Sunday, July 06, 2014

Commonly New

To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday.

~ John Burroughs

Pheasant Branch Conservancy (prairie & savanna)

I think John Burroughs is right. While it's exhilarating and even necessary to have a change of scenery from time to time, I find that some of Nature's best lessons are those acquired from repeated visits to one locale. Observations over the same ground throughout the year (and years) enhance the phenological narrative of place and pace; each discovery increases this cumulative knowledge set against the backdrop of time.

And the benefit? Rewards include anticipating what comes next, how long it lasts, what grows where, what eats this or that, and who nests or burrows in a particular place be it field or forest. I believe it's such familiarity that prepares us for something new—it's easier to sense change or difference, even when exceptionally subtle. Having said that, experiencing the familiar in Nature is also a source of confirmation, which has its own way of being gratifying and rewarding.

Common Milkweed

From a photographer's frame of mind, there's virtually no limit to the number of ways a single kind of plant, bird, or bug can be documented under ever-changing light and circumstance. As a former art student, I liken this creative process to painting. At least, that's something I strive for with my photography. I also love macro photography; enlarging the extremely small and common so it can be appreciated in an entirely new way. Though I have the ability to obtain close-up photographs of birds, sometimes it's appropriate to pull back and record them in their greater element.

American Goldfinch


Should you come across Dogbane plants (Apocynum cannabinum) in July, a careful search may reveal Dogbane Leaf Beetles (Chrysochus auratus). I've become fond of these docile six-legged coppery insects over the years and look forward to seeing them each summer. Though they superficially resemble the invasive Japanese Beetle, the Dogbane Leaf Beetle is native to North America. (Please don't squish them!) The Dogbane plant is poisonous. Apocynum means "poisonous to dogs" and is also potentially poisonous to livestock, but the plant is seldom eaten due to its unfavorable taste. Incidentally, auratus means "decorated with gold" in Latin. Combined, you might think of this shiny insect as the beetle decorated with gold that consumes the bane of dogs. 

Dogbane Leaf Beetle

Dogbane Leaf Beetle

Dogbane Leaf Beetles

Dogbane Leaf Beetle

Hey! This (below) isn't a Dogbane Leaf Beatle! Well, it isn't on Dogbane, either.

Goldenrod Leaf Beetle

Birding yesterday via bicycle, I covered 15 miles and tallied 71 species at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. I missed a few birds I know are there like Pileated Woodpecker, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Wild Turkey, Sora, Horned Lark, and Vesper Sparrow, but I got all the other expected ones. The Yellow-breasted Chat was singing atop the drumlin and there are lots of American Redstarts along the trail east of the big marsh near the blue water tower. There are only a couple Marsh Wrens at the North Fork marsh, but I discovered scads of them at nearby Esser Pond this morning.

Prairie Coreopsis

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Jul 5, 2014 6:15 AM - 8:15 AM
71 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah 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

© 2014 Mike McDowell