Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spring Ephemerals and Birds, April 21, Dane County, WI

With this weekend being a rather dismal chilly rainy day here in southern Wisconsin, I finally found a little time to chip away at my backlog of images. I've hardly made a dent when I consider I have two weeks of Columbia pictures, a week of south Texas photos and a new onslaught of Wisconsin spring migration photos to yet deal with. I figure I just need to jump in where my interest sparks.
That brings me to the recent past, April 21, 2016. This was my first sincere Wisconsin birding effort to see some spring migrants following my return from the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

I began my day late morning with some birding at Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Dane County where I saw my several first of the year birds for Wisconsin including Pine, Palm and Orange-crowned Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Chipping and Field Sparrows. Though earlier morning birders had no difficulty finding several Pine Warblers, I had to scrounge for mine, finally locating this bird feeding on seed in a feeder on the conservancy boundary.

I was just as engrossed with the spring ephemerals as I was the birds...

Virginia Bluebells
Prairie Trillium
Following lunch, I headed west for my second spring visit to Walking Iron County Park in western Dane County, Wisconsin. I was checking once again to see if the Red-shouldered Hawks returned to nest again this year. To my disappointment I found no evidence of this species in the area other than a Blue Jay doing a spot on imitation of a Red-shouldered Hawk call. Booo.

However this park has such a remarkable diversity of habitats and interesting flora that I can always find something to captivate my attention.

The Dutchman's Breeches were in full bloom blanketing the hill side. Upon my descent into the creek valley I stopped to admire the scene and capture some images.

During the stillness of observation I was taken aback when I heard a Ruffed-Grouse drumming across the creek. I listened through 11 renditions spaced apart by several minutes each. Though I frequently see Ruffed Grouse in northern Wisconsin and the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan this was my first observation in Dane County. Experiencing the drumming is eerily quite cool the way one feels the thumping wingbeats in your chest.

The woods adjacent to the stream held other interesting spring ephemerals and fungi...

Rue Anemone

I didn't capture many bird images on this visit even though I certainly encountered new species for the year including Vesper Sparrow, Eastern Towhee and Brown Thrasher. Most amusing was this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that captured my attention by its drumming on one of the metal trail marker signs. When it noticed my approach it flew to another section of park resuming its amplified drumming on another metal sign.

In the sand prairie, the Pasque Flowers were at or approaching peak. As they senesce they will turn more brilliant purple with red centers.

Prairie smoke was still in bud. This location abounds with this species. At the time of this writing it likely now in full bloom.

Lyre-leaved Rock Cress was also flowering in small numbers. This is the host plant of Olympia Marble butterflies though I've not encountered this species at this location.

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