Saturday, July 04, 2015

"Fireworks" in the Prairie!

"The earth laughs in flowers."

― Ralph Waldo Emerson


It's July! How about a little breathtaking color courtesy of Mother Nature for Independence Day? Although I generally show the whole flower in my photography, using my macro lens at its highest magnification can render a whole new level of appreciation. I think it's particularly true in Nature that the common and extraordinary can come down to a matter of scale; a sense familiarity is lost and something altogether new is observed. Even so, in the progression from quarks to the enormity of the Universe, we've not traveled very far along that scale. But of forms and color, Nature's palette and power to create is unbounded.

In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy said: "If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard." This has become something of a mantra for my visits to Pheasant Branch Conservancy. It's not that I ever thought the travel I have done hasn't been worthwhile, it's just that there is so much we can be mindful of and discover within a few feet of where we are. I find truth and fascination in the smallest of things.

No matter where we stand, the Universe essentially displays the same window to us all. With a telescope, ageless photons of light from galaxies millions of light years away have entered my eyes. It's rumored that eye-witnesses said Beethoven shook his first at the heavens right before his death. How much time do we each get to peer through that window? I will try to make my peace with the stars flower by flower, critter by critter, and bird by bird.

Prairie Rose

Great St. John's-wort

Common Milkweed

Spiny Plumeless Thistle

Purple Coneflower

Black-eyed Susan


Rattlesnake Master

Indigo Bunting

Same perch same bird? Perhaps, but there were two other Indigo Buntings countersinging in the vicinity. I positioned my spotting scope on this favored perch predicting one of them would eventually move to it. I waited them out by surveying for macro photography subjects along the trail. It didn't take very long, though. The background is a brighter green and the sun angle slightly changed from the images I took late May, but the song was the same.

Indigo Bunting

Cedar Waxwing

Common Yellowthroat

The prairie is full of insects and that's good for the birds. Several Cedar Waxwings were foraging through the grasses and plants and a Common Yellowthroat looked pretty proud of his catch. In truth, however, he wasn't going to deliver the meal to his nestlings while I was watching. I kept my visit brief and moved further back to the north edge of the prairie where I found several butterflies.


Banded Hairstreak

Scudderia Katydid (nymph)

There's an entirely different cast of insect characters along the creek corridor. Various flies perch on plants, logs, and even the bridge railings. Sneaking up on them can be tricky, but when you train with tiger beetles, other insects and creepy-crawlies are comparatively easy to photograph!

Ebony Jewelwing

Long-legged Fly

Picture-winged Fly (Delphinia picta)

Laphria Robber Fly

Peacock Fly

Thin-legged Wolf Spider

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Jul 3, 2015 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
61 species

Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree 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
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell


  1. Fabulous photos Mike. Must have been a great day

  2. Spectacular colours, the Peacock Fly is brill!

  3. Reading this again, I just have to say this was a particularly beautiful blog entry.