Monday, July 04, 2011

Close to Home


It's been a wonderful summer for watching Dickcissels in southern Wisconsin; I'm finding them at prairies and fallow fields I've not observed them at in years past. Have you been seeing or hearing them? Enjoy them for the remainder of July because they'll be a lot harder to find in early August when males begin to reduce their song output.

Without a doubt, birds are the most obvious wildlife photography subjects and it's pretty easy to find common ones (if you're not too particular) even in your own backyard. There's a great deal of diversity out there, more than the average person might guess. Within a few miles of my apartment I can find close to 80 species during this time of year. Of course, I have Pheasant Branch Conservancy and other natural areas close by.

Vesper Sparrow

Sometimes birds even find you. While sitting at a picnic table at Pope Farm Park yesterday afternoon, I spotted a Vesper Sparrow meandering through the mowed grass toward me. Well, it wasn't actually coming at me but had its eye on a dry soil spot in the grass for a dust bath. Birds do this as a way to clean their feathers and skin from parasites. It would have been cool to get a video clip, but I wasn't sure what the bird was up to until it was too late to switch my camera's recording mode. I know how many dial clicks it is from aperture priority to image previews, but I have to look whenever I set it to video.

Clay-colored Sparrow

Singing Clay-colored Sparrow

A layer of high altitude clouds thickened as the afternoon progressed and eventually began hampering the light for digiscoping, but I still managed to get some good images of Clay-colored Sparrows. They were very active and vocal with their diminutive buzz-buzz-buzz songs.

Here's a Red Milkweed Beetle. Both parts of its binomial Latin name, tetraopes tetrophthalmus, translate to "four eyes" for the way the beetle's antennae bisects its compound eye. When disturbed, these beetles make a squeaking sound by rubbing together rough areas on the thorax.

This is a Stink Bug nymph, but I'm not sure which species. I think it might be Brown Stink Bug (Euschistus servus).

In addition to this Widow Skimmer dragonfly, I also saw Common Whitetail, Halloween Pennant, and Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Monarchs and Black Swallowtails were the most prevalent butterflies, but were too active to be photographed.

Here's fireworks from Nature for the 4th of July:

Milkweed from above!

Fiery Butterfly Milkweed

St. John's Wort

Hoary Vervain and a Honey Bee!

All images © 2011 Mike McDowell

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