In a week I will be moving out of my parents’ house and into the city. It’s fitting then that today’s post would celebrate their backyard. This is the only house my brother and I were raised in and it’s where I learned the basics of bird identification. Today I was sitting near the back windows watching some Netflix when movement out in the woods caught my eye. All the birds were low to the ground. At about eye level I made out a great crested flycatcher, a Baltimore oriole, a blue jay, and a rose-breasted grosbeak.
The flycatcher was the biggest surprise because they’re usually hidden high in the canopy. I hear them more often then I see them. They have distinct calls- a whistled “wheep” and a buzzy “creep.” The bird flew around a bit and eventually landed on an open branch where I was able to snap some pictures of it.
I also got a picture of a ruby-throated hummingbird. I had been trying to take a satisfactory picture of one for about a week. They are difficult subjects- fast, tiny, and not apt to stick around for long. After grabbing my camera and snapping whenever the feeder was busy I finally got a shot of a male that made the cut.
My apartment life in Madison won’t have the same experiences as my suburban life with my family but Madison has pockets of nature. I’ll be living close to the arboretum and I plan on checking that out frequently along with other spots that were never as close and convenient when living on the far west side. It’s going to be a change of scenery, but I will not stop being a nature lover.
I went back to Stricker’s Pond a few days ago. This time it was closer to midday so the lotus flowers were open. I took some flower pictures and also some of dried pods that I got a closer look at. Consider this more of a “bonus materials” feature of my first post than an original one.
Last night brought more rain to southern Wisconsin, bringing the mosquitoes back to their peak after a few days of relative relief. That same night I heard the fall songbird migration had reached our area but this morning I wanted to stay out in the sun where there would be fewer mosquitoes- but fewer birds as well. I went out after breakfast to explore the parks of Middleton to see what I could find.
The predominant color for flowers right now is yellow. This was most striking in the form of cup plant (Silphium perforliatum) and compass plant (Silphium laciniatum).
Cup plant has an unique leaf shape that traps water. Small animals can even take a sip from it. With last night’s rains, there was still water in many of the namesake cups.
Cup plant thrives in open areas with a scattered trees, and I saw many of them at both Stricker’s Pond and the Pheasant Branch preserve. Contrast this with compass plant which I find in more open areas (cup plant does great at my parents’ partially shaded lot while compass plant fares poorly). I found a few compass plants at the sunnier part of the Stricker’s Pond park.
It was a hot day and I got a late start so I didn’t see a lot of animals. American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) and cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were my most seen birds of the day. The turtles were in abundance. I didn’t see any snappers today but Wisconsin’s omnipresent painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) were busy sunning on logs before it got too hot.
If you want to see a painted turtle in the Madison area, just go to any calm body of water. If it’s not winter, you’ll see one. They are “painted” in red and yellow on an overall dark body. However, you will see an occasional one covered in duckweed like I did. Then it will be green.
Last evening I went to Stricker’s and Tiedeman’s Ponds in Middleton, a western suburb of Madison, to take pictures of the lotus plants.
The American lotus, Nelumbo lutea, is a large water plant. The stalks of this plant are thick and the leaves and flowers rise a few feet above the surface of the water. It is almost like a low forest on top of the water.
The flowers of the American lotus are pale yellow. A few were still blooming when I was there.
On a lot of the flowers the petals had fallen off and the most eye-catching part was the strange seed pod. When I found out about these plants in my pre-teen years my mind was blown. I had never seen anything quite like them. The seed pods are rather large and they remind me of shower heads.
Those little dots are the seeds. When the pod matures it turns brown, hardens, and is surprisingly hardy; I have had a few of them in my room for over a decade now. Below is a picture of some dried pods on the edge of Stricker’s Pond this March.
The American lotus is only one of two extant members of its genus and the only one native to the Americas. This might explain why they seem so unique to me even after all these years.