Sunday, June 07, 2015

TNC Field Trip at Spring Green Preserve!

"Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral."

― John Burroughs

Spring Green Preserve

John Harrington and I led a field trip at Spring Green Preserve Saturday morning for The Nature Conservancy. I arrived a few hours early to catch the morning light for photography as well as conduct some pre-field trip scouting to see and hear what birds (and insects) were present. The weather was perfect and Nature was prepared to deliver the goods for twenty curious participants!


The Prickly-pear weren't flowering just yet, but I suspect they will be in another week or so. It's always a surprise for first-time visitors to the preserve to learn that there are naturally occuring cacti in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the flowering penstemon were as beautiful as I've ever seen.

Penstemon grandiflorus

Grasshopper Sparrows were the early risers of the day. Throughout the morning these diminutive sparrows were perched in the open and particularly leery of us; they would not reveal their nest locations. Many were holding green caterpillars between their mandibles and waiting for us to pass by so they could deliver the morsels to their hungry chicks. Grasshopper Sparrows can actually have two or three broods person season and I was impressed how many there were at the preserve. Their anxious stares and insect-like trill songs were with us throughout our hike.

Grasshopper Sparrow

In all my visits to the preserve I don't think I've ever seen so many Big Sand Tiger Beetles. There was only one Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle, but several Festive. They truly are tiny terrors of the sandy trail! I will say that observing tiger beetles on a narrow linear trail is difficult for a group of twenty people. I think most participants were able to get good views of Big Sands and Festive, but the sole Oblique-lined I saw was only visible for a fraction of a second before taking flight.

Big Sand Tiger Beetle

Small oaks just before the entrance to the woods were serving as hosts to one of my favorite insects. As longtime readers know, a few years ago I became a little obsessed with treehoppers, leafhoppers, and planthoppers. Though we only observed smilia camelus, it's a great location to find several other species during the summer months.

Treehopper Smilia camelus

This Eastern Towhee was quite gregarious before the field trip began, but was merely a voice in the distance as we walked along the trail. Perhaps there were too many of us for its comfort, or perhaps I was just lucky to catch him out in the open for a while.

Eastern Towhee

I noticed a Lark Sparrow frequenting a particular perch throughout the morning and early afternoon. After the field trip was over, I decided to return to the spot once the sunlight was no longer directly overhead. I only had to wait a couple of minutes and the sparrow flew in, prominently perched with a raised crest and flared its tail. What a proud and magnificent looking sparrow! After a few seconds he turned around and took on a more relaxed posture. Still, I got the hint and promptly left after taking a dozen or so shots.

Lark Sparrow

I spent my final hours at the desert prairie photographing more of its splendid wildflowers. Sand Milkwort was a new species for me, but I also adore some of the more common species. Like clockwork, Prairie Fame-flowers opened around 3:00pm.

I think the field trip was a success and everyone seemed to have a great time. I really do enjoy sharing Nature with others and showing participants something they've perhaps never seen before. As we increase our knowledge and appreciation of the unique flora and fauna of a place like Spring Green Preserve, the more we want to return on another day and see how the season and living things change. As such, the desert prairie becomes far more than just a state natural area, but something we connect with on a personal level that is wholly alive. It ― and all of the critters that live there ― most assuredly deserve our protection. And that's what The Nature Conservancy is all about!

Venus' Looking Glass

Sand Milkwort

Prairie Fame-flower

Spring Green Preserve--East, Sauk, Wisconsin, US
Jun 6, 2015 6:30 AM - 3:00 PM
45 species

Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Sandhill Crane
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-winged Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell

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