Thursday, July 06, 2017

Pleasant Valley SNA

"Photography saved my life by opening my eyes to the beauty that surrounds me each and everyday. Life looks much richer from behind the lens."

― Donna Kasubeck

"The earth is art; the photographer is only a witness."

― Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Pleasant Valley State Natural Area

A recent visit to Pleasant Valley State Natural Area revealed a splendid variety of birds on breeding territory. With dazzling green ridges adorned with oak trees, Red-headed Woodpeckers are fairly common at this resplendent savanna. Throughout a birding year, it's possible to observe over 100 bird species at Pleasant Valley, so 43 species is a decent summer sampling. During the two-hour hike I heard avian voices belonging to Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Yellow-throated Vireos, Eastern Towhees, Field Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, and both cuckoo species.

Punctured Tiger Beetle

When birding, I'm always on the lookout for whatever insects I can find, especially tiger beetles. Both Punctured and Six-spotted Tiger Beetles can be found along the dirt and graveled trail sections. The above tiger beetle proved to be a costly challenge by leaving me with a minor muscle injury. A friend offered solid advice: Stretch before partaking in insect photography!

Eastern-tailed Blue

While it was an exceptional day for July butterflies, I only managed to find one photographically cooperative Eastern-tailed Blue. Summer's light and warmth brought the winged insects out in force, but nearly all fluttered circuitously beyond the reach of my camera lens. Other butterflies included Monarch, Black Swallowtail, Tiger Swallowtail, Painted Lady, Coral Hairstreak, Common Wood-Nymph, Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur, Silver-spotted Skipper, Aphrodite Fritillary, Red-spotted Purple, Red Admiral, and Common Buckeye.


This time of year Pleasant Valley's hills are adorned with spectacular wildflowers, but I probably didn't spend as much time photographing them as I should have. On the other hand, sometimes it's best to simply behold natural beauty without fussing over light, composition, and camera settings.


Red-headed Woodpecker

It was exceedingly cool watching a pair of adult Red-headed Woodpeckers catch and carry insects over to recently fledged juveniles. I'd like to get better photographs of this species, but it's not a bird I often encounter at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Hearing an adult's nervous chatter was a good reminder not to spend too much time around birds caring for youngsters. I've heard that the woodpeckers occasionally overwinter at Pleasant Valley, so perhaps early spring would be a better time for obtaining breathtaking digiscoped portraits.

Adult and immature Red-headed Woodpeckers

By early afternoon the heat and humidity was becoming a bit much to endure. Though normally I would have stayed longer, my water bottle was dry and my muscle injury was a nagging nuisance with each step. I think I'll return to Pleasant Valley before August rolls around. August! Summer is passing by far too quickly ― warblers of the boreal return next month.

Pleasant Valley Conservancy, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Jul 4, 2017 10:15 AM - 1:00 PM
43 species

Ring-necked Pheasant
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

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