June Stuff!

"To absorb a thing is better than to learn it, and we absorb what we enjoy. We learn things at school, we absorb them in the fields and woods and on the farm. When we look upon Nature with fondness and appreciation she meets us halfway and takes a deeper hold upon us than when studiously conned. Hence I say the way of knowledge of Nature is the way of love and enjoyment, and is more surely found in the open air than in the school-room or the laboratory."

— John Burroughs
With all the rain we've been having lately, finding a break to enjoy Nature has been tough. However, last Sunday's weather was ideal, albeit a bit breezy. The plan was to start by exploring Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, then check the water level at the Sauk City Canoe Launch along the Wisconsin River, and visit other spots as time allowed. 
Spiza americana were present at Sauk Rec, but I suspect more are still on the way. However, this species can experience differential spring migration seasons, where the number of birds returning to breeding grounds varies from year to year. This variability can be influenced by several factors, including weather conditions, habitat availability, and food resources both in their wintering grounds in Central and South America and along their migration routes.
Here are two Red-spotted Purple butterflies Limenitis arthemis astyanax feeding on what appears to be coyote feces. Kind of gross, but dung contains minerals and nutrients, such as sodium and other salts, which butterflies cannot easily obtain from nectar alone. These nutrients are crucial for their reproductive success and overall health. Additionally, dung provides amino acids necessary for protein synthesis, aiding in the development of their eggs, which is particularly important for female butterflies. 

Unfortunately, the tiger beetle status at Sauk Rec was a little disappointing — only a few Big Sand and Festive were spotted with no sightings of Punctured or Ghost (it's still early). Breezy conditions may have been a factor, as the desert-like parcel is quite exposed. Being low and close to the ground, I ended up getting lots of sand in my eyes and ears.

Let's check out the canoe launch ...
The Wisconsin River has gone down a bit, exposing more of the beach. Just a few weeks ago the beach pictured above was completely underwater. Since there are still so few sandbars and exposed beaches right now, this particular spot was teaming with Bronzed and Hairy-necked Tiger Beetles. 

Here's a Bronzed ...
Check out this Bronzed feasting on a dragonfly larva ...
So cool — pushing its head and mandibles into the juicy bug flesh!
Close-up ...
A Hairy-necked!
This one gave up the coveted front-angle shot right away ...
It's rather obvious I simply don't know when to stop photographing tiger beetles. Engaging with them behind the lens is kind of a mesmerizing experience that transports me into their micro-realm. Time just slips away as I observe and document these amazingly little creatures, monstrous in their appearance and behavior, yet thankfully small compared to us.
Before leaving the canoe launch, I spent some time photographing Spiderwort and Venus's Looking Glass. The month of June brings a fresh abundance of blooming wildflowers, each showcasing unique colors and forms. When photographing them, it’s important to consider composition and perspective to highlight the unique characteristics of each species. Close-up shots can capture the intricate patterns and textures of petals and leaves, while wider angles can showcase the flowers within their natural environment. 
So small, and yet so spectacular ...
Homeward bound, a slight detour to Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie State Natural Area to check on Wood Lilies proved to be productive. Not quite at peak, this is one of the best prairies to see these cool native lilies in southern Wisconsin.
And so, June rolls on and the Summer Solstice approaches. 


Adult birds are bustling with activity, showing incredible stamina and dedication as they focus on breeding and raising their young. This month marks the peak of the breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere, prompting birds to engage in various behaviors to ensure the survival of their offspring. Nest-building is a common sight, with birds actively collecting materials such as twigs, grass, and feathers to construct or maintain their nests. So far this spring I've had nesting Haemorhous mexicanus, Troglodytes aedon, and Turdus migratorius on my small patio. Archilochus colubris are constantly coming and going to my flower garden. 

All images © 2024 Mike McDowell