Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rising Up to the Silver-lining

Beyond oppression and the feeling of defeat is the rising up. And in the rising, one finds silver-linings and the world reveals itself as it should be at that moment.

White lady slipper orchid, Dane Co, WI 15May2017
Within days of the that first rush, I was ready to sit this one out, hang up the binoculars, stow away the camera and redirect my energy to new and renewed interests. But the birds, as they often do, were enticing me to come witness their spectacle.

Beauty in the common, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Elmer & Edna Culver Wetlands, Dane Co, WI 15May2017
Last week finally brought a decent push of warblers, but none in dripping fallout proportions. I suspect this will not be one of those years of multi face-melting warbler encounters. In fact, photographing warblers has been mostly met with mediocre results as far as my efforts are concerned. I'm not complaining. The inherent joy of birding is not in the frozen image. Instead, it is being witness to the interplay of behavior, movement and the environment that compels me to seek nature at every opportunity.

Hey Wilson! Cute little buggers, aren't they?

Wilson's Warbler Elmer & Edna Culver Wetlands, Dane Co, WI 15May2017
The resident and often ubiquitous breeders can be just as magical as the migrants.

Yellow Warbler, UW Arboretum, Dane County, WI 9May2017
Yellow-throated Vireo, Bark River Park, Jefferson County, WI 14May2017
Late last week a couple of vagrants in the form of an Eared Grebe and Snowy Egret arrived in Dane county in addition to the influx of migrants and residents. Both species are considered rare but regular visitors to Wisconsin. Both were Dane county lifers for me. Nothing like a little jolt of vagrancy to cure the blues.

Eared Grebe, Brazee Lake, Dane Co, 11May2017
Snowy Egret, Dane County, WI  12May2017
Thursday brought a decent push of Prothonotary Warblers into southern Wisconsin. I encountered several on territory along the Bark River in Jefferson County. Other birders reported seeing them at several migrant traps around Dane county.

Prothonotary Warbler, Jefferson County, WI 11May2017 
Friday saw a big push of White-crowned Sparrows. Those fortunate to be out birding that morning reported it was one of the better warbler days as well. I squeezed in some evening birding at the Elmer and Edna Wetlands Conservancy where I found few warblers, but an ample supply of White-crowned sparrows. I was hoping for a Harris's mixed in. Not this time.

White-crowned Sparrow, Elmer and Edna Wetlands Conservancy, 12May2017
By week's end I was becoming consumed with Bay-breasted Warbler angst. I had missed seeing this species despite others reporting them from all over southern Wisconsin. This migration has been strange with small fits and spurts of birds. Bird numbers seem to be down. Some birds seem to be leap-frogging southern Wisconsin right to their breeding grounds. So the fears set in. Might I miss Bay-breasted warbler in breeding plumage? Say it isn't so! With how far north they breed, the possibility loomed large. Bay-breasted warblers mostly breed in the boreal forests of Canada. Thus I can't just make an easy trip to northern Wisconsin or Michigan to see them if they are missed in migration. Fortunately I remedied my angst on Monday with mid to upper canopy looks at a pair of males in Dane County (photos were too horrible to share).

And when finding birds in the canopy becomes frustrating, shifting my attention toward the woodland blooms is a fine means for re-calibrating my mood. In slowing down to the speed of a plant, serenity reveals itself. The macro world's grounding wisdom shifts my focus from frenetic chasing, from wishful birding, from "The Need" to a slower beauty.

Prairie Trillium, Prince's Point, Jefferson County, WI 14May2017
Nature offers so much to lose yourself within.

Wild Ginger, Prince's Point, Jefferson County, WI 14May2017
...and just when I was feeling sentenced to solitary birding, isolated from my birding companions, Nature revealed herself most beautifully, adorning my mood with a silver lining...The discovery of these white lady slipper orchids was most splendid and surprising!

White-lady Slipper Orchids, I counted over 50 blooms in the area. Dane Co, WI 15May2017

Somewhere in the outskirts of Dane County (WI), in the brilliant green forest with flowing springs, it was just me and a serenading Mourning warbler...and orchids.

Mourning Warbler, Dane Co, WI 15May2017
These moments allow me to let go of the animosity I've been feeling toward situations I cannot control. I become lost in birding where my value (or lack thereof) as defined by others  melts to insignificance. Nature's grandness provides the perfect catalyst for amnesia and a re-ordering of priorities.

Northern Waterthrush, Elmer and Edna Wetlands, Dane Co, WI 17May2017
However, at the risk of the losing their shine, sometimes the most magical encounters are best relegated to the moment rather than shared in words and images. Bliss is like that, tenuous and fleeting. All things that sparkle eventually fade to black.

The same goes for the glory of spring migration. For southern Wisconsin, we are certainly in its twilight.

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