Monday, May 15, 2017

Spring Apex

"When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

― Wendell Berry

Pheasant Branch Conservancy Creek Corridor

It's hard to believe it's already the middle of May. Songbird migration is at peak and Saturday's outing rendered our first twenty-warbler species excursion of spring. The forests are still stunning shades of verdant green before June blends them. An increasing array of blossoming wildflowers decorate the woodland floor. Sprinkle in a variety of spritely warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes arriving each morning before sunrise and you have the all the ingredients for one of the finest displays of natural beauty.

Magnolia Warbler

Last week we were very fortunate to have four consecutive days of Black-throated Blue Warbler sightings at the conservancy. I often tell other birders I'm lucky if I see one or two a year, and usually only for a single day. It's great when they hang around so other birders get an opportunity to enjoy them. Being on the western edge of their range, it can be a challenging bird to find each spring.

Several years ago while birding with Dottie and Sylvia, I was looking at a male and female Black-throated Blue Warbler at the same time Dottie said she also had them in view. However, I noticed she was glassing in a different direction ― that's when I realized there were four! Eventually they all came together and that was the only time we've ever had four Black-throated Blues in our field of view. Checking eBird, that sighting was seven years ago...the time sure does fly.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Cedar Waxwings


Starry Solomon's Seal

Woodland Phlox

Blue-eyed Grass

Last weekend we had such a great time at Indian Lake Park, we decided to return and hike the same route with one minor deviation. Because Dottie hadn't yet seen a Blue-winged Warbler, we added a section of trail at the far east end where I've found them nesting in the past.

Indian Lark Park

As you can see, Indian Lake Park is an extraordinarily dreamy place. Wild Geranium, purple and yellow violets, various anemone, and other native wildflowers decorated the entire trail for three miles ― absolutely breathtaking. Wood Thrush songs added an ethereal quality to the experience.

During our previous hike, Sylvia found Yellow Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum) that were not yet in bloom, so we were excited with anticipation to see how they were doing. To our utter disappointment, someone else found them and decided they didn't want anyone else to enjoy them. Digging up wild orchids is becoming far too common in the Madison area. Last year it was the Showy Orchis, and now this. The same thing seems to be happening at Baxter's Hollow as well. What can one do?

Wild Geranium

Shagbark Hickory Bract

Where the woodland trail was illuminated by sunlight, it wasn't uncommon for us to find Six-spotted Tiger Beetles. I stopped and photographed them for several minutes while Dottie and Sylvia continued listening to chorus of birdsong. We heard Scarlet Tanagers, Ovenbirds, Yellow-throated Vireos, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Baltimore Orioles, and Black-throated Green Warblers. All together, we tallied 56 bird species, mostly by ear.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
May 13, 2017 5:46 AM - 9:55 AM
76 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

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