The Summer Solstice is tomorrow morning at 6:28 AM. July unleashes the Dog Days and the first southbound migratory birds (mainly shorebirds) will begin their big journey. Yeah, the days will start getting shorter again, but don't despair just yet! In Madison the sun will set tonight at 8:28 PM, but even by the end of July it will set only a mere 18 minutes earlier. Unfortunately, things start to speed up in August with a 7:27 PM sunset by the 31st. From there we go into a bit of a sharp dive so that by the end of October the sun sets at 5:47 PM. We fall back and hour the first Sunday in November, but we know what happens by early December; our morning and evening commutes are in the dark. This is when to experience despair! Take the summer songbirds away, throw a little snow on top, and you have all the ingredients for a case of winter blues. However, I still have a lot of summer photography to get in before the leaves begin to turn.
I spent several hours over the weekend exploring various natural areas around the Madison area. I didn't have to travel any further than the front of my apartment building to get these cool photographs of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels. Perched on top of a rock, the mother ground squirrel (above) attentively gauged the situation for threats as I digiscoped her pups (below). The little ones seemed innately curious but already have a keen sense of fear and vanished the moment I stepped on any part of sidewalk adjacent to the rock wall where their burrows are.
Meanwhile at nearby prairies, Butterfly Milkweed is nearing peak while Wood Lilies are beginning to fade away. Wildflowers were adorned with Black Swallowtails, Aphrodite Fritillaries, and Monarch Butterflies. A Hackberry Emperor was using its proboscis to gather moisture from the damp dirt trail:
For all the incredible beauty I witnessed this spring, this one will be remembered for our exceptional views of Prothonotary Warblers. Once again, Sylvia, Dottie, and I enjoyed a pair of these fantastic birds at a nest cavity on Saturday afternoon.
It was difficult to ascertain what stage they were at, but only the male seemed to be bringing food to the cavity for the female. She spent most of her time on the nest, most likely incubating eggs. Still, this seems sort of late so I wonder if it's a second brood or attempt following a failure.
"Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area."
-- Principles of Birding Ethics, American Birding Association
I was somewhat dismayed that a birder played a Prothonotary Warbler song to get a better view of the male. There was no legitimate reason to do this around nesting birds and was completely unnecessary as they were giving plenty of good views if one merely stood still for a while. Viewing, capturing stills, and shooting video through my spotting scope was a very rewarding way to document these beautiful warblers without causing much of an imposition on them.
© 2010 Mike McDowell