Monday, July 10, 2017

Back to Spring Green!

"People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us."

― Iris Murdoch

Spring Green Preserve (East Unit)

I spent nearly the entire day Saturday and portion of the evening on Sunday exploring the prairies and bluffs of Spring Green Preserve in Sauk County. As longtime readers know, this natural area is one of my favorite summer haunts for discovery and nature photography ― there is so much to observe, study, and document. Uncommon is the day I fail to find something new to appreciate.

Lark Sparrow

By now nearly all songbirds of the prairie are caring for fledged young. Although the forests are a little quieter, the grassland birds continue to put everything they have into their songs. In the same sense that I selfishly wish accipiters would only consume house sparrows and starlings, I prefer Lark Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows make meals only out of grasshoppers, crickets, and moths and ignore the tiger beetles. Actually, as agile as these insectivorous birds are, I think they would have a tough time catching healthy tiger beetles. Plus, there are scads of grasshoppers right now; it seems like a dozen or more hop away into every direction with each step.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

Speaking of tiger beetles, I feel very fortunate I was able to sneak up on a Big Sand Tiger Beetle and obtain one of the best profile portraits I've ever made of this species. After a grasshopper crawled over top of it, and then a small fly landed on it, I thought there might be something wrong with the stoic insect. But with a wave of my hand, the always-alert beetle instantly took off and landed several yards further down the trail. I didn't pursue it, for I knew I had nailed the shot.

Big Sand Tiger Beetle

Leadplant (tiny weevil sp., too!)

Though it's continuously in flux, dominant wildflowers were Evening Primrose, Flea Bane, and Flowering Spurge, rendering a snow-covered appearance at parts of the prairie. There were also stunning favorites, like Leadplant, Clustered Poppy-mallow, Hoary Vervain, and the tiny flowers of Prairie Tick-treefoil. But the wildflower I was most excited about seeing during my outing was Prairie Fame Flower. I've only ever observed their blooms twice before at the preserve and I knew I would have to stick around until late afternoon to witness them open up.

Clustered Poppy-mallow

Prairie Tick-treefoil

American Copper

In preparing for my photography mission, I checked the time/date stamp on previous successful attempts which indicated the fame flowers were open by 3:40PM. Alas, 4:00PM went by and they were still closed. I located some fame flowers at the east unit of the preserve, but they were still closed. I decided to check on a patch at the west unit, but discovered they were also closed. I was determined to see them, so I patiently waited to see what they would do.

Spring Green Preserve (West Unit)

Sand Milkwort

While scanning around for more fame flowers, I came upon Sand Milkwort, which is another favorite wildflower of mine. The flowers are so tiny that it's an extremely difficult focal depth to work with. I plodded around a bit, photographing prickly pear and other plants, and eventually took a seat in the sand. Nearly an hour later, I spotted a fame flower that began to show promise and hope!

Prairie Fame-flower

They were opening! Yippie!

Over the next half an hour, I watched as several fame flowers slowly opened. The plant is so diminutive and inconspicuous, I didn't realize just how many were near to where I was sitting. Though I didn't think of it at the time, I should have made an HD time-lapse video of the transition.

When it comes to appreciating Nature, I can get pretty fanatical just about anything. Birds typically hold the peak of my nature proclivities, but any critter, insect, or wildflower will suffice. Having said that, I'm a little embarrassed to admit I took over 200 photographs of the fame flowers.

And with the blooms came the bees. It didn't take long for the busy hymenopterids to get to work on collecting pollen from a fresh source.

Spring Green Preserve--East, Sauk, Wisconsin, US
Jul 8, 2017 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM
49 species

Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Grasshopper Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak ← Ha!
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

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