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It’s almost spring!  According to the calendar, we’ve got less than two weeks until winter officially ends and spring begins.  There are lots of subtle (and not so subtle) clues that spring is just around the corner and I love discovering them one by one.

The temperature is starting to warm up a little, the days are lighter for longer periods of time, the birds seem to be a bit more chatty, and the tulips and daffodils have started to peak out of the ground in my yard!  Note that I’m intentionally ignoring the 4-8″ of snow that’s predicted for today…

Canada Geese in flight

Look no further than just above your head and you’ll likely see or hear birds in migration.  While it’s still a little early for most migrating birds to make their way back to Wisconsin and beyond, I’m beginning to notice more geese, sandhill cranes, and even turkey vultures flying overhead.  On particularly sunny days, robins can be heard barking up a storm while chickadees belt out their classic “deee-deee” call.  It’s a wonderful cacophony of sounds that will only get better as the days get warmer!

American Bladdernut seed pod

If you’re out on a hike and you happen to be near a wooded slope, riverbank, or mesic woodland, you may stumble upon these odd papery seed pods that contain a few seeds that resemble popcorn kernels (they are roughly the same size as well).  The seed pods are usually in a cluster and connected to a short-growing shrub.

The plant is called American bladdernut and it’s a native understory shrub in Wisconsin.  The seed pods manage to hang onto the shrub well into winter and can be found rattling in the wind.

Cooper’s hawk perched in a tree

This time of year is great for watching birds of prey since there is very little foliage for them to hide in.  It seems that lately I’ve seen more hawks being chased by crows than hawks chasing their own prey, and part of that is due to their inability to remain undetected by crows while hunting for sparrows and small rodents.

In fact, one of the easiest ways to spot a bird of prey is to search for a noisy group of crows (a ‘murder’ of crows).  There’s a good chance that the crows aren’t simply making a ruckus for no reason.  Most of the time they’re actively harassing a larger bird until it leaves the area.

I hope you enjoyed my virtual nature tour and happy almost spring!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

Well, it’s the first week of February and up until this point, it hasn’t really felt like a true Wisconsin winter.  Overall, the days have been relatively warm and the snow has been seriously lacking.  This week there is predicted to be above-freezing temperatures mixed with some rain (fingers crossed it changes to snow).  This is a nice reminder to get outside while winter is still here and enjoy it before it’s gone!

Pileated woodpecker holes

While it may not seem like it at first glance, the forest is alive with activity this time of year!  A week or so ago, I went on a hike in Madison with some friends and family in search of owls.  We headed out just before sunset and in a matter of minutes we both saw and heard Great-horned owls overheard.  We also watched two yearling deer walk right across the trail we were on that were less than 25 yards away.

While that was very exciting, you certainly don’t need to see wildlife to appreciate them.  Sometimes, just knowing that they were there not too long ago is just as rewarding.  One of my favorite activities this time of year is searching for tracks and sign of wildlife.   Just the other day we found these enormous pileated woodpecker holes that were drilled in perfect line (see photo above).

Can you guess who made these tracks?

Finding fresh tracks in the snow is another way of knowing that some sort of creature was here not too long ago.  Although, if you have a child around the age of five, it’s possible the tracks you’re looking at were created by them.  For example, my son loves drawing bird tracks in the snow along the sidewalk on our morning walk to school.  They aren’t entirely convincing, but you still have to watch out.

The tracks above are from a crow that was casually walking down the sidewalk.  When the tracks are this fresh, you can even see the little pads on the bottom of the bird’s feet and the nails cutting through the snow.  It’s not hard to picture what this scene looked like in real time.

Red-tailed hawk talons

Speaking of bird feet, I was out the other day and stumbled upon a dead red-tailed hawk that was likely hit by a car.  I felt bad for the poor bird and decided to move it from the side of the road to the edge of the woods.  The last thing I’d want is for another animal to get hit by a car while trying to get to the hawk.

It was sad to see but also educational.  It’s not every day that you get to see a hawk up close.  It was so neat seeing the little scales on the bottom of the foot that act like sandpaper for extra grip when catching prey.  It was also cool to see just how large and sharp the talons are.  This was the foot of a hunter.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your month and drive safe out there!

See you next month!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

Happy holidays!  With the days officially getting longer and the New Year waiting for us just around the corner, there is a lot to celebrate and look forward to.  Regardless of what you choose to celebrate this time of year, I think it’s safe to say that nature ranks pretty high up there.  For the last week, I spent the holidays in Buffalo, NY with family and was able to witness just how beautiful (and terrifying) nature can be.

A chickadee gets a free lunch

There’s this special place in Buffalo that my wife Carolyn has gone to since she was a kid to feed local birds by hand.  At any moment, you could be up close and personal with a black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, or a white-breasted nuthatch.  It’s truly magical and every time we take a trip out east, we make it a priority to visit.  This year was the first time my son was able to experience it and we’re already looking forward to our next visit.

It’s these special connections with nature that make me feel especially thankful.  Public green spaces like this exist all over the place, and you don’t need to feed a bird by hand to experience the wonder.

Shoveling a path to get out of the house mid-blizzard

The day after we visited the chickadee park, Buffalo was hit with one of its worst blizzards recorded (I felt a little extra happy that we fattened up a few of those birds before the storm!)  The blizzard was incredible to watch from the safety of a house, but it was terrifying to see just how powerful nature can be.  There were 30-40mph sustained winds with gusts 70mph+ and near zero visibility.  By the end of the storm, Buffalo had about 43″ of snow with drifts topping over 10′.

Tucker deciding if going out back is worth it or not

As I watched my black lab Tucker leap out of the house and over the snow mound that had piled up against the back door, I immediately thought of the wildlife that were enduring the blizzard outside.  From the voles and mice buried several feet under the snow to the great-horned owls hunkered down in a cavity of a tree, it’s amazing to think about how well-adapted our local critters are to the environment.

Seeing what sort of conditions they have to deal with reminded me of how lucky I am to work for an organization that protects local habitat for wildlife.  They have a difficult enough time surviving out there.  Protecting land for them is the least we can do!

What 10 minutes in a blizzard looks like

We were lucky enough to have power throughout the entire blizzard and only suffered sore backs from endless shoveling.  All in all, it was a pretty great trip that helped me realize there’s a lot to be thankful for.

While you’re celebrating the holidays and ringing in the New Year, don’t forget to keep nature in mind.  Get outside, breathe in the fresh air, and think about all of the possibilities that the New Year will bring.  Cheers!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

See you next month!

We’re in the midst of the holiday season and I couldn’t think of a better reason to get out and explore nature.  Whether you’re finally finishing up the turkey leftovers in the fridge or getting ready to start decorating your yard with lights and snowmen, you should take a short break and go for a hike.  You probably won’t see any flowers blooming or warblers singing, but there’s still a world of beauty waiting for you out there, so let’s check it out!

Thimbleweed has gone to seed

One of the more peculiar flowers to set seed in the fall is thimbleweed.  Its cotton or cloud-like fluff contains dozens of seeds nestled within.  If you hold the fluff up to the sun, you can even see the individual seeds inside.  It’s one of my favorite plant species to collect seed from in the fall because of how soft it is and it can remain on the plant all winter!

Red Squirrel out and about

If you have spent just about any amount of time outside lately, you probably have noticed the chatty squirrels.  Red squirrels in particular can be very vocal and are often seen chasing off other species of squirrel that are twice their size.  They are extremely territorial which makes sense if you think about how much of their time is spent storing nuts and seeds so they have a food source to survive the winter.

American Bittersweet

Most of the colors that you experience towards the end of fall tend to be a little less vibrant than when fall is just beginning, so when you come across a patch of plants that are clementine orange and cherry red, your jaw just drops.  That’s what happened to me last week while out on a hike with my family.  I actually stopped in my tracks to investigate what was going on.

It turns out, the plant is a twining vine called American bittersweet and it is in fact sweet!  I have a bad habit of tasting things that I find in nature and after tasting these sweet berries my wife Carolyn informed me that they are in fact poisonous.  That’s why I keep her around!  So if you find some American bittersweet on your next hike, it’s best to simply admire the colors rather than the taste.

Students help plant prairie at Westport Prairie

Lastly, I’ll leave you with something to look forward to when spring rolls around.  Did you know that now is one of the best times of year to plant a prairie?  In fact, we just planted 5.5 acres out at Westport Prairie this week.  Many prairie plant species require a process called stratification.  Simply put, this process involves sowing seeds in the late fall or winter so that they are exposed to the cold for several months.  Once the seeds have gone through this cold period, they are ready to germinate come spring.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

See you next month!

Happy almost Halloween!  As I walk around my neighborhood admiring all of the scary decorations and thinking about what I should dress up with my son as, it’s hard not to notice how colorful everything is right now.  Some of the trees are so intensely orange and red that they look like they’re on fire.  Nature’s palette is on full display right now so get outside and enjoy it!  Here’s a little sample of some of the things I have discovered in the last few days.

Sumac is as red as ever

I have a love-hate relationship with smooth sumac.  It’s easy to see what makes it so pleasant this time of year.  The vibrant red color of the foliage is breathtaking and is very easy to spot from a distance out in nature.  While it is native to Wisconsin and provides food sources for many types of wildlife, it often gets very aggressive and can take over more sensitive habitat types like prairie and oak savanna.

Blue wood aster in full bloom

Despite the chilly nights and early morning frosts, there are still quite a few flower species that are blooming.  Asters are one of my favorite types of flowers because of how late in the season they hang on.  Their color seems to pop a little extra because most of the plants they are surrounded by have died back for the year and have turned brown.  These gorgeous whites, pinks, purples, and blues get to take center stage and I hope they stick around for just a little bit longer!

Goldenrod seed fluff

While the flowers of most species of goldenrod have come and gone, what’s arguably just as appealing to the eye is what comes after the flower.  If you were to go for a hike at just about any natural area this time of year, you would likely find many different species of plants that look like they’re covered in snow.

This fluff is is responsible for allowing certain types of plants to travel.  At the bottom of each piece of fluff is a tiny seed that gets carried off in the wind when the conditions are just right.  Most people probably picture themselves as a kid blowing dandelions into the wind, but there are actually a ton of different plants that use this method of reproduction (think of milkweed or cottonwood).

White snakeroot is in full bloom

Lastly, I’ll leave you with one more controversial plant (which seems fitting since it’s one of the last flowers to bloom depending on where you live).  It’s called white snakeroot and it got it’s name because of an old belief that the root of this plant cured snakebites.  It’s another plant that’s native to Wisconsin but can be very aggressive.  I have some growing in my own yard and as long as you don’t let it spread too much, it’s not that bad!

What is bad, is how toxic this plant is.  Back in colonial times, snakeroot was responsible for contaminating quite a bit of milk produced by cattle that consumed this plant while grazing.  I think I’ll just enjoy snakeroot for it’s beauty and will skip eating it as an afternoon snack.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

See you next month!

Happy fall!  Is it me or does it seem like summer flew by faster than ever this year? I’ve been intentionally ignoring all of the early signs of fall in hopes that summer will last just a little bit longer. I casually ignored the few trees in my neighborhood that started changing colors.  I refused to acknowledge the occasional Halloween decoration set out in my neighborhood.  I even made the conscious decision to be uncomfortable by wearing shorts on a day where pants would have been much smarter.

This past weekend I gave up and decided to fully embrace fall, flannel and all!  To celebrate the changing of seasons I watched football, went apple picking, and even set out a few of my own Halloween decorations.  It was a fantastic weekend.  While we’re all settling into fall, let’s see what’s going on in nature right now!

Hail in my backyard from a recent storm.

While out on a neighborhood jog the other day, I was struck (literally) by hail falling from the sky.  When I started my roughly 20-minute jog it was 75F, blue skies, and not a cloud to be seen.  It ended with dark skies, pouring rain (which eventually turned to hail), and me sprinting from tree to tree all the way home in an attempt to avoid getting pelted by some fairly decent-sized hail.  What a great way to ring in the new season!

Black and yellow garden spider

While collecting prairie seed out at Patrick Marsh with my monthly outdoor volunteers, we discovered a large black and yellow garden spider with what appeared to be an angry face painted on its back.  It was startling to say the least.  I’ve seen several of these spiders throughout the years but have never looked into them.

Later that day, I searched for the species online and discovered that females will often bounce the web up and down very quickly if people or other creatures get too close.  It’s a way of being seen so that the web doesn’t get destroyed.  I also learned that the females will eat their entire web at the end of each day and will construct a new one the next day!

Any guesses?

While at the same outdoor volunteer event, I stumbled upon this horrendous-looking thing sprouting up from the ground.  My initial response was laughter.  I’ve seen a lot of interesting things in nature, but this one had me simultaneously disgusted and cracking up.  I figured it was some sort of fungus, but had no idea which kind.  Without hesitation, I immediately did some research.

This unfortunate fungus is commonly referred to as elegant stinkhorn or devil’s dipstick.  While both names are hilarious, what’s not hilarious is the foul smell this fungus emits through the brown slime near the top.  The smell is often compared to rotting meat and is filled with spores.  The slime attracts insects which land on the spores and then carry them off.  Better them than me!

Check out this very photogenic praying mantis!

Finally, I’ll leave you with this wonderful praying mantis I found the other day.  If you’re anything like me, you may have gone most of your life without ever seeing one of these large insects.  This year has been different.  For some reason, I have found three of these over the last two weeks and all three have been exceptionally friendly as well as photogenic.  I also learned that a praying mantis will wobble back and forth to help blend in with surrounding vegetation blowing in the breeze.  Check out THIS video I took of the mantis in action!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

*Did you miss an article?  Check out my collection of past monthly Nature Now articles on our website HERE.  Just click the dropdown menu ‘Any Type of News’ and change to ‘Nature Now’ to filter the articles.

See you next month!

With less than one full month left until summer ends, I find myself scrambling to get outside as much as possible and enjoy it while it lasts.  Late summer is a beautiful time of year when goldenrods and asters show their true colors.  This classic nature color palette of golden yellow and purple is always a gentle reminder that summer doesn’t last forever (at least in Wisconsin).

While I’m sure we’re all busy beginning to wrap up our own summer activities, let’s take a minute to see some of what’s going on in nature right now.

Jewelweed (spotted touch-me-not) in full bloom

Jewelweed, or ‘spotted touch-me-not’ is a very common flowering plant that is currently in bloom.  It seems you can find it in most shady areas including low woodlands, stream and river edges, and along ditches.

I was out fly fishing with my father-in-law recently and all of the banks along the creek had patches of jewelweed.  While the orange flowers are beautiful enough, what really stands out are the exploding seed pods.  Jewelweed has a unique method of seed dispersal where once the seed pods are ripe, they burst open and fling seeds everywhere.  Check out THIS short video to see them in action!

Silver-spotted skipper sipping on nectar from cylindrical blazing star

This time of year is also great for viewing butterflies and moths.  Without even actively searching for them, I’ve stumbled upon several of the more common butterflies including the monarch (although less common now than it once was), tiger swallowtail, painted lady, and plenty of silver-spotted skippers (pictured above).

I’m always trying to get photos of butterflies but without a telephoto lens, it can be tricky.  They seem to only let me get just close enough, and then they’re off!  To get around this, try going out on a somewhat breezy/windy day.  Many insects tend to hunker down in the wind rather than get swept away, which can help with those closer shots.

American goldfinch nestlings

Most people think of spring when they see a bird nest.  While a lot of birds do nest in spring or early summer, some birds like the American goldfinch, will nest in mid-late summer.  In fact, goldfinch nestlings can sometimes be spotted in nests as late as the end of September!

This is partly due to the diet of a goldfinch which is strictly vegetarian.  American goldfinches feed on the seeds of plants which becomes readily available later in the summer after plants have gone to seed.  This abundance of seed will help ensure the success of the hungry nestlings.

The bright yellow underside of a wood turtleLastly, while out on a camping trip in the Porcupine Mountains last week, we came across a large wood turtle basking in the middle of the road. The turtle was found in an area where the speed limit was a little too fast for a basking turtle, so I decided to help it across so it didn’t get run over.   While moving it across the road we were amazed by the bright yellow underside and black spots.  Check out that beautiful pattern!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

See you next month!

What an odd summer we’ve been having!  It’s either 90F and rainless for weeks, or it’s quarter-sized hail, tornado warnings, and massive trees falling down throughout neighborhoods.  Despite the crazy weather, I still find myself out and about exploring nature.

In fact, I may be exploring nature a little too much because as I write this I’m covered in dozens of mosquito bites, some of the worst chigger bites I’ve ever experienced, a poison ivy rash that won’t seem to go away, and wild parsnip burns on my wrist where my work glove and long-sleeved shirt meet.  With that in mind, today’s nature update will be provided courtesy of the pollinators in my backyard!

A firefly preparing for flight

We seem to be nearing the end of the gorgeous light shows put on by fireflies each night, so get out while you can and enjoy the performance!  The other night my son and I caught about a dozen in a mason jar so that we could put them on his nightstand for about 10-15 minutes while we read bedtime stories.  Not a single firefly lit up the entire time.

Of course as soon as I released them in the yard, they flew off lighting up the night sky.  I guess that’s what I get for trapping them in the first place.  Lesson learned.

A busy bee buzzing on beautiful bee balm

Wild bergamot, also known as bee balm (and for good reason), is in full bloom right now and it’s quite a sight!  Hand’s down it’s my favorite native plant in Wisconsin.  It might just even be my favorite plant.  Whenever I see it I’m reminded of prairies and all of the pollinators that you’ll find buzzing around them (like this bumble bee in my yard).

In winter, if you pull off the seed heads of bergamot and crush them in your fingers, it releases an intoxicating aroma that can bring you straight back to summer with just one sniff.  Gray-headed coneflower (or yellow coneflower) is another native prairie plant that does the same thing, but it smells of intense citrus.  I highly recommend trying it out!

A great black wasp feeding on nectar

Upon discovering this terrifying wasp in yard, I immediately wanted to take a photo of it.  My instincts must have kicked in because I wouldn’t allow myself to get within a few feet of this creature.  It was at least 1″ long, fast, and extremely twitchy.  My favorite kinds of insects to photograph are the slow, sleepy, boring ones.  This was different.

I worked up my courage to get close enough for a picture and snapped a couple.  I looked it up later that day, and the internet says it’s a great black wasp, which is a type of digger wasp.  Apparently they build nests underground and feed primarily on katydids, crickets, and grasshoppers.  I was happy to not see humans on that list.


Ambush bug on a black-eyed susan

Lastly, while admiring the black-eyed susans in my backyard, my son found this little critter hanging out on one of the petals.  Despite how noisy and close we got to it, it never moved once (I assure you it was alive).  I was surprised that he even found this insect because of how small and camouflaged it was.

Having never seen one before, we looked it up and it turned out to be an ambush bug (or assassin bug), which are known to hang out on the petals of black-eyed susans and sunflowers.  They wait motionless for an unsuspecting victim to land on the flower, and then they attack!  Apparently they can take down prey several times larger than themselves.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

See you next month!

It’s officially summer!  I’m not sure about you, but it’s been feeling like summer for the last month and a half at least.  I’ve talked with quite a few people who have all mentioned that they feel like they missed out on spring, and not for lack of being outside.  I have to agree with them, especially on those 95F days when I’m longing for a nice cool spring morning.

Although it’s been very hot and occasionally buggy, it’s truly a wonderful time to be outside, so let’s take a minute or two to see what’s going on.

Ebony jewelwing

I went on a camping trip last weekend with my family to hang out with a good friend who was stopping by from out of state.  We visited Roche-A-Cri State Park in Friendship, Wisconsin.  Seemed like an appropriate town name given the purpose of the trip.

While there, we were struck (not literally) by these iridescent damselflies with dark black wings.  The contrast between bright/shiny and black was mesmerizing!  I was so excited to try and get some photos so that I could identify them later.  Then, my wife Carolyn pops up seemingly out of nowhere and says “Oh, nice! Jewelwings!”  She’s good at that.  Regardless, I looked up ‘Ebony Jewelwing’ when I got home and found THIS cool video describing their mating display.  The video is slowed down so you can see them better.

Hairy puccoon

While walking through a prairie at Roche-A-Cri State Park, I came across a type of puccoon that I had never seen before.  It’s called hairy puccoon and it’s native to very dry and sandy habitats.  The burst of yellow caught our attention immediately.  We were able to scan the entire prairie and see where all of the pockets of hairy puccoon were hiding, even from quite a distance away.

American toad with some nice camouflage

Within minutes of arriving at our campsite, we found several toads hopping around in the dried pine needles and oak leaves.  They are surprisingly noisy when hopping around if you find yourself in a quiet enough place.  The tricky part is finding them if they are still because of how well they camouflage into their surroundings (see photo above).

One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was catching all sorts of frogs and toads wherever I went.  I was happy to see my 5 year old do the same throughout the camp trip (no toads were harmed during this camp trip and all were released very quickly).


Baby snapping turtle that was crossing the road

If you find yourself travelling to a new green space like I did last weekend (or really anywhere), this is just a friendly reminder that many critters out there this time of year have young and to be careful when driving.  Just in the last week or two I’ve seen baby raccoons, opossums, sandhill cranes, and turtles (like the baby snapping turtle seen in the photo above) crossing the road.

If you see a turtle crossing the road, I encourage you to slow down and help out if you can, but only if the area is safe.  When helping a turtle, always put it on the side of the road in the direction it was heading (even if the pond is on the other side).  They’re determined little things and will turn right back around.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

See you next month!

I’m not sure how much time you’ve been spending outside lately, but I’m fortunate enough this time of year to be outside almost more than I am inside.  It’s that beautiful time of year when the mornings are cool, the daily high temperatures are still very comfortable, and the mosquitos seem to be minding their own business (at least in my neck of the woods).

As I look through my cameral roll in search of photos to share with you, I find it increasingly difficult to choose because so much is going on!  We’re past the part where nature slowly wakes up from a long winter.  We’re in full swing!  So let’s get outside and see what’s happening.

Wild Columbine is flowering

Right now, the woodlands are absolutely covered in flowering plants.  Around every corner of a trail you could run into flowering wild columbine, mayapple, white trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, and wild geranium just to name a few.

Wild columbine is one of my favorites.  Both the flowers and leaves are beautiful, but what I like most is the odd places I find this wonderful plant.  I went hiking at Governor Dodge this weekend with my family and we saw wild columbine growing on the sides of rock faces and even near the waterfall that’s out there.

Devil’s urn…

If fungi are more your thing, then say no more!  Look around the base of trees or close to the leaf litter and you’ll find all sorts of fungi growing in almost every color.  While out with my family, I stumbled upon one of the most ominous-looking mushrooms I’ve ever seen.

At first, I didn’t know what it was.  It honestly looked like a piece of rubber from a tire but when I touched it, it had that classic fragile mushroom texture that’s hard to describe.  I looked it up later and it’s called ‘Devil’s Urn’.  A very fitting name for this scary-looking mushroom!

Wild lupine flowering

If you find yourself out near a dry prairie or an oak savanna, now is the time of year to be on the lookout for blooming wild lupine.  This beautifully blueish-purple plant serves as a host for the endangered Karner blue butterfly.  The caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of wild lupine and the species simply would not survive without the plant.

Killdeer chick!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this photo of a baby Killdeer that I moved off of a trail that I was mowing at Westport Prairie. It was reunited with its mother in a safer spot nearby.  If you have ever accidentally gotten close to a Killdeer nest or chicks, you may have seen the adult trying to lure you away.  Check out THIS video of their ‘broken wing display’.

Holding this bird, even for just a few seconds, reminded me of a job I had years ago at a National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.  I was a wildlife technician where I got to band Piping Plovers on beaches.  While not the same species, this was a nice reminder of my time working with plovers.  Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

See you next month!