Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Prairie Morning

Purple Coneflower

I had the day off yesterday and decided an early visit to Pheasant Branch Conservancy would be a great way to spend the first part of my day. With temperatures between the upper 40s and lower 50s the past few mornings, it's been feeling a little more like early fall rather than mid-July. If you look carefully at the Sedge Wren below, you can even see its breath!

Sedge Wren

All the usual suspects were accounted for, except for the Yellow-breasted Chats. From my experiences with them, it's about the time of summer when they become silent and extremely difficult to detect. In fact, I don't think I've ever observed a chat during the month of August. They're probably still there, but just next to impossible to find when not vocalizing, which is pretty much the only way I know when they're around. At the other extreme, Common Yellowthroats were as vocal as their initial spring storm on the prairie.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat (female)

Like nearly all birds, yellowthroats are excellent parents with protecting and caring for their young. When an intruder arrives on the scene (like me), they immediately go on the alert by sounding off their alarm calls. It's usually the sentry male who voices the first warning notes. Occasionally the female will make a brief appearance to see what the male is chattering on about, but she typically returns to the nest if the threat level is deemed minimal. Portraits like these shouldn't be confused with a cooperative subject—these birds are on the alert. I only stay as long as it takes to get a couple of shots and quickly leave so they can get back to the business of taking care of their young.

Common Yellowthroat (female)

Common Yellowthroat

I don't know that there's a harder working warbler. One wonders how this male Common Yellowthroat was able to cache so many flying insects in his mouth! Naturally, he waited until I left before returning to the nest with these morsels. If sufficiently agitated or threatened, males perform a distraction display or feigned injury flight in a direction away of the nest to keep predators from finding their young.

Common Yellowthroat

Several Cedar Waxwings were circling over the retention ponds catching insects along with Tree Swallows, Cliff Swallows, and Barn Swallows. It must be a banner breeding season for waxwings; I've been hearing their high-pitched calls whenever I'm running errands around town. This particular bird perched on a bare twig between flights just long enough for me to snap a few photographs of it.

Cedar Waxwing

And there were many others birds...

Indigo Bunting

Song Sparrow

Willow Flycatcher

Gray Catbird

Sedge Wren


Once I finished my hike around the prairie and savanna, I decided to check the creek corridor for little monsters as macro photography subjects. It didn't require too much effort to find some!

Jumping Spider Phidippus clarus

Jumping Spider Phidippus clarus

Two-horned Treehopper Ceresa diceros

Widefooted Treehopper Campylenchia latipes

Leafhopper Osbornellus scalaris

Red-banded Leafhopper Graphocephala coccinea

Hunchback Bee Fly Lepidophora lutea

Cardinal Flower

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Jul 16, 2014 6:30 AM - 10:30 AM
63 species

Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
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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