Sunday, May 24, 2015

Operation Formosa

"We know that this interest in tiger beetles is not mystical, but if you talk to tiger beetle aficionados about their hobby, most of them will not be able to explain the source of what the uninitiated may see as a mania."

― Pearson, Knisley, Kazilek: Tiger Beetles of the US and Canada

Spring Green Preserve

Spring Green Preserve in Sauk County is one of the finest natural areas Wisconsin has to offer to the nature enthusiast and photographer. Warbler migration has significantly waned and Saturday's weather was perfect for an all-day excursion to the magnificent desert prairie. Formosa means "beautiful" in Portuguese, from Latin formosus ("beautifully formed"). Naturally, the word might be used to refer to the prairie itself, or nearly anything about it. But my ambitious mission was to photograph as many tiger beetles I could find along the sandy trail, especially Big Sand Tiger Beetle Cicindela formosa. 

Grasshopper Sparrow

Sparrows are the birds occupying the prairie. There's Grasshopper Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Henslow's Sparrow, and a few others. Throughout the day the insect-like trills of Grasshopper Sparrows were sounding off all around me. Lark Sparrow numbers seemed low, but birding by ear doesn't always reveal the entire story. There is no great secret to getting a photograph of a singing sparrow―merely listen, watch where they're perching, and then wait. Eventually, one is sure to come your way.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Field Sparrow

The plant and insect community at the preserve is one of its most amazing qualities. Wildflower progression at the prairie was themed by blues and purples. However, yellow accents in the form of puccoon and dwarf dandelion were present. Birdsfoot Violets were mostly done, but I found a few patches where petals were still intact.


Blue Toadflax

Birdsfoot Violet

Violet Wood-sorrel

Blue-eyed Grass

And now for the insects! In addition to the butterflies pictured below, there were Red Admirals, Tiger Swallowtails, Spring Azure, American Copper, and Question Mark. The only dragonfly I observed was a Four-spotted Skimmer. No robber just flies yet!

Northern Cloudywing


Four-spotted Skimmer

For the Main Event, the ferocious (and beautiful) Tiger Beetles of Spring Green Preserve!

Festive Tiger Beetle

The morning temperature was a little chilly for the end of May, but this was a good thing as tiger beetles tend to move a little slower when it's cold. Though it was in the upper-forties when I first arrived, it would reach the mid-eighties by the time I left. After a few hours the beetles were alert, fast, and taking wing from whatever seemed to offend their sense of safety. Sneaking up on them with a macro lens is almost an exercise in futility, but persistence and technique will eventually payoff.

Festive Tiger Beetle

Festive Tiger Beetle

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetles

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

On this day I found four of the seven (or eight) species documented at the preserve, but not all of them are present this time of year. I've observed seven. I'm unsure of which species I'm missing, but I suspect there may be more than eight. And so, here's Cicindela formosa in all of it's monstrous glory!

Big Sand Tiger Beetle

Big Sand Tiger Beetle

Big Sand Tiger Beetle

Big Sand Tiger Beetle

Spring Green Preserve--East, Sauk, US-WI
May 23, 2015 6:30 AM - 3:30 PM
46 species

Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Blue-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Henslow's Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell

1 comment:

  1. Superb sharpness and colors! I especially like the iridescence on the tiger beetles! :)