Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sand and Trees

"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."

― David Pearson, Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of US & Canada

"Beauty surrounds us on so many levels, and it’s easy to overlook the smallest and simplest forms."

― Morgan Clucas

Bronzed Tiger Beetle Cicindela repanda

What to do with a day off? I hadn’t made any definitive plans Monday evening but considered three locations and their attractions: Pheasant Branch Conservancy is great for just about anything, Spring Green Preserve has its unique desert prairie flora and fauna, or a tiger beetle hunt at the Sauk City canoe launch. Since it's still a little early for fall wood warblers, I decided against Pheasant Branch, and Spring Green was a little further than I felt like driving, so ... Tiger Beetles!

Regular readers here know I just adore tiger beetles. I think it’s easy for naturalists and nature photographers to become enamored with them. For me, an extremely challenging subject adds to the thrill of the pursuit, which in turn adds to the reward earned from a handsome portrait. Plus, watching them scurry across the sand along with the other things they do can be fairly entertaining. I'm probably not quite at the mania level David Pearson talks about, but I don't think it would take much.

Eating a small bug!

Though I arrived mid-morning, it took another hour before the beetles were present in good numbers. I was hoping to encounter Sandy Stream Tiger Beetles on the sandbar, but settled for Bronzed. There were numerous Big Sand, but only single Punctured and Hairy-necked. Fast and difficult to approach, having many subjects to choose from improves one’s chances of getting a decent photograph.

What an awesome looking insect!

When photographing tiger beetles, be on the watch for camouflaged critters in the sand...

Arctosa Wolf Spider

Arctosa Wolf Spider

After lunch at Sauk City, there was still enough time to explore the creek corridor at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. I had been warned about mosquitoes in the Madison area this summer and they were out in full force. My ThermaCELL provided some deterrent, but I still ended up with a half dozen or so bites ― it would have been a blood feast for the mosquitoes without it, though. During August the creek corridor has all the look and feel of a veritable jungle and the biting insects make it that much more authentic.

Pheasant Branch Conservancy creek corridor

Purple Conflower

The birds along the corridor were fairly quiet, but that's expected for the time of day and year. What songs I did hear were muted versions of their spring voices. I heard a chip note near the second bridge that probably belonged to a Mourning Warbler, though I was unable to locate the bird in the dense plants and shadows. Calls from the canopy included Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, and Northern Cardinals. I didn't hear any other warbler calls during my two-hour hike. How it will all change in two more weeks!


While taking macro shots of bergamot, I came across this little fellow:

Phymata Ambush Bug

Reminiscent of last year, once again there doesn't seem to be strong populations of leaf, tree, and plant hoppers ― I found only two Red-banded Leafhoppers. Hopefully by the end of this month there will be more of these spectacular insects to appreciate and document.

Red-banded Leafhopper Graphocephala coccinea

Red-banded Leafhopper Graphocephala coccinea

Fall is coming...

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell

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