We all travel the milky way, together, trees and men; but it never occurred to me until this stormday, while swinging in the wind, that trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make many journeys, not extensive ones, it is true; but our own little journeys, away and back again, are only little more than tree-wavings—many of them not so much.
~ John Muir
Astronomical summer, meteorological summer, and ornithological summer seem to be distinctly different things. Fall bird migration is underway, but the autumn equinox is still over a month away. The photoperiod is noticeably shorter, but temperatures remain very warm at midday. Though their placement on a calendar is different, they are nevertheless related and drive Nature's phenological cycles.
I've been spending more time at the creek corridor lately in anticipation of catching the first southbound migrant warblers. So far I've only spotted a few American Redstarts, which are likely dispersed birds from the eastern part of the conservancy where they nested this summer. Early mornings have been comfortably cool, which is the best time to hit the corridor trail. This is especially true weekend mornings when seeking a tranquil walk.
There are trail counters located at the corridor bridges. I recently learned from Middleton Public Lands that trail usage along the corridor has soared from 17,000 users in 2009 to 87,000 in 2013. While I've noticed traffic has increased over the past few years, I think most usage occurs during times I'm not there. Littering has increased, too. Still, it can get pretty noisy by mid-morning; people jogging together have a lot to talk about!
The Creek Corridor
The creek corridor is a very tropical-like place this time of year, but soon leaves will begin changing from green to yellow and the woods will slowly shed its lush cover. The foliage is much too dense for bird photography. Most of the birds aren't visible, but their songs reveal their presence. There are Eastern Wood-Pewees, Great Crested Flycatchers, Baltimore Orioles, Wood Thrushes, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, a variety of woodpeckers, and more. Some of these birds will be leaving before August ends, but others are resident birds that remain through winter.
My visits to the prairie will decrease as neotropical migrant birds return to southern Wisconsin. For the moment, though, the prairie is spectacuarly adorned with Yellow Coneflowers, Gaura, Ironweed, and a variety of other wildflowers. I've also noticed that goldenrods are beginning to bloom. Asters aren't far behind. Once the warblers have moved on I'll return to the prairie for sparrow migration.
The Sedge Wrens have literally taken over the prairie. Though I've been trying to keep track of specific adult wrens, it's become an impossible task with the dispersal of juveniles. With the discovery of even older juveniles, it seems the breeding cycle is more complex than I originally thought. The Sedge Wren enigma continues. It doesn't really matter, though. While it's fun trying to figure out their behavior, I'm just grateful that they've found a reliable place where they can successfully raise their young and flourish.
All images © 2014 Mike McDowell