Monday, September 11, 2017

Good Migration!

"I have always been a anti-establishment artist. I once believed, and still do to some extent, that one could get a better education in a forest rather than a desk."

― Casey Carter

Early morning on the Creek Corridor Path.

It was another resplendent weekend of Nature observation and appreciation with birds, blooms, and bugs. Skies were cloudless with cool and crisp mornings both Saturday and Sunday. The drop in temperature meant fewer mosquitoes, which was truly a warm welcome. And now late summer's glowing asters and goldenrods adorn the prairie and creek corridor trails; it's such a lovely time of year to be a naturalist. Why anyone wouldn't go for a nature walk through woods right now is beyond my comprehension―the beauty is too astonishing to pass up.

New England Aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

The birding was just fantastic. My group of birders found 20 warbler species along the creek corridor on Saturday, and 18 on Sunday. We were especially thrilled to find Black-throated Blue, and some were fortunate to experience a brief glimpse of a Connecticut Warbler. There was also a rather drab grayish warbler we were having difficulty identifying when it eventually occurred to me it was a Pine Warbler, a species I seldom encounter during fall migration. Naturally, there were other birds like Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and this Green Heron:

Green Heron Butorides virescens

Nashville Warbler Leiothlypis ruficapilla

Feather maintenance! Often times shortly after their post-migration frenetic foraging, warblers drop down to the shallow parts of the creek for a communal bath. Their distance from me was a bit too far for close-up portraiture, so I decided to take video clips instead. As it begins you'll first see a Nashville Warbler in the middle of the frame, with a Chestnut-sided Warbler on the right hopping around before it takes a dip. In the background you'll see a Tennessee Warbler come into view in the upper-right, and then a second Nashville Warbler decides to wet its feathers before they all fly back up to the trees. In the second part, a Bay-breasted Warbler really splashes it up, then an American Redstart makes a brief appearance. A final bird hovers over the water, which I believe is a second Bay-breasted Warbler.

Bathing warblers!

And there were insects ...

Locust Treehopper Thelia bimaculata

This was the first Locust Treehopper I've come across since 2014. Slightly larger than other treehoppers I find along the creek corridor, it's still only 12mm in length. There had been a dearth of hopper insects since 2014, but I'm finally finding better diversity.

From the Treehopper FAQ:

Treehoppers usually have one or more generations per year. Eggs are laid singly or in masses, either inserted directly into the living tissue of their host plant, or deposited on the surface of the plant. The females of some species coat their eggs with a frothy substance that hardens when dry. In temperate regions of North America, the eggs of most species remain in the plant through the winter and hatch in the spring at approximately the same time that the overwintering buds of the host plant break open and begin to grow. The young treehoppers feed by inserting their piercing/sucking mouthparts into the plant and sucking the phloem sap. In some species, the adult female guards her eggs and remains with the young, which stay together in groups called aggregations, throughout their development which may take a month or more. Many of these gregarious species are tended by ants. The ants collect a sweet secretion called honeydew from the treehoppers and, in return, protect the treehoppers from predators. The growing young, or nymphs, go through a series of five molts (shedding their exoskeletons) prior to reaching the adult stage. Adults locate a mate through the use of courtship calls, similar to those used by their relatives, the cicadas (but too faint to be heard by human ears without special amplifying equipment). Females usually deposit their eggs a few days after mating, but in some species oviposition (egg-laying) is delayed until the following spring, with the female hibernating through the winter.

Buffalo Treehopper Ceresa taurina

On the other hand, there haven't been many Two-marked Treehoppers. In fact, the one pictured below is only the second I've seen this year, all by itself on Nannyberry Viburnum. I did locate egg masses on the branches, so hopefully there will be more of them next year.

Two-marked Treehopper Enchenopa sp.

Red-banded Leafhopper Graphocephala Sp.

Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

Sylvia mentioned an impressive patch of Stiff Gentian near the Pond at Owen Conservation Park. The gentian was easy to find, and there was also Cream Gentian and several kinds of asters.

Stiff Gentian Gentianella quinquefolia

Cream Gentian Gentiana alba

Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea

While deciduous trees are still dark green, there are emerging yellow highlights. Winter is coming ... (I couldn't resist). Prairie grasses are beginning to turn brown with dashes of red from sumac. Wisconsin's fall foliage displays are some of the finest in the country. Though Pheasant Branch Conservancy has a dazzling foliar light show, take a trip to Devil's Lake State Park in October for a more panoramic fall vista!

Owen Convservation Park

Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Sep 9, 2017 7:00 AM - 12:28 PM
58 species

Green Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Yellow-throated Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Golden-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Connecticut Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2017 Mike McDowell

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