Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Prairie Sights

Eastern Meadowlark

During the month of June, I decrease my excursions to Pheasant Branch Conservancy to once or twice a week instead of daily as I do through April and May. June is a great time of year to concentrate on grassland and savanna bird species; they're abundant and a lot easier find on open perches. As an added bonus, there are interesting wildflowers and insects to photograph at the prairie, too. Birding at this time of year is done a more relaxed pace and I spend more time watching and learning from individual birds.

When I arrive, plants and wildflowers are usually covered with dew and bejeweled by the sun's early morning rays. The grassy path beckons for exploration, but without waterproof hiking shoes, your socks will get drenched! So far, mosquitoes and biting flies haven't been much of a problem, but with all the precipitation we've been getting it will likely get worse in the coming weeks.

Large-flower Beardtongue

Common Yellowthroat 

This sprightly Common Yellowthroat broke into song after preening. This warbler is one of the most abundant bird species at the prairie and can be heard singing throughout the day. This year a respectable number of Sedge Wrens have returned and are presently establishing territories around the retention ponds. The wrens were largely absent the past few years, so it's nice to have their chattering songs added to the morning choir of grassland birds once again.

Common Yellowthroat

Orchard Oriole (1st summer male)

I love the warbling finch-like song of the Orchard Oriole. The increasing presence of this species at the oak savanna is testament to habitat restoration efforts. Additionally, after abandoning their territory last year as the drought worsened, Clay-colored Sparrows have returned in good numbers. This time, though, they're nesting at the top of the drumlin instead of the south slope. Sadly, I haven't found any Yellow-breasted Chats in the area where a pair successfully nested last year. They don't always return. In fact, I've only found chats here four spring/summer seasons over the past decade.

Roesel's bush-cricket

Roesel's bush-cricket isn't a native insect species, but it still made a good macro subject for practice with my new Tamron lens. It's a lot easier to see what I'm doing with macro photography using the Nikon 1 V1's electronic viewfinder compared to my old Nikon Coolpix 4500 tiny LCD screen.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

My first tiger beetle of the year! The Six-spotted Tiger Beetle gets its name for the small spots near the edge of its outer wing. At some point I want to visit Spring Green Preserve again and see if I can photograph all 8 tiger beetle species that can be found there. When you're out on a dirt or sand trail, don't forget to look down! These lively iridescent insects are enjoyable to admire and photograph.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle


The stoic Eastern Kingbird isn't an especially showy bird, but their monochromatic plumage accents the myriad colors of the prairie in a very pleasing way to my eyes. This particular kingbird was perched above a patch of lupines, but there was no vantage point to get both into the frame.

Eastern Kingbird

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Jun 10, 2013 6:00 AM - 9:00 AM
48 species

Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell


  1. Digiscoping at the top end of excellence.

  2. Hi John,

    Thank you very much!

    Mike M.

  3. Great work on the tiger beetle.