Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WHAT Is That Bug On My Butterfly Weed?


 This is an immature acanalonia or leaf hopper .. a nymph. While looking at my butterfly weed plant I noticed a piece of dandelion fluff. I thought it looked beautiful in the sunlight and thought about taking a picture of it. As I moved in for the picture I noticed this little bump on the stem right next to the fluff. The bump appeared to be looking at me ... I got closer and then a little closer and took a few pictures of the little creature completely forgetting about the dandelion fluff. The fluff appeared to be attached to the creature. I thought the poor thing was stuck. Turns out that the fluff is this nymph's waste. After researching and figuring out that this was an immature leaf hopper, I learned that they eat sap from many different kinds of plants. The extra water and sugar they don't need streams out the rear end of the bug like dandelion fluff.. how weird is that! It just walks around with a stream of fluff attached to its rear end.



I ended up finding three of them upon closer inspection. This little poser and two more on a leaf. Funny what you see when you hone in and focus on something. I walk past glancing at things all day long and probably miss alot of really interesting tiny details. Researching and learning a little something about this creature was fun. Now I hope to see one in adult form. Very intriguing to me .. a mystery unfolding in my yard as I wait to turn the page and see the next chapter or stage of this awesome little creature.
























Take some time to enjoy 
the little things throughout 
your day today and see 
where they may lead you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 Illinois Spring Bird Count Day


For five seconds the world stopped around me ..
 Golden-winged Warbler at Prairie Park

Five seconds of eye bulging wow .. followed by a smile that stretched off my face. I thanked God and couldn't stop smiling, sighing and saying thank you. Obviously a life bird for me! ... and right in my neighborhood! I saw it land on this branch just about twenty feet from me out of the corner of my eye while photographing palm and yellow-rumped warblers. I knew what it was THE second I saw it ..I stopped breathing, started hyperventilating and fumbling with my camera trying to focus. Luckily I was able to snap two shots as it paused here, then off it went into unpathed woodland. I just stood there smiled and repeated the words thank you. These are the moments! Awed, blessed and thankful.


I was surprised to only see one Magnolia Warbler today while out counting.



Yellow-rumped Warblers on the other hand were abundant. The lawn was filled with them and yellow warblers as we entered the park and it didn’t stop there. The wooded paths along the Kishwaukee River and throughout the park were dripping with them. These little masked warblers moved through the woods collecting bugs robin hood style. By the time we were finished here we counted 65 yellow-rumps. I have never seen so many! I even had them in my own yard this year!



Rubberneck moment 

An interesting yellow-rumped warbler at the lagoon in Northern Illinois University grabs your attention right away. No glancing past this bird thinking 'oh another butter butt'. White faced, no mask, kind of has a hooded look. At first I thought oh boy!.. black-capped vireo. Nope, all the other markings point right to yellow-rumped warbler. Very unique bird to view. He is both handsome and social. He hangs out by the bridge under the pine trees in the lagoon.



We saw 8 black and white warbler throughout the day.
Here one pauses to see who is walking up the path. 
Hello handsome.


This one has his eye of the prize .. two seconds later that bug was in his belly.


 High up in the tree tops a blue-gray gnatcatcher trying to decide which bug to eat first at this all you can eat bug buffet.


 A handsome yellow warbler sets his sights higher...


... then  lower, very attuned to the movement of the bugs around him.


A lovely female yellow warbler scanning her surroundings as we pass.

We saw a total of 25 yellow warblers through out the day!
Even had one in a tree in my own front yard.



Palm warblers were out and about .. singing, hopping along paths and lower in trees than many of the other warblers today. 
Great views. We counted a total of 20 today.


Only saw two ruby-crowned kinglet today. This little speedster stopped and posed for just a second... long enough to collect a memory.


One of my favorite birds to see each spring is the american redstart. Stops me dead in my tracks every time I see one. This handsome fella flew on to a branch just a few feet from us. We stopped and watched him for a shot period. He caught a few bugs and was on to the next further down the path. We saw four today, all male.



A sweet nashville warbler at prairie park.



A spotted sandpiper meanders near the pond on the path closest to the birch trees and bench at Northern Illinois University.


I watched this solitary sandpiper eat what looked like a worm in two seconds flat.


 Indigo bunting, a first for my yard .. took this pic through my window without checking settings because I was so excited!


and a few lincoln sparrows visit my yard too!

Total species count for the day was 54 with individual totals of 427 birds  
Great day!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Great Gray Day

Viewing the Middleton, Wisconsin Great Gray Owl

High up on my bucket list is seeing a great gray owl with my husband. I imagine a scene with snow gently falling as we hike through the forest. Huge flakes melting on our tongues and faces while all is silent around us. We look up at the very same moment and there it is ... a beautiful Great Gray Owl looking at us looking at him. Beautiful silence, soft falling snow, a hooting great gray owl and us holding hands and our breath in awe. This vision and bucket list sighting was planted in my hope and dreams after seeing the Great Gray Owl scene in the movie The Big Year. The character played by Jack Black and his father see a great gray together in a touching peaceful winter scene. I thinks it is the best scene in the movie.


An opportunity presented itself during the month of March as many birders were blessed with a few Great Gray Owl sightings in Wisconsin. My husband and I decided to visit the owl who chose the Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin as a rest stop. What we saw when we got there was not a dreamy winter woodland setting. It wasn’t snowing and we weren’t alone. This owl decided on a rest stop right in the middle of civilization! We viewed the owl on Terrance avenue just past the brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin.


While we were there the owl flew down from a tree into a pile of bricks and ate something twice, probably mice. It flew to perch on a pick up truck and sat for hours watching, listening. My husband put his arm around me and smiled as we watched the owl watching us. It was more than amazing.


It watched planes and hawks that passed by as well as people. I was hoping it would fly over to the tree that we heard it favored while we were visiting but it really seemed to enjoy this truck. In fact it was still sitting on it when we left. Someone shared with us that this was a young owl, probably first winter. The brown tuft on it’s tail feathers was a sign. No one knew if it was a male or female.


Just look at it strutting it’s stuff across the back of the truck! Goose bumps. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would EVER watch a Great Gray Owl walk along the back of a pick up truck. Sometimes those out the park (or forest in this case) moments are the most memorable. I will always remember this Great Gray Day. This great gray strut .. great great stuff. Bucket list stuff. Check.


This sweet Great Gray Owl gifted it’s presence to an uncountable number of people who had never seen a Great Gray Owl  before. A life sighting for many, many thankful people. I watched a local preschool class walk along the side walk a nice distance from the owl, children pointing, smiling. How wonderful those teachers were able to share this wonderful experience with them. A mother took her child to see the owl. They watched the owl in awe together right next to me. Finally the mother said “Are you ready to go?” The enchanted little girl sighed and waved goodbye to the owl. So sweet.  This sighting wasn’t anything like I had imagined it would be, but it was just as awe inspiring to view the owl in this unique setting with the many other people who truly enjoyed this experience.

Bless this charming owl during it's visit to Middleton, Wisconsin as well as it’s journey back home.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

More Than Meets The Eye

Rotary Park and Pond

At first glance you might just pass this park by.. DON'T! 
Take a closer look. There really is more up close and beautiful than that first glance may share. Rotary park has a small pond in an industry setting with views of railroad tracks and the old coal chute and coaling tower. You may also notice the lovely reflections of the towns water tower that ripple across the pond surface as you walk around the pond. In spring migrating waterfowl stop to rest and feed before heading back home. During my recent visits common golden eye, greater and lesser scaup, northern shoveler and common loon have come to visit the pond.



 Common Goldeneye coming in for a landing. 
They weren't here when I first arrived so this was very exciting to watch them arrive!



I think they like it here! 


A combined view sharing of a mix of Lesser and Greater Scaups enjoying their time at Rotary Pond.



A view of the top of the coaling tower behind the pond. A pigeon seems to have taken residency.

 A reflective view from the pond of the top of the coaling tower.


Northern Shoveler in the back pond. As you walk around the pond you will notice a smaller pond behind the main pond that is also being enjoyed by migrating visitors each spring.



This common loon was my favorite sighting this spring so far. We see them in our area for such a brief time each spring. I love to walk along the pond and watch them move across the water's surface as they look for their next meal. It is like water ballet. Such a beautiful bird!


The distance around the whole pond is a mile. 
It is a good walk with good views to enjoy along the way.

Rotary Park
1650 State Street
DeKalb, Illinois 60115

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Red-winged, Grackles and Cowbirds, "Oh my!"

Witnessing Spring Blackbird Migration

Taking a wrong turn led us (my husband and I) to seeing this bumper crop of blackbirds. We were suddenly in a Hitchcock scene. After watching miles of blackbirds flood past us we finally parked the car to watch .. our jaws locked open. By the thousands, blackbird after blackbird traveled through fields along a rural country road in Earlville, Illinois. My head felt like the carriage return bar on a type writer ..... back and fourth, and quickly back again. They just kept coming!


 The star of the show for me was this rusty blackbird in the mix.  This one is still molting  into adult color. Adult males have a dark sleek sheen all over. By spring most of the rusty feather edges of a rusty blackbird have faded. I was blessed to see this phase, wrong turns sometimes happen for a reason. Yes, that’s right, I am justifying getting lost.


As we sat back to watch the show, a scene from the Three Stooges emerged. Larry the rusty blackbird, Mo the red-winged blackbird and Curly the brown-headed cowbird work the field for available seed and food.


Communication is key as they move. Instinctually they spread the word, a sudden downpour of birds land in the field. This stretch of farmland provided good nutrition and seed for the many types of blackbirds that traveled together in this massive flock. As the flock passes each destination in their route I imagine that a batch of each type drop away from the group to choose their spring home until the flock has dispersed.


I noticed that many of the female birds stayed along the outer edges to feed while the males took center field. These are female brown-headed cowbirds.


I believe the lighter birds in this passing flock may be female brown-headed cowbirds. Watching so many pass by at once makes your head spin. It is really hard to take in so much stimuli at one time. Focus is really difficult. Can you imagine being a hawk or other predator noticing this flock? The movement and noise would be so overwhelming to it’s senses that it probably would hesitate to approach. I wouldn't know which one to go for. I am sure that is one of the reasons blackbirds form these enormous flocks as they migrate to their new spring homes.


Blackbirds, Grackles and Cowbirds, “Oh my!” 


 

Happy Spring!