Pâques

The French word for Easter is Pâques. This is where the term for an early-blooming prairie plant, the pasque flower (Pulsatilla patens or Anemone patens), comes from. On Saturday they dotted hillsides with their pale purple flowers, both at a local prairie I was doing volunteer work at and atop hills overlooking the Wisconsin River where I spent my afternoon.

The birds were out just like the pasque flowers were. In the brush along the river I heard my first-of-year house wren (Troglodytes aedon). Whenever I hear a bird again for the first time in the spring it takes me a few seconds to recognize it, even for common birds. Once I realized what it was I went looking and found it slinking through the barren branches near a slow-moving tributary. On the crest of a tall prairie bluff, I saw my FOY field sparrow (Spizella pusilla). Down below I saw a large white patch on an island. When I looked through my binoculars I did not expect to see a mass of birds, but there they were. I was not quite sure what they were until one stretched its wing, revealing a large black patch. They were my FOY American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).

Field sparrow

The lowland forests contained herpetological treasures. In one spot on the river I saw 5 northern map turtles (Graptemys geographica), my first of the year.

Northern map turtles

Farther from the river, by a small pool, I startled a frog and it ducked into the water to avoid my detection. Fortunately for me, it decided to “hide” practically at my feet. I got a few pictures of this wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) before Jon stepped in to take my place and got a few pictures for himself.

Wood frog

Oh, and there were butterflies. The upland ones stayed low due to the wind, but they were flying around enough for me to take notice. This American lady (Vanessa virginiensis), gorgeous both with its wings open and closed, caught my eye.

In the lowlands there were a few spring azures (Celastrina ladon), a butterfly I had never identified before, and red admirals (Vanessa atalanta). Spring azures may look drab blue-gray when they rest, but the uppersides of their wings are a mesmerizing blue noticeable in flight.

You can see a sliver of the blue in this resting spring azure

Red admirals are a common yet stunning species. At our longest trek through the lowland forest, Jon and I saw a handful of these along a gravel road. I took the picture below when we went off trail and found one in a relatively open area.

The day before Easter was a wonderful spring day full of a variety of animals and even a literal Easter flower. I hope everyone had as nice of a weekend as I did.

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