This time of year I normally visit Goose Lake Prairie in Grundy County, but I wasn’t going to go that far or walk that much this year, so I followed through with my Fourth-of-July unfulfilled plan and went to Orland Grassland Saturday morning. Orland, which is reclaimed farmland, is surrounded by development, but it’s large enough to afford considerable habitat and much has been restored. Next time I’ll use the ebird app and do a checklist. This time I just wanted to get a feel for the place and see how much walking I could manage before the sun reached an intolerable height in the sky.
Dickcissels were abundant, but in general I heard more birds than I saw, or the birds I did see were pretty far away like the Eastern Meadowlark below.
There were a lot of Eastern Kingbirds and Tree Swallows hunting insects.
I caught glimpses of a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret. Later two Great Blues flew overhead.
An assortment of beautiful dragonflies made themselves available for photographs.
Widow Skimmer (Female)
I really couldn’t get enough of the Halloween Pennant. What a dazzling creature.
All I can say is I’ll have to go back to Orland soon. But this weekend I am off to Michigan to meet friends and find more birds and plants and insects… I will be back, I hope, with much to report.
I envisioned another two-locale outing yesterday morning, but never made it to the second spot, since there was quite enough to keep me busy at Orland Grassland. This is another reclaimed farm property becoming restored habitat, and it’s not far from Bartel, so if there were not quite so many strip malls and subdivisions in between you could almost envision a habitat corridor for grassland birds.
(The Field Sparrow above was friendly, but not singing. Although there were several others singing I was unable to record them. The closest one stopped singing the minute I turned on the recorder, of course.)
Juvenile Eastern Meadowlark
Juvenile Eastern Phoebe
Indeed driving just farther south than McGinnis Slough to reach Orland the feeling is never-ending suburban sprawl. Although Orland Grassland is much better established than it was last time I visited which was several years ago, and it is possible to look in at least one direction without seeing a building or utility tower on the horizon, I still could not escape the feeling of fragility, whether it was the helicopters overhead reminding me of civilization or the huge Ace Hardware warehouse looming at one corner of the preserve as I headed back to the parking lot.
A field of Bergamot
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
I managed to walk the perimeter of barely half of the 960 acre preserve, which I estimate to be about a mile one way, before turning around and heading back. I was stopped at every turn either by a bird, an interesting insect, or a wildflower. For the time being the trails are mown paths, often restructured with dried tire ruts from the last rainstorm, but I understand a paved trail is in the offing. I would rather stumble along a mown path. With the exception of a couple people walking their dogs, I was the only person at Orland yesterday morning.
Fields of Monarda seemed to attract butterflies, bees, and of particular interest to me, a hummingbird. This was my first good look at a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird this season. The welcome mat has been out in my backyard for months: I hope to see them soon at the feeders.
Juvenile Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
It was difficult to get a good image of the Katydid below but my, what long legs you have, and long antenna, and, well, a miniature marvel. The pondhawks and skimmers were more accommodating.
Meadow Katydid, I think…
White-Faced Meadowhawk Male
Colorful beetles, dragonflies…
Goldenrod Soldier Beetles on Rattlesnake Master
Eastern Pondhawk female
After a while other plants interrupted the field of Bergamot and sadly, so far, I can identify only one of them.
Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)
Then of course there were butterflies. I think the first one below is some sort of Checkerspot but I cannot seem to locate it readily. I have to look harder.
Update: thanks to Mary Lee’s comment below I finally looked up the Crescents and I think I have identified this butterfly. Thanks, Mary Lee!
Thanks to Linda Padera I now have the correct ID for the Crescent – it is a Pearl.
Linda says this is a Pearl Crescent
Not a butterfly but always a welcome sighting, this Northern Flicker was one of four or more. Now that nesting is over they are perhaps a bit less shy. In all I had 30 bird species on my list but I probably saw only 20.
Male Northern Flicker
There were a lot of Viceroy Butterflies. I may have seen one Monarch but it was at a distance and it disappeared before I could be sure of the identification
Walking through Orland this morning was magical and mournful at the same time. Whenever I have a fleeting moment of superb reality, I seem to focus more on the fleeting than the moment itself.
It’s time to go back to work. It’s been a nice weekend, but there’s a lot more to be done.