Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Putting in Time

"A slow ramble on foot—shank's mare—is conducive to both observation and contemplation. Locomotion by long muscles and willpower beats the exhaust-fumed rumble of a car any day. Driving requires a constant coordination of hand and eye and steering wheel (with brakes and gearshift thrown into the equation). Other cars on the road, the patchwork of traffic signs, the arterial branching of streets, roads, and highways combine to render all attempts at clear-headed noticing stillborn. It's impossible to lose ourselves in thought—or free ourselves for observation—when we must stay so firmly grounded in the necessities of getting from here to there."

~ Cathy Johnson, Nature Walks

Prairie at Pheasant Branch Conservancy

Last week I discovered a Yellow-breasted Chat at the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, but it's too far from the trail to get photographs of it. Although I've visited the area a dozen times through June and early July, I didn't hear its song until recently. Chats typically return to southern Wisconsin around the middle of May and usually leave by early August. I suppose there's the possibility it avoided detection and was present all this time, but it might have abandoned a nearby site in favor of this one. It will be interesting to see how long this bird sticks around and whether or not it has a mate.

Cedar Waxwing

The last time I visited the prairie there were several Cedar Waxwings foraging for insects low in the plants. Weather-wise, it’s a far cry from when I was photographing them in a blizzard last winter. At present, the temperature and humidity levels are pretty uncomfortable. Add biting insects into the mix and outdoor excursions are significantly diminished of their usual transcendent and tranquil quality.


While I was photographing Bergamot and other wildflowers, I could hear songs of Common Yellowthroats, Dickcissels, and Sedge Wrens. I've taken so many photographs of them this summer that I feel a little greedy just thinking about taking more. Fall migration is just around the corner, so I'll likely spend the rest of this month focused on collecting bird breeding data over bird photography.

Dwarf Prairie Rose

Orchard Oriole

I've been impressed by the number of Orchard Orioles at the conservancy this summer. There are four nest sites I'm aware of, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are more. Most have fledged young, so there's a lot of activity with adult birds flying missions to find food (usually small green caterpillars) for them. Both the male and female care for fledged young, but they split the brood between them. Even so, male birds still take time to sing.

Compass Plant

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell

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