Monday, June 27, 2011

June Sightings


Prothonotary Warbler

For much of June I've been keeping tabs on the Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes at Picnic Point. While birding with Dottie and Sylvia yesterday, we discovered that the young fledged sometime between Saturday and Sunday morning (they were still in the box Saturday morning). The gawky juvenile birds bear little resemblance to their stunning parents, and without seeing an adult feed one I doubt I would have been able to identify it. They appeared as many other young songbirds do with short tail feathers and a bold yellow gape, but had green (head, nape, and back), white (belly), and gray (wings) plumage colors.


Common Spring Moth - did not become food (as a caterpillar)!

Our best guess is 2 or 3 fledged young, but they were a little difficult to keep track off. As the male and female caught insects and caterpillars for them, the young would follow the adults distances from 2 to 20 feet. The young birds seemed to favor dense mid-story vegetation. The male and female would sound alert calls whenever there was some kind of intrusion, be it a grackle, blue jay, squirrel, etc. The young kept quiet until they were being fed (begging calls). It was quite amusing watching the male bang caterpillars against branches with his mandibles. There's still time for a second brood, so I'm going to continue to check in on them during July.


Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie

Part-two of our Sunday nature excursion was a visit to Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie to see if the Wood Lilies were still in bloom. Birds at the prairie included typical grassland species like Dickcissel, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, and Horned Lark. I also heard a Yellow-throated Vireo singing from the woods nearby.


Dickcissel

All great birds are capable of admiration and study, but we were there for the dazzling display of wildflowers. To our delight, the fiery Wood Lilies were still very much in bloom. Once used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes, to me they're still therapeutic as eye-candy to relax the mind. I think they'll probably be done before the end of this week, so hurry if you want to see them.


Wood Lily



Other wildflower favorites included Blue Lobelia, Hair Bell, Thimbleweed, and Death Camas (yep, poisonous).


Death Camas


Thimbleweed

The Dogbane Leaf Beetle is fairly common at the summer prairie and is one of my favorite insect macro subjects to photograph because of their incredible iridescence. They feed on roots and leaves of dogbane and other milkweed plants and are very docile. Don't pick them up, though, because they're capable of giving off a foul-smelling secretion when touched!


Dogbane Leaf Beetle

All images © 2011 Mike McDowell

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