Saturday, May 29, 2010

May Finale

Adult male Orchard Oriole

Orchard Orioles have taken up residence at the oak savanna on the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. I led a group for Madison Audubon there on Thursday evening and found 46 bird species for the participants. Though I located a single Sedge Wren earlier in the morning during a pre-field trip scouting mission, there were none heard or seen during our evening outing. Normally there are over a dozen singing males by this time. The wrens are probably sparser due to the extensive prairie burn conducted by The Nature Conservancy and US Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this spring.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats were super abundant, boldly proclaiming their presence with witchity-witchity-witchity songs. A few of them performed their flight song/aerial display, which I find enormously entertaining. With its body fluttering and tail bobbing, the yellowthroat does a straight-line vertical flight to a height of about 20 to 30 feet. At the apex, it belts out its song followed by an intense snappy trill, and then quivers its wings during its floating decent back to the grass. The one in this photograph, however, is simply checking me out and assessing my threat level.


The prairie is rather green and plain at the moment, but in another month it ought to resemble an extravagant oil painting possessing all the colors of a rainbow. I did find a few patches of Spiderwort, one of my favorite native wildflowers.

So, another memorable May is nearly over, but has been preserved in experiences, photographs, and stories. During June I will once again concentrate on spending more time at local prairies, photographing grassland bird species, wildflowers, insects, and other scenes of natural beauty.

"Natural influences work indirectly as well as directly; they work upon the subconscious, as well upon the conscious, self. That I am a saner, healthier, more contented man, with true standards of life for all my loiterings in the fields and woods, I am fully convinced."

- John Burroughs, The Gospel of Nature
Location: Pheasant Branch
Observation date: 5/27/10
Number of species: 46

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Green Heron
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Clay-colored Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2010 Michael Allen McDowell

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