Rainy Day Pause

"The world is exploding in emerald, sage, and lusty chartreuse―neon green with so much yellow in it. It is an explosive green that, if one could watch it moment by moment throughout the day, would grow in every dimension."

― Amy Seidl
My birding posse and I got out to Pheasant Branch Creek Corridor early Saturday morning before the rain moved in, but these photographs are from last weekend. Right on schedule, we found two Pine Warblers within the canopy Yellow-rump flocks; first heard singing, then seen. We also got great views of a singing Carolina Wren and Winter Wren. Other firsts of the year included Purple Finch, Barn Swallow, and Purple Martin. The rain moved in at the lunch hour and it's been raining since, so that was the extent of my time outdoors this weekend. Though I've crossed the 100 species threshold, I am well behind Dane County's most reliable birders. The competition must go on!
Eastern Phoebes continue to move into the creek corridor, grabbing territories near their favorite habitat structure ― bridges. By the end of April just about every corridor bridge will have phoebe pair. One Brown Creeper we encountered was singing its full tsee-tuti-sedu-wee song, which paused my neural birdsong database for half a second: "Oh yeah, creeper!" I have observed only a single Hermit Thrush so far this spring, but there should be many more by next weekend. There'll be more Yellow-rumped Warblers as well ― the grand migration parade and avian treasure trove is upon us. 
Of course, no warm weekend spring day would be complete without tiger beetles! Rather than return to Spring Green for Round II, I made my first visit to the Sauk City Canoe Launch along the Wisconsin River. Only two species were present: Festive and Bronzed. I was hoping for Big Sand, but didn't find any. Though Bronzed are one of the most common tiger beetles in Wisconsin, they make fantastic insect portraits and offer practice to get back into the groove of my bug-stalking technique. The resulting close-up portraits are extremely rewarding to look at and study; I ponder the notion of insect interiority ― what's it like to be a tiger beetle?
From the nearby sandlot I could hear distant Vesper Sparrow songs, actually it turned out to be song-exchanges between three individual males. I was able to track one of them down close enough to photograph from the road. Such a neat sparrow, they are. Did you know that the monotypic Vesper Sparrow's closest relative is the Lark Sparrow? Phylogenetic analyses among New World sparrows based on morphology, plumage, behavior, oology, and allozyme characteristics found strong support for Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) as closest relative, these two species forming a clade sister to a clade including the genera Ammodramus, Passerculus, and Xenospiza. Now you know!
A regular stop this spring has been Stricker's Pond in Middleton. One of my favorite waterfowl species, Red-breasted Merganser, have been staging at the pond for the past few weeks. At first there was only one, but the flock increased to around a dozen birds before they left a few days ago. Another fun nature photography subject were the numerous Painted Turtles warming on logs around the western shoreline.


All images © 2021 Mike McDowell