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 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.
Location: Pheasant Branch"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
Observation date: 5/27/10
Number of species: 46
All images © 2010 Michael Allen McDowell