Sunday, July 08, 2018

The Sandbar and the Prairie

"The remarkable thing about the world of insects, however, is precisely that there is no veil cast over these horrors. These are mysteries performed in broad daylight before our very eyes; we can see every detail, and yet they are still mysteries."

― Annie Dillard

Wisconsin River near Sauk City

With the recent lack of rain I predicted the sandbars might be accessible along the Wisconsin River near Sauk City, and I was right. I further prognosticated that there would be an abundance of tiger beetles on the sandbar, but I didn't expect to see so many Sandy Stream Tiger Beetles (Ellipsoptera macra). I think this was the most of this particular species I've ever encountered. As the sand warmed up, the tiger beetles didn't waste any time getting down to the business of procreation.

Feather of a Ring-billed Gull

Sandy Stream Tiger Beetle Ellipsoptera macra

In addition to tiger beetles, robber flies were patrolling areas of the same habitat. There were four different species, but S. trifasciatus was the most numerous. I observed a Proctacanthus hinei making off with a beetle, but I was unable to identify its mangled prey.

Robber Fly Stichopogon trifasciatus

Oh, I couldn't resist! I paid another visit to the sandlot.

Ghost Tiger Beetle Ellipsoptera lepida

Coreopsis sp.

Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas

The prairies of southern Wisconsin are reaching an apex of color and living things. Here as well as the sand one can find an interesting variety of six and eight-legged subjects to study and photograph. I always make a mental note of the birdsong I hear as I search for insects and wildflowers. However, it's a time of caring for young, so I tend to leave birds alone during the month of July. Plus, as you know, I'm just so preoccupied with creepy crawlies!

But how about a pretty butterfly?

Tawny Emperor Asterocampa clyton

Enough of that! More creepiness ahead ...

Chalcosyrphus chalybeus

Common Whitetail Plathemis lydia

Orb-weaver Leucauge venusta

A macro lens has been one of the greatest gifts I've ever given to myself. One is truly teleported to another realm that is almost experienced as traveling to another world. Just a centimeter or so in length, a tiny nymph grasshopper rests upon a blade of grass. Does it notice me? Does it have sentience? I'll never know, but I so enjoy peering through my camera's viewfinder at the amazing little wonders that exist on our planet.

Grasshopper sp. nymph

All images © 2018 Mike McDowell


  1. So many creatures pass through our lives with no name or notice. Without naturalists such as yourself blogging about them, there would be little chance of people coming to see any value in them. Those quiet creatures would lose the opportunity to be recognized, to be appreciated, to be saved.

  2. What a lovely comment! Thank you!