Sunday, June 25, 2017

Spring Green & Rettenmund Prairie

"Hidden in the glorious wildness like unmined gold."

― John Muir

Spring Green Preserve


Nature exploration renders a complete and inexpressible experience that begins with a simple plan and ends with the publication of a blog post. In the middle are the critters themselves; on their land, their time, and their ways. For me it's as close to appreciating the numinous as I can get. Thus, the living treasures I encounter in Nature are valued beyond measure; they keep me tethered to reality and sanity in this crazy and ersatz world humankind has created.

First, a few of the insects I just absolutely adore...

Tiger Beetles!

Big Sand Tiger Beetle Cicindela formosa generosa

Big Sand Tiger Beetle Cicindela formosa generosa

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle Cicindela tranquebarica 

Festive Tiger Beetle Cicindela scutellaris lecontei

Festive Tiger Beetle Cicindela scutellaris lecontei

Punctured Tiger Beetle Cicindela punctulata

And other interesting entomological subjects...

Robber Fly Efferia albibarbis

Midland Clubtail Dragonfly Gomphurus fraternus

Common Buckeye Junonia coenia

Once I completed my insect mission, I hiked back over to a spot where earlier I observed a family of foraging Lark Sparrows. The adults were leading their young along the trail in search of grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and whatever other juicy prey items they could find. There was a lot of birdsong in the area ― the ensemble included Grasshopper Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Dickcissels, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Eastern Kingbirds. The gusty winds made photography of perched songbirds a very changeling endeavor.

A windy day!

Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum

Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus

At one point a young Lark Sparrow struggled with a grasshopper one of its parents had given it. When the adult bird looked back and observed this difficulty, it ran over to it, took the insect away, crunched it up, and crammed it back into the young bird's mouth.

Lark Sparrow (immature)

Prickly-pear Cactus Opuntia humifusa

Prickly-pear flowers seemed to be at peak. New visitors to Spring Green Preserve are always astounded to see the cacti. A man visiting the preserve from out of town for Spring Green's annual art fair told me that the scenery looked more like something one would see in western Kansas.


Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie

I wanted to stop at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie on my way home from Spring Green, but a rapidly approaching storm required a delay until Sunday morning. The prairie was magnificent. Maintained by the Prairie Enthusiasts, this State Natural Area hosts an incredible diversity of plants and wildflowers, a few of my favorites being Death Camas, Pale-spiked Lobelia, and Wood Lilies. Sadly, I was informed by a volunteer at the entrance that the lilies reached peak around the middle of June and only a few intact flowers remained. Like so many other prairies in southern Wisconsin, there were Dickcissels singing away throughout the morning.

Death Camas Zigadenus elegans

Pale-spiked Lobelia Lobelia spicata

Monarch Butterfly caterpillar Danaus plexippus

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa

Two-horned Treehopper Ceresa diceros

Dogbane Leaf Beetle Chrysochus auratus

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

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