Friday, May 20, 2011

Deer Antlers, Blue Eyed Grass, Jack in the Pulpit, and Eastern Tailed Blue Butterflies

 The White Tailed Deer at Springbrook look pretty bad right now.  The males are starting to grow new antlers after dropping the old ones a few months ago.  Their winter fur is falling out with the reddish summer fur comming in.  And they haven't had a chance to fatten up after geting so skinny during the long winter.  But the first fawns have been born.  Look for them in the next two weeks.
 The Blue Eyed Grass is blooming in Springbrook's prairies along with the Pussy Toes and the Prairie Smoke.  The Blue Eyed Grass is small, but a very pretty native lily (not a grass as name implies).  This one was near the south prairie trail.

In the wet woodlands the Marsh Marigold is just finishing blooming and the Nodding Trilliums are blooming, but it is a very good year for Jack in the Pulpits as you can see below.  I don't remember ever seeing as many as there are this year, all over the forest floor.
 There are big and little "Jacks," big bunches, and single ones out in the open.  Look for them in the wet woods anywhere  at Springbrook and other wooded areas.

And, finally, one of my favorites, the Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly.  They will be around for a couple of months, usually flying high in the trees.  This one was low yesterday getting some nectar from a wild Strawberry blossom in Springbrook's south prairie.  He looks like he has just emerged from his winter pupae state.  His wings are in perfect condition. Another was flying nearby.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

House Wrens Singing and Nest Building

House wrens returned yesterday, arriving from their winter quarters in the south.  They didn't even stop to take a breather from flying a thousand miles, but instantly began gathering twigs to construct their nest, and singing their pleasant song constantly.
Photographing wrens is difficult as they are constantly moving.  I took these pictures this morning at sunrise, before the shadows hid their quick movements.

This photo shows the typical wren pose.  Short wings, barred tail sticking up, and a blur of action as it moves through the wood pile under the white cedar.

Both the male and female build the nest.  After the nest is finished and the female is sitting on eggs, the male will fill every other cavity nearby with twigs.  He does this to keep other wrens from settling down nearby, and competing for the food supply he and his mate will need to feed their brood of up to ten babies in ten days.
Here he is singing. The whole body sort of quivers as he sings, making the feathers look blurry. You can see the throat is a bit distended, as he puffs air into it.

Spring is always in full swing by the time wrens arrive, and I always look forward to seeing and hearing them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Warblers Sparrows and Flickers

At Springbrook Nature Center's birdbanding project this morning we captured, banded, and released 110 birds representing 18 species!  A lot of new migrants just arrived, and were looking for food on this cold and windy day with occaisional snowflakes.

We caught several Orange Crowned Warblers including this "after second year" male. The males have more orange on their heads  than the females. The orange feathers in the crown are usually hidden and can only be seen when the wind blows the covering feathers apart.
 We also caught this Black and White warbler.  Black and Whites are early migrants and are often seen catching insects on the trunks of trees
 We caught four Lincoln Sparrows, a special treat as we seldom see them.  This one will join the others migrating farther north in Minnesota to nest.
The wing of a Northern Flicker woodpecker demonstrates that this is the "Yellow Shafted" form.  The Red Shafted form is found in the western US and rarely seen this far east.  This one was a brightly colored male.
In this picture you can see the Northern Flicker while we were banding it.  The aluminum band is on its leg.  The black mustache is what identifies this as a male.

After measuring, weighing, and collecting additional data, the birds are released as quickly as possible.

Next banding date is Saturday, May 12, beginning at 6:30 AM to 11:30.