"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both. Enough for him that he does it well."
~ Lawrence Pearsall Jacks
Believe it or not, the Summer Solstice is just around the corner! After the winter we experienced here in Wisconsin, it's a little difficult to accept that daylight begins to contract in just under two weeks. The transitional passage of the summer season to fall needs to be fully possessed, and what better way than to spend the time outdoors observing and documenting Nature.
Common Yellowthroats are numerous at the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. The males are little sentinels keeping watch on all that moves along the trails. I'm assessed for threat level, but I quickly move on after taking a couple of photographs of the alerted bird. After putting an appropriate distance between myself and the warbler, he returned to singing his witchity witchity witchity song.
Spiderwort has reached peak and beautifully decorates the southern slope of the drumlin. Technically the drumlin is a geological drumlinoid, which is a false drumlin or rock drum. It's a streamlined hill shaped by glacial erosion, but less symmetrical than a true drumlin. I refer to it as "the drumlin" because it's easier to say and most people familiar with the area know the location I mean when I mention it. The drumlin is also known as Frederick's Hill, named for the farming family who once owned the land, originally purchased in the late 1800s. It was eventually purchased by Dane County in 1994, adding 120 acres to the existing 340-acre nature conservancy.
Today the prairie parcel is nesting territory for a multitude of grassland and savanna bird species. Two of the most conspicuous ones are Eastern Meadowlarks and Eastern Kingbirds, but there are also Orchard Orioles, Sedge Wrens, Indigo Buntings, Dickcissels, Eastern Bluebirds, Brown Thrashers, Warbling Vireos, Willow Flycatchers, Field Sparrows, Yellow Warblers, and more. A thorough study of the prairie will yield close to seventy or more different kinds of birds. We're so incredibly fortunate in Middleton to have this amazing natural resource!
This time of year the creek corridor is like a tropical jungle with an array of interesting insects to match. It's practically impossible to photograph birds there now, but while listening for their songs I survey plants along the trail for interesting "creepy-crawlies," as my co-worker Nicole refers to the bugs I photograph with my macro lens.
Green Immigrant Leaf Weevil
Long-legged Fly (I think Dolichopus)
Long-tailed Dance Fly
When I first encountered this Long-tailed Dance Fly, I thought it superficially resembled some kind of robber fly. However, something seemed a little different about it, especially its slow hovering behavior. It's a rather menacing looking insect, but it was quite docile compared to the more aggressive robber fly.
Because there doesn't seem to be a dual flash option for the Nikon 1 V1, I tested an inexpensive flash diffuser given to me by a colleague. I was quite pleased with the results. It was very effective at softening shadows for a more natural look to the light.
All images © 2014 Mike McDowell