Shared Signs of the Season!

First Bird Nest of the Season

March 22,  2024 by Genesis Gordon

 

Staff member Genesis Gordon spotted her first nest of the season!  It belongs to a Mourning Dove.  They typically nest amid dense foliage on the branch of an evergreen, orchard tree, mesquite, cottonwood, or vine. They also quite commonly nest on the ground. Unbothered by nesting around humans, Mourning Doves may even nest on gutters, eaves, or abandoned equipment.  They are known for their less than wise nesting locations.  

Nest in a tree stump showing two small, white eggs.

The Bees are Back

April 28, 2021 by Dave Krier

 

Both of these pictures are of native bumblebees.  Bumblebees are quite large, and these are nearly 1” long.  They are likely the B. Impatiens, or common eastern bumblebee.  On the hyacinth, you can clearly see the very long tongue of the bumblebee.  It didn’t dart in and out – it stayed extended even as the bee moved between different flowers.   It looks like a giant stinger, but it is really the tongue, going into the long, deep flowers to get nectar and pollen.

The other plant is creeping Charlie – the bane of many a homeowner’s yard.   It was introduced to North America from Europe, who correctly thought it would be a good groundcover for shade. But it is allelopathic, meaning it releases biochemicals (herbicides basically) that reduce the strength of surrounding plants, thus reducing diversity.  It can be beneficial to pollinators, however, if not allowed to eliminate other plants.  Creeping Charlie flowers utilize a strategy known at ‘lucky hit’ – most of the flowers have almost no nectar, but about 10% have a very large amount of nectar, rewarding the bees for moving between many flowers and pollenating the plant!

Native bumblebee on creeping Charlie

 

 

 

Native bumblebee on a flower

Bristly Buttercup

April 28, 2021 by Dave Krier

 

It sounds a bit paradoxical, but this is a bristly buttercup.  It is native to the US and Canada; a buttercup often found in damp areas. 

 

 

 

 

Bristly buttercup

Another Bee!

April 19, 2021

 

We don’t usually think of maple trees as a flowering plant, but they are!  This is the blooming flower that is now out on a Norway Maple (native to, you guessed it, Norway) with a native bee.  Bees can be hard to identify, and this is probably a leaf-cutter or miner bee, a solitary bee native to Wisconsin.  The tree is surrounded by hundreds of these bees in a cloud all getting nectar and pollen off the flowers.

 

 

 

 

Bee on maple tree flower

Bee Diversity

April 17, 2021 by Dave Krier

 

This is the blooming flower of a pussy willow.  They are one of our earliest, native, blooming shrubs, and for a week or so they are a significant source of pollen and nectar for pollinators.  This picture shows two bees.  One is a honey bee, which is non-native but important to us for producing honey and pollination, and they are a colony-forming bee, living with thousands of their kind.

The other bee, the black one slightly behing the twig, is a native, small carpenter bee.  Small carpenter bees are solitary, living alone.  A female small carpenter bee typically nests inside of hollow twigs and plant stems, which is one reason it is important to leave flower stems up in the garden over the winter. To create their nests, the females often dig out the soft, central pith to create a tunnel.

Both of these species are generalists, meaning they can forage on a wide variety of flowers.

 

 

 

honey and small carpenter bees on pussy willow flower

Meet the Hyacinth

April 17, 2021 by Dave Krier

 

The hyacinth is a spring-blooming perennial in the asparagus family.  It is native to Bulgaria and Palestine.  The bulbs are poisonous, and handling them can cause mild skin irritation.

 

 

 

A hyacinth in bloom

A dainty crocus

March 25, 2021

 

This dainty but distinctive flower was photographed by Dave Krier in his yard.  Although its native habitat is the Alps, it’s beauty is a definite sign of spring.

 

 

 

Crocus photo by Dave Krier

Beavers at work!

March 25, 2021

 

During a recent presentation by Tracy Hames, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, he discussed the benefits of beaver dams slowing down water and increasing wetland areas in the preservation of soil an prevention of erosion.  This photo by Nan Marshall shows the work of beavers and their nice semi-circular dam.

Big tree felled by beavers

 

 

Dam built by beavers

An interesting find during an early spring hike

March 22, 2021

 

This deer skull was found by Dave Krier during one of his early spring hikes in the Viroqua area.  Spring is a great time of year for spotting treasures before the grass gets too tall.

 

 

Deer skull photo by Dave Krier

Spring comes early to wetland areas

March 22, 2021

 

Dave Krier spotted this colorful skunk cabbage amongst the grasses.

 

 

Skunk cabbage photo by Dave Krier

Concerned about bird strikes on your windows?  Here’s something to try.

March 5, 2021

 

Dave Krier fashioned this window protector that is supposed to help avoid bird strikes.  He’s not tried this kind before, but it gets high ratings in the bird community.  Easy to make, with paracord in 4″ centers, he used a vinyl J-channel at the top to attach the cords and left them free at the bottom.  Dave reports that they don’t really obstruct the view, and he enjoys the movement of the cords in the wind.

 

 

Homemade window bird-strike protector

Cedar Waxwings and Robin at Birdbath

March 2, 2021

 

Dave Krier is starting us off this spring season with a picture of cedar waxwings and a robin at his birdbath.  The warmer weather really is making it feel like spring (event if it is a tad early!).  What birds are you seeing?

 

 

Cedar waxwings and robin at March birdbath

Wild Chicory – by Dave Krier

July 23, 2020

 

This blue flower is now blooming everywhere along our country roadsides.  It is the wild chicory. Originally native to eastern Russia and western Asia, it is now naturalized all over North America.  The roots of wild chicory are used as a coffee substitute, especially in the southern US.  The cultivated version of this wild plant is the endive – substantially different from this wild version!

 

 

Wild chicory flower - by Dave Krier

Meet the Mayfly – by Dave Krier

July 9, 2020

 

Mayflies can hatch in many months of the year, April thru October, and the different types are known by such names as Hendrickson, Sulphur Duns, March Browns, Hexagenia, Blue Winged Olives, and Tricos.  Fishermen will recognize these as different hatches to use different flies (lures) to catch trout.

The phase of the lifecycle we most often see, when we see these ‘flies’ flitting around, is usually only a day or two long and is when the male and female mate, then die.  The rest of their life is spent underwater as a nymph, up to two years!

 Some towns celebrate the mass hatches of mayflies flying around (such as Savanna, IL, with their Shadfly Days), and they can sometimes be seen on radar if the hatch is large enough.  The La Crosse airport will sometimes post radar images of huge hatches on the Mississippi River.

The mayfly on the right was in my back yard a year ago.  The ones shown below are from a recent hatching in Viroqua seen on the sidewalk in town.

  Mayflies on sidewalk by Dave Krier

 

Mayfly on post by Dave Krier

Fascinating Dragonflies – by Dave Krier

June 25, 2020

 

Dragonflies will live as a nymph in the water for up to four years, going through various stages of growing until they become an adult dragonfly.  As they emerge from the water, they shed their ‘skin’ and spread wings to become an adult. They usually last for just a few months before they die. 

As a nymph and an adult, they are voracious eaters.  An adult dragonfly eats its own weight in other insects in about 30 minutes and will eat over 100 mosquitoes in a day!  They can fly over 30 mph, and there are 5,000 species across the world.

Dragonfly nymph

Dragonfly nymph

 

Dragonfly

American Toad on the Road (or garden, at least) – by Dave Krier

June 3, 2020

 

Another picture of an American Toad – this one in a garden with no surface water nearby (the last American Toad picture was of one underwater in a stream). Shows the diversity of habitat they can live in!

 

 

American Toad in a garden by Dave Krier

Blooming Colors – by Dave Krier

May 29, 2020

 

Two plants blooming in our yard right now…the orangish one is Dutchman’s Breeches, a native woodland plant to North America. Closely related is the pink Bleeding Heart, originating from Southeast Asia but now naturalized here. The flowers are pollinated by bumble bees, and my wife and I have seen hummingbirds at both.

Pink bleeding heart flower

 

Dutchman's Breeches photo by Dave Krier

Hidden Wren – by Dave Krier

May 23, 2020

 

A wren sticking it’s head out of a hole in a birch tree stump, with a mushroom overhang.

 

Wren peeking out of nest

Pickerel Frog – by Dave Krier

May 21, 2020

 

Native Pickerel frog in a stream, spotted while collecting water quality samples the other day (note sunshine!).

 

Pickerel frog in the sun

Toad Underway – by Dave Krier

May 20, 2020

 

An American Toad yesterday underwater on a local creek.

 

American toad underwater

May Day May Baskets Constructed by Birds! – by Susan Reed and Peter Schmidt

May 1, 2020

 

Quite a variety in nest designs and locations can be spotted around the area.  Spring is really here!  Enjoy the warmer weather by getting outside and seeing how many different types of nests you can spot.

 

Pussy willow catkins by Dave Krier

Tri-Color Bumblebee – by Dave Krier

April 30, 2020

 

This is a tri-colored bumble bee I saw on a pussy willow in Viroqua earlier this week. It’s relatively rare this far south, as it’s territory is generally further north than around here. It’s a ground-nesting native bumble bee, and this queen and it’s colony will live through the year, producing honey and larvae.  Then all the bees will die until the larvae hatch next spring! 

 

Pussy willow catkins by Dave Krier

Spring Photo Collage – by Susan Reed and Peter Schmidt

April 23, 2020

 

Birds and blooms from around the area!  Beautiful bursts of color.

 

Pussy willow catkins by Dave Krier

Close Ups – by Dave Krier

April 22, 2020

 

Dave is having fun with his spotting scope again!  Great weather for spying on painted turtles and a goose on it’s nest.  Or is the goose spying on him?

Painted turtle on log close-upPainted turtles on a log

 

 

Pussy willow catkins by Dave Krier

Sun Halo – by Dave Krier

April 11, 2020

 

Here’s a sun halo from yesterday afternoon, caused by small, unaligned ice particles in the upper atmosphere (3 – 6 miles high). The circle is at a radius of 22°. This isn’t a sun dog, which are bright spots on either side of the sun, caused when the ice particles are plate-shaped.

 

Sun halo by Dave Krier

Daffodil Appearance – by Dave Krier

April 7, 2020

 

Most years daffodils just seem to appear; all of a sudden they’re blooming. This year, with all my extra time, I’ve been watching the daffodils in front of the house appear almost in slow motion – the buds sloooowly elongating, getting yellow, and, today, finally opening.

 

Daffodils by Dave Krier

Northern Flickers Return – by Dave Krier

April 6, 2020

 

For the last four days we’ve had a pair of northern flickers visiting  (also called yellow-shafted flickers – look at the yellow underneath her tail feathers). They’re a woodpecker, but they spend most of their time on the ground eating ants and bugs. They migrate, so unlike other woodpeckers they’re just coming back for the summer. I hope they stick around! Still playing with my scope – the more vibrant picture is evening/outside; the paler picture is morning/from inside.

Northern Flicker from behind at suet

Northern Flicker in evening at suet cake

Bird Extravaganza – by Nan Marshall

April 6, 2020

 

I was a little slow with the camera, but as I strolled down a country road this morning I was able to see an eagle bringing food back to it’s nest.  It then took off right over my head in search of more tidbits for it’s young.  The nest is old and deep, so I couldn’t see how many little ones are in it.  

Shortly aferward, 3 Sandhill Cranes flew over my head! 

I also enjoyed the sounds of a whole host of small songbirds going about their business.  All these signs of spring lifted my heart!

 

Bright Spots of Color – by Dave Krier

April 3, 2020

 

Crocus blooming, spotted on a walk around Viroqua yesterday. They’re native to Eastern Europe but have naturalized here in North America. One of the earliest blooming bulbs.

Small bunch of purple crocus

Woodpecker – by Jeremy Hiles

April 2, 2020

 

Jeremy caught this woodpecker in action this morning in the Viroqua area!

Woodpecker in tree

Bird Spotting – by Dave Krier

April 1, 2020

 

Last year I got a spotting scope, and I have been using this time to learn how to digiscope – use a cell phone camera to take pictures through the scope…here’s one of the first usable ones, from this morning, in Viroqua, of a Mourning Dove.

Mourning dove in tree

Garlic is Springing Up – by Dave Krier

March 31, 2020

Garlic is starting to come up through the straw in the garden. I guess spring really is coming…

Garlic sprouts popping out of ground

 Buds Popping Up! – by Dave Krier

March 27, 2020

 

I’m not often much for sketching, but seeing these in the backyard (and with some alone-time) made me really look at the differences in the bud casings of a pussy willow (below) and maple tree (left).

 

Sketch of maple tree buds

First Signs of Spring – by Marcia Halligan

March 27, 2020

 

Blessings to all lovers of the natural world. Steven heard the first spring peeper songs last evening. For a few days the first delicate crocus blooms prepared to open. Today’s sun induced them to do so. I picked the first tiny bouquet and placed it in an ornate toothpick holder as a start to admiring the beauty of the season.

The soft maple shows the purple that preludes its coming awake. A hint of green to come on the willow branches adds them to that parade that will proceed.

Domestically, my cat now sheds his fur, an inside and outside sign of spring.

Hopefully we can all find beauty within ourselves and ways to help keep each other positive and strong in this trying time.

Spring Peeper photo by Ariel Lepito

Spring peeper photo by Aerial Lepito