Today I headed back to Lodi Marsh to see what it’s like in summer. Spoiler alert: it is great. There was much more animal activity than the times I went in February and April. Having never been to the SNA until this year, I didn’t know what it would hold but I was pleasantly surprised.
I stuck to the prairie, as the path down to the marsh was thick with poison ivy. As I was making my way up the hill, a brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) kept me company as it sang from the tree line. This mimid repeats a seemingly random series of lines in pairs of two. I heard it all the while I climbed.
The next bird sighting really surprised me. I have seen over 200 species in Wisconsin so I’ve added most of the common ones to my list. Additions to my life list in this state are not frequent, just a few a year, but there are still some less common birds I haven’t seen yet. One of these was on my wish list… until today. I have finally seen Henslow’s sparrows (Ammodramus henslowii). These grassland birds are the decline, mostly due to habitat loss, so the prairies that host them are very special indeed.
Up at the top of the hill I had a few butterfly encounters. The most adorned one, and also a new one for me, was the common buckeye (Junonia coenia).
On the far (southern) side of the hill I ran into the bluest bird in the state: the indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea).
The hour was growing close to noon as I retraced my steps back down the north side of the hill (with Henslow’s sparrows making another appearance) and back through the low areas. Down near the trailhead it was butterflies galore. Here are the highlights: I saw a few of my lifer eyed browns (Satyrodes eurydice) as well as a chance to view up close some of the fritillaries that had been avoiding my presence on the rest of the hike. I knew they were definitely some species of the large, orangey butterflies as I made my way through the prairie but I couldn’t tell which ones. They were always on the go.
These ones, however, were feasting. I flushed them as I walked close, unaware of their presence. I noticed the food they had left behind (more on that later) and decided to back up to see if they would return to their meal. They did- and I didn’t even have to back up that far. I was able to slowly walk back toward them and snap a few pictures so I could identify them later. This proved to be no easy task, as two of the species we get here are irritatingly similar. After an hour or so of studying pictures and species descriptions I have arrived at the tentative conclusion that the one in the background is a great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) and the one in the foreground is an Aphrodite fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite).
One field mark the accounts say separates the two is a small marking on the Aphrodite’s upper wing. I’ve circled it in the picture below.
This being said, butterfly identification makes birds and herps look like a walk in the park. I make no claims as to the exact identity of these butterflies.
I will keep Lodi Marsh in my mental list of places to go year-round. It is certainly a prairie with a lot going on, from sparrows to fritillaries.