Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Begins

The wild does not have words.
The unwritten pages spread out on all sides!
I come upon the tracks of roe deer in the snow.
Language but no words.

~ Tomas Tranströmer

I discovered a couple Yellow-breasted Chats at the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch Conservancy about a week ago. One male has been singing on the north side of the drumlin. The other has been favoring the scrubby dogwood line southeast of the big springs. Chats have been present three years in a row at the conservancy, with a probable nesting in 2007 and single sightings in 2008 and 2009. Though I've seen adult birds carrying food in past summers, I have yet to actually observe a fledged chat. Hopefully their efforts are not rewarding cowbirds!

The prairie was delightfully adorned with hundreds of dew-covered spider webs glistening in the early morning sunlight. Appreciating nature is a matter of time and scale. An hour later the webs wouldn't be noticeable. The tiny spiders that built them early last night went unseen. So many nets set out to ensnare insects!

Orchard Oriole (female)

What else was looking for something to eat? Several Orchard Orioles were foraging in the prairie plants for moths, caterpillars, spiders, and whatever else they could find. This particular pair are nesting in the oaks near the springs. By the plumage coloration of the male (below), this is his first go at raising a family. I'm pretty sure there are at least three other active Orchard Oriole nests at the prairie. There are two in the oaks on top of the drumlin and another near the southeast corner. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised to discover if there are more. These orioles used to be somewhat scarce at this location, but now they're easily heard and seen each spring and most of summer.

Orchard Oriole (male)

Indigo Bunting

Besides the Eastern Meadowlarks, American Goldfinches, and Common Yellowthroats, other prominent voices of the prairie and savanna include Indigo Buntings and Brown Thrashers. Listening (birding by ear) is how I detect the presence of birds as I do my counts and also consider which subjects I might attempt to photograph. My intended path might be interrupted or diverted depending on what I hear and how near or far I judge its distance to be.

Brown Thrasher

The prairie has a permeable boundary where an incredible diversity of life moves in and comes together. There's a holistic view of a prairie, marsh, or forest that can be appreciated in how all the things that live there share connectedness be they insect, spider, plant, bird, reptile, or mammal. There's competition for resources at every level in the struggle for existence, but it's also beautiful to behold and enjoyable to document. Journaling and photography helps bridge some of Nature's mysteries to render such a view and recollect on the physical sense of being there. Though publishing my work to share with others is the primary purpose of this blog, on a rainy day I'll go back to a particular highlight to relive the experience.

Dimorphic Jumping Spider 

Banded Hairstreak

Baltimore Checkerspot

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Jun 22, 2014 6:30 AM - 9:30 AM
48 species

Wood Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Sandhill Crane
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
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
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Chipping 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 © 2014 Mike McDowell

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