We’re officially halfway through summer and as each new day passes, the amount of sunlight we have is gradually shrinking.  While I intentionally try not to think about a 5 pm sunset in the winter, it is a good reminder to get outside, soak up that sun, and enjoy these wonderfully long days while they still last.  In case you need some extra motivation to get outside, follow me on this month’s virtual nature tour to see what’s happening out there right now!

Young praying mantis

Take a quick trip outside and you’ll notice an abundance of insects.  Everywhere you look, they seem to be buzzing, flapping, or crawling about.  This little mantis (pictured above) was spotted at an outdoor volunteer event at Westport Prairie.

They are extremely efficient hunters that not only have great camouflage; they are also able to rotate their heads 180 degrees to help them spot and catch prey.  While being an efficient hunter is a great skill to have, unfortunately, they are indiscriminate feeders that will eat native insects, and most mantises that you find here in Wisconsin are actually invasive.  That being said, they are incredible insects and so darn cool to look at.

American robin feeding its young

While out on a hike with my wife Carolyn, we noticed a fledgling robin that was begging for food up in a tree.  This mostly consisted of a lot of feather shaking with its mouth wide open, similar to what they would do inside of the nest.  Sure enough, not even a few seconds later the momma robin flew in and provided a plump berry as a nice mid-morning snack.  We watched her do this about 4-5 times before they both flew away.  Come this time next year, if the fledgling is able to survive, it will be feeding a baby of its own (so hopefully it’s taking notes)!

Dog-day cicada

This Dog-day cicada was actually spotted in my front yard earlier this week.  My son and I quickly ran inside to grab our cameras since I guess that’s a thing that we do when we see cool bugs.  We both started snapping photos and comparing to see what sort of good shots we got.  While reviewing the photos on our cameras, I heard a loud scream that went on for at least 4 seconds.  I look over towards the scream and see that there’s another cicada that had crawled up my son’s leg and (very) slowly approached his knee.

He was so invested in reviewing his photos that he hadn’t noticed this rather large insect crawling up his leg.  I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes (while removing the insect for him).  He laughed about it afterwards and although only slightly traumatized, I’m sure he’ll keep that memory with him for a long time.

Gray treefrog

Finally, I’ll leave you with this extremely cozy gray treefrog that I spotted at a friend’s house this week.  The milkweed that it was perched on really helped the frog camouflage into its surroundings.  In fact, I was actually on the hunt for monarch caterpillars at the time, and I definitely would have passed right by him if I wasn’t actively scanning the milkweed.  As if we didn’t need another reason to plant more milkweed!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour and I’ll see you next time!

*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.