Saturday, August 15, 2020

Grass Skippers Grace the Grassland!

 Restoring prairie is a lot of hard work but it's also a thrill--especially when prairie-associated wildlife start to return.   It's been wildly exciting this summer to discover some new "Grass Skippers" here at Bird Runner--that's the name given the butterfly sub-family that uses grasses and sedges as caterpillar host plants.    The Grass Skippers below alighted in or near the bottomland prairie restoration in our Creek Field, next to McDowell Creek in Geary County, Kansas.

This Arogos Skipper (Atrytone arogos) came to get minerals from the stones and mud on the banks of McDowell Creek (August 2020):

 

Arogos Skipper caterpillars feed mostly on Big Bluestem and sometimes on Little Bluestem.   They weave two leaves together with silk to create a little shelter inside which they eat and grow.   

This Byssus Skipper (Problema byssus) came to nectar on Echinacea Purpurea in the Creek Field (August 4, 2020):

Bysssus Skippers use Eastern Gamma Grass as their caterpillar food plant.   Eastern Gamma Grass has been mostly grazed out of native pastures in the Flint Hills--but it's abundant in our ungrazed Creek Field prairie restoration.  

This Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris) was just basking on a leaf of Giant Ragweed in the Creek Field (August 4, 2020):

Dun Skippers' caterpillar food plants are sedges.   In this rainy year, sedges are flourishing in the Creek Field and in the uplands.

This Zabulon Skipper was basking on the leaf of a sunflower, Jerusalem Artichoke, in the Creek Field (June 9, 2020):

Zabulon Skipper caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses, including wild ryes and Wheatgrass.  

When native plants take hold, energy extends to other species, seen and unseen.   Believe it or not, it's something we humans can feel.  It's exhilarating!  These little Grass Skippers are messengers from a restored landscape, increasingly charged.


Friday, August 14, 2020

Buntings and Grosbeaks on McDowell Creek



 
 The creek is a magnet!   Here is an immature Indigo Bunting having a bath, while an adult Indigo Bunting sings overhead:

Adult male Indigo Buntings, unmistakable in their iridescent blue, come to feed on the weeds that spring up along the creek.  Below an adult male feeds on Green Foxtail, Marestail, and Barnyard Grass:

The female and immature Indigos have brown feathers designed to blend in.   Here the male is shadowed by a cryptically colored female or fledgling:

In the video below, a juvenile Painted Bunting also comes to bathe in the creek:

Meanwhile, a female Blue Grosbeak, accompanied by an immature or molting male, is drawn to the creek:  


A first-summer male Blue Grosbeak practices his chip call and little bit of song from the weeds along the creek.    The clip below catches him exercising his voice while perching safely on the Jerusalem Artichoke sunflowers and the Giant Ragweed that grew up on the gravel bar:



 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Goldfinches at McDowell Creek

 McDowell Creek has been a magnet for Goldfinches this summer--male Goldfinches, that is.  They come every evening to sing a little bit and drink from the creek.

The females are sitting on nests and don't leave until the youngsters fledge.   The males feed their mates with partially digested seeds.   I hope to see the moms and the new ones later in the summer or early in the fall.   

Monday, August 10, 2020

Butterflies Imbibing Minerals by McDowell Creek

What are you seeing on your walks in nature?  Send comments, photos, or videos to betsy@audubonofkansas.org   Here are some things we're seeing:

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Local Musicians Find Refuge at AOK Legacy Sanctuary

During the hottest days of summer, McDowell Creek has been a refuge.   Local musicians, looking for a safe outdoor space to get together, came to Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge to play and sing next to (and in some cases in!) McDowell Creek:  




Local musicians jam while dusk falls on McDowell Creek, July 30, 2020.

But these Homo sapiens aren't the only singers on the creek.   Dickcissels sing constantly, sometimes from the electrical wire above the creek.  Here a male Dickcissels belts out his song, accompanied by flowing water:



You can hear the Dickcissels singing as these American Goldfinches come to drink.  But the goldfinches also sing, sometimes from the same wire:


It would be a first for Bird Runner if expert birders are right.  They think this singer in a tree by the creek is a Rose-breasted Grosbeak:





All musicians at the creek in July are accompanied by the original percussionists, chorusing frogs!   Here Blanchard's Cricket Frogs lay down quite a beat:


It's the season of songs!   Let's store up the music to last us when the blustery winds of winter are what we hear instead.