bunting and Black-chinned Hummingbird.

It seems many things in Texas come disproportionately large and the Plains Lubber Grasshopper, bigger than the size of my thumb are no exception.

I was hoping to encounter more herps on this trip. I settled for daily encounters with Six-lined Racerunners.

On departure day, I observed/assisted with some passerine banding at the ranch which allowed for a close capture of this lively Vermillion Flycatcher.

No doubt, a return trip the Hummer House and the Davis Mountains to reunite with friends and band more hummingbirds is in my future.