"For the awakened, there is only one world, and they all share it. Sleeping people live each in his own world, and cannot stop fidgeting."
Spring Green Preserve
The path through oak barrens opens up to a veritable field of dreams. For me, Spring Green Preserve is one of Wisconsin's most unique natural areas to be experienced on a multitude of layers, mixing senses of science, spirit, and art. The citizen scientist will catalog the prairie's rich flora and fauna and submit data where appropriate for insect and bird species. My spiritual sense embraces the hugeness and beauty of nature which feels timeless and full of possibilities. The artist hopes to capture these moments in images and then share them with an audience like a performance. These layers converge and I find my peace with the world, if only for the hours of my visit.
Lark Sparrow with food.
Though I've arrived early just after a dense fog has lifted from the prairie, I see signs in the sand that it's already been a busy morning of eating and evading. I see a Lark Sparrow carrying food suggesting young birds, perhaps a second brood. Abundant Grasshopper Sparrows continue to sing and patrol their territories, chasing away any intruders who cross borders invisible to our senses.
A Grasshopper Sparrow belts out his song.
Listening as I walk, I identify the songs of several other bird species before they're seen, and some before they've even seen me, but most are aware that I have entered. There are Eastern Meadowlarks, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Towhees, and Brown Thrashers. The grassland sparrows sing a variety of songs; some are reminiscent of insects, others more staccato and finch-like, while a few deliver notes that could be called a tune.
Big Sand Tiger Beetle
Though I don't want to miss anything flying over the clearing, my eyes must alternate and scan the ground as I walk because there are interesting critters at my feet. Tiger Beetles, Velvet Ants, Robber Flies and even lizards are present to the careful observer. This day I decided to try and photograph as many different Tiger Beetles as I could. According to The Nature Conservancy, there are eight at the prairie, but I was only able to find half of them during my treasure hunt.
Obliqued-lined Tiger Beetle
Six-spotted Tiger Beetle
Festive Tiger Beetle
The sand prairie's wildflowers are between peaks, but some colorful ones are still in bloom like Prickly Pear Cactus, Lead Plant, and Spiderwort.
Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom.
Five hours have passed before I know it. My visit is over. I probably won't return to Spring Green Preserve again until sometime next year. Meanwhile, there will be fade, migration, hibernation, death, decay, and eventual rebirth. And one day next April or May the prairie will be on parade once again.
All images © 2011 Mike McDowell