The Little Things

"September was a thirty-days long goodbye to summer, to the season that left everybody both happy and weary of the warm, humid weather and the exhausting but thrilling adventures."

― Lea Malot
Yesterday was amazing at the Pheasant Branch Creek Corridor and Marshall Park near Lake Mendota ― perfect weather and fantastic birding. To be sure, one could have put on a fall migration clinic with warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and thrushes ... and I suppose I sort of did that for my birding posse. I was especially pleased to get excellent binocular views of Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes at close range. A combined 18 warbler species is exceptional for this time of year, checklist at the bottom of this post.
Opportunities to share space with an abundance of flora and fauna are decreasing as October and November loom, bringing death and decay. However, at the present there's still so much to see that most people wouldn't give even a first glance to. Well, they'd certainly notice the first blossoms and birds of spring. What separates those who notice returning American Robins, or maybe the first Cabbage White Butterfly, or Dandelions, but then fail to consider or visit the myriad forms that inhabit forests and prairies throughout spring, summer, and fall?
I'm on vacation. The past few days have been spent admiring these very things, for they will not return for many months ― maybe April, perhaps May. There are things and events during winter that entice the photo-naturalist, but there's more preparation and endurance involved. The winter could bring a boreal owl invasion, but that's not necessarily a good thing for owls. The true naturalist strives for indifference by not making value judgements on such things ― take the good with the bad without too much sentimentalisms or anthropomorphisms. Be honest. Be sincere. Be dedicated. 
These are all common wildflowers for this time of year, and I know them ... do you? If not, why not? What would it take to get you outdoors and engage with nature in the sense that Mary Oliver watched goldfinches and how E.O. Wilson studies ants? Maybe these little things really are everything. On our deathbeds how we will yearn for just one more woodland walk. 
I didn't think I'd see a Black-throated Blue Warbler yesterday, but finding two of them was a big birding bonus for the day. Below, this will likely be the last Buffalo Treehopper I see until next summer. There were two of them sharing the same stem of Cup Plant that was still very green and lush. When their host plants are gone, they will likely die. When a hard frost comes, only their eggs will endure. 
Emerson said that nature is beautiful because it's alive, moving, reproductive. Season to season, in nature we observe growth, development, and regeneration in living forms. Contrast this with the static and deteriorating things we're responsible for rendering into the world. Though there's often no indication of it on this blog, in many ways I'm very city: apartment, automobile, employment, guitars, HDTV, Macbook Pro, Netflix, etc. Kind of materialistic, even. But compared to my other interests and pursuits, I recognize a more organic sense of myself when in nature. It's instinctual for me and has been my entire life. The smallest insect to a panoramic starlit sky ― whatever I can visit and perhaps photograph. I chalk up this sentiment to something residually genetic, but for many people it gets eradicated through living; no growth, no development, and no regeneration.
You may recall the Big Flood of 2018, right? The creek corridor was flooded like I had never seen before and the damage was incredible ― a veritable rearrangement of habitat. Enter the silver lining! Sand was carried downstream and settled in the back part of conservancy property. After birding this morning, decided to see if there were any tiger beetles patrolling the sandy areas. Sure enough, dozens of Bronzed Tiger Beetles were actively pursuing prey .... so, I photographed them.
Middleton, Wisconsin 
Sep 15, 2021 7:45 AM - 1:45 PM
59 species

Canada Goose  
Wood Duck  
Mourning Dove  
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  
Sandhill Crane  
Great Blue Heron  
Red-tailed Hawk  
Great Horned Owl  
Red-bellied Woodpecker  
Downy Woodpecker  
Hairy Woodpecker  
Northern Flicker  
Eastern Wood-Pewee  
Least Flycatcher  
Eastern Phoebe  
Great Crested Flycatcher  
Yellow-throated Vireo  
Blue-headed Vireo  
Philadelphia Vireo  
Red-eyed Vireo  
Blue Jay  
American Crow  
Black-capped Chickadee  
Tufted Titmouse  
Red-breasted Nuthatch  
White-breasted Nuthatch  
House Wren  
Gray Catbird  
Brown Thrasher  
Gray-cheeked Thrush  
Swainson's Thrush  
American Robin  
Cedar Waxwing  
House Finch  
American Goldfinch  
White-throated Sparrow  
Song Sparrow  
Red-winged Blackbird  
Northern Waterthrush  
Golden-winged Warbler  
Black-and-white Warbler  
Tennessee Warbler  
Nashville Warbler  
Common Yellowthroat  
American Redstart  
Cape May Warbler  
Northern Parula  
Magnolia Warbler  
Bay-breasted Warbler  
Chestnut-sided Warbler  
Black-throated Blue Warbler  
Palm Warbler  
Yellow-rumped Warbler  
Canada Warbler  
Wilson's Warbler  
Northern Cardinal  
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  

All images © 2021 Mike McDowell