Friday, May 16, 2014

After the rain...

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."

~ John Ruskin

May Apple

So much anticipation! I can hardly believe we're already halfway through May—it passes far too quickly! Right now is one of my favorite times of the year and I'm throughly enjoying my walks in the woods. With returning birds, blooming plants and wildflowers, the slow transition from chartreuse to verdant greens in the foliage and vegetation, plus warmer weather … it's all simply exhilarating.

To be sure, we have not had much warmer weather (so much for "all but forgotten.") In fact, there's a possibility of frost in low-laying areas during the night. We've had a couple of cold and soggy days, but life goes on along the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Winds are out of the north again and it's keeping some of the migratory birds from leaving the corridor.


After the rain this Barred Owl preened for a long time. Once it was content all of its feathers were in order, it returned to the pines at the top of the ridge. Many songbirds become scarce while its raining. I'm not really sure where they take cover, but when the skies clear they resume foraging, often times down low in the understory. Birding during a light rain or right after a storm moves through can be quite productive.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Magnolia Warbler

An extremely abundant warbler this spring, this Magnolia Warbler pauses for a moment on a Japanese Honeysuckle branch. The creek corridor is full of invasive plants and shrubs and though they've tried to eradicate them, they just keep growing back. The migratory birds that pass through southern Wisconsin love honeysuckle for the insects they attract as well as cover from accipiters. Some birds actually nest in it, like Blue Jays, Gray Catbirds, and Northern Cardinals. I would be all in favor of clearing out all the invasives provided that the understory structure is replaced with native shrubs. Otherwise, I doubt we would witness see the level of bird diversity that we do during spring migration.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Orioles are busy with nest site selection and construction. Though the female does most of the construction, the male will make minor tweaks and modifications along the way. There's one pair of orioles that are building a nest very close to one of the bridges along the creek corridor. The nest started out as an unrecognizable jumble of strands, but it has quickly taken shape over the past couple of days.

Wood Duck

There are so many incredible scenes of natural beauty at Pheasant Branch Conservancy, especially along the creek corridor. Of all the trail users, it seems only birders have an awareness of its full splendor in terms of flora and fauna. Still, everyone enjoys it in their own way. When approached, I'll inform non-birders what species I'm seeing, however when I begin to run through the names of birds I can tell by the expression on their faces that they are unfamiliar with them. If they are truly curious, I'll show them a couple of photographs. One woman was so enthralled with the warblers I showed her that she promised to bring her old binoculars along for her next walk. And that's how we make more birders!

White Trillium

All images © 2014 Mike McDowell

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