Sunday, July 26, 2020

It's Spring Green once again!

"Nature doesn't ask your permission; it doesn't care about your wishes, or whether you like its laws or not. You're obliged to accept it as it is, and consequently all its results as well."

― Fyodor Dostoevsky

Spring Green Preserve

There really is no finer prairie to observe and document summer than Spring Green Preserve in Southern Wisconsin. As most of you know, I used to spend my summer free time at the prairie parcel of Pheasant Branch. But I don't honestly regard it as a conservancy any longer given its parkification status under Dane County Parks management. And who knew so many people deserved to have a bench named after them? And dogs –– of course they're still a problem. One restoration specialist told me she was thrilled to see a single Eastern Meadowlark there this spring. I suppose that's better than them not being there. But when you compare ... ah well. The enlightened citizens of North Lake wanted something else. Anyway, I haven't been there all late spring and summer, but I hear stories from friends who still visit on occasion.

But Spring Green? It's just wild, wild, wild!

Lark Sparrow (immature)

So my mission was to rediscover the assortment of treehopper insects found several years ago, but also photograph whatever just happened to be of interest. Naturally, there were cool things that escaped visual documentation as per usual, like a couple of super-fast Prairie Racerunners. On the other hand, a peacefully resting Gray Treefrog was a snap to photograph.

Gray Treefrog

Nifty wildflowers ...

Clustered Poppy Mallow

Tick Trefoil

Butterflies ...

American Copper

The above photograph prompted a member of Wisconsin Naturalists Facebook Group to ask me what camera I use. I mean, I understand why people ask this question, but there's a sense I get that they're expecting me to reply with something super expensive. I answered: "To be sure, give someone a Fender Stratocaster and they don't automatically become Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix –– one continually pushes the boundaries with the gear that they have. I have been using a Nikon 1 V1 Mirrorless and Tamron 60mm 1:1 Macro lens since 2012 for all of my insect photography. This same camera is used for all my macro photography, landscape photography, astrophotography, and digiscoping."

Peck's Skipper

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Blue Dasher

Despite a very thorough search in the oaks and being exceedingly mindful of the multitude of Poison Ivy plants, I found only a single individual treehopper from the genus Archasia. This one is A. auriculata, which I have only ever observed at Spring Green. In truth, though, I don't really look for them in many other places. I find these little creatures and their oddly shaped and ornate pronotums to be fascinating –– truly adorable macro-photography subjects.

Archasia Treehopper

And of course, there were tiger beetles. It's been a very cool thing to keep running into Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetles this month, but they're one of the most difficult to photograph on account of how much time they spend on the run. Follow one long enough, occasionally you'll get an opportunity to obtain a photograph. Truth be told, I did interfere with this one by placing a lens shade around it. It did a few laps, then stopped. I lifted the lens shade and quickly snapped a few shots before it took off running across the sand once again. This insect disruption should be taken in context with the thousands of grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets that bounced out of my way as I hiked down the main trail. I'm certain it was no worse for wear!

Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle

Punctured Tiger Beetle

Big Sand Tiger Beetle

And large robber flies ...

Proctacanthus Robber Fly

But no snakes!

All images © 2020 Mike McDowell