June 21 - 30
Racine has 15 hours and 17 minutes of daylight and Superior has 15 hours and 48 minutes of daylight at the end of the period. Southern Wisconsin loses 3 minutes of daylight and northern Wisconsin has 4 minutes less than the previous period. The summer solstice occurs on June 21. Statistics for Racine are: day length – 15 hours 19 minutes 46 seconds, twilight starts at 4:38 am and ends at 9:08 pm. Superior has 15 hours 51 minutes and 56 seconds of daylight, twilight begins at 4:35 am and ends at 9:46 pm. For those extraordinary naturalists that track the absolute first glimmer of light in the sky we have nautical twilight. The first lumen of light reaches Superior at 3:41 am and the last disappears at 10:40 pm.
Conservation at Home: In general, birding in summer is for conservation, while birding the rest of the year is for pleasure. I know. I know. Conservation includes stop-over habitat and wintering grounds habitat, but those aspects of conservation are minor compared to Wisconsin’s role in providing breeding bird habitat. Put another way, birders most often participate in the observation of birds for the interest of the observer. There are hundreds of different reasons for birding and the impacts of the bird on the birder. Thankfully, many birders have taken an additional step and have given something back to the birding community.
Anyone would have a difficult time perceiving a person saying, “I really don’t like birds, I’m in it simply to conserve habitat”. The deep love of something or someone is one of the strongest calls to action. With all the people out there claiming to love birds, why do so few participate in organized bird surveys?
Ostensibly, the prime reason is an incomplete mastery of bird song. I can fully understand the trepidation of many, learning all your bird songs is a very challenging thing to do. Furthermore to conduct a USGS Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) roadside transect, you really need to know your bird songs. My estimate from the bird surveys I conduct is 95% of the identification is by song alone for surveys during June and early July. Other broad-based surveys, such as the Nicolet BBS, also require a good knowledge of bird song, but the subset of songs to know is usually smaller than roadsides. The primary difference is point counts will lead to less ground covered over a period of time. Some surveys are in place to focus more narrowly on a few species, such as the recently developed owl and nightjar surveys. These more focused surveys require knowledge of a much smaller number of species calls.
Scores if not hundreds of birders participate in these citizen science surveys. They give an incredible amount of time and energy to help us comprehend our bird world better. The knowledge attained and data showing trends help decision-makers and professional biologists develop plans and appropriate resources to help birds. These surveys are invaluable in helping the birds we love so much; however, is the giving back limited to advanced birders?
To bring more birders into the conservation fold, action is needed. Citizen science is great for helping birds, however, it generally takes the personal responsibility for direct action away from the birder and places it others to do the actual conservation. Don’t read me wrong, we should not give up these great citizen science opportunities and we should encourage more participation.
Let’s lay out the problem. In the summer of 2008, birders reported only three Eastern Screech-Owls in the entire state. A dedicated statewide survey for owls earlier that year only produced 10 Eastern Screech-Owls on four routes. Wow, from this data the bird must be extremely rare in the state and the politicians need to take action. We all know that this is not true, but how do we really know the data does not accurately reflect the situation.
While coordinating the Madison Christmas Bird Count (CBC) back in the 1980s, I had the pleasure of working with Al Shea who through love and passion developed a systematic owl survey for the CBC. The results were phenomenal and for several years Madison had the highest Eastern Screech-Owl tallies in all on North America. Numbers ranged from approximately 80 to 140 for the count circle. Similar numbers should be expected for any urban/suburban area with many small parks and lots of large trees. Over five million acres of this habitat is found in the state and averaging 20 acres per owl pair, 250,000 Eastern Screech-Owls may reside in the state.
Yet, only 3 reports from the summer season were submitted to the bird records coordinator. Most birders who are in the sport to generate a large list probably got their year bird back in March and don’t need to spend the time for another check mark. Most avid birders have seen one at some point in their lives and do not have an inner drive to go out of their normal patterns and see another. Many surveys do not lend themselves to gathering information on many species, due to daylight timing or the passive nature of the survey with no play backs allowed. Maybe another way is possible.
Spend time documenting what’s on your property or if you are an apartment dweller know your local park. Others may have land up north for whatever reason. Get to really know your property. Counts need not be as systematic as the Audubon Breeding Bird Surveys that used standardized methods. Simply, walk your land and record the birds you see and hear. Jot down on a piece of paper or print a map from any of a number of online sources and mark the location of nests, young, singing perches, etc. Do this at different times during the breeding season and different times during the day and night.
Over the last twenty years I have documented all the birds that nest on my small ¼ acre suburban lot. I also record those species that utilize my land as part of their range some nest close by and extensively use my land. Others such as the neighborhood Copper’s Hawk occasionally makes forays through my back yard to potentially find a snack. Still others have nested only sparingly.
American Robin – two successful nests every year for twenty years. Twice a successful third nesting occurred.
Chipping Sparrow – Attempted nesting every year. Sixteen years the first nesting successfully fledged Brown-headed Cowbirds, Two years the land owner intervened. In 12 of the years, a second nesting produced chipping sparrows.
House Finch – Attempted nesting sixteen out of twenty years with only five being successful. Blue Jays or Crows seem to find the eggs about two days before they should hatch.
Mourning Dove – Attempted nesting twelve out of twenty years.
Northern Cardinal – Part of territory every year with nesting on my land five years out of twenty.
Gray Catbird – Part of territory sixteen out of eighteen years with nest on my land four of those years.
Common Nighthawk – In 2001, they successfully fledged young on my flat roof.
Green Heron – In 2002, they successfully fledge young in a large silver maple in my back yard. They have nested in large silver maples in the neighborhood every year since.
Cooper’s Hawk, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, and Common Grackle have used my yard as foraging territory for all twenty years.
Every year I observe Chimney Swifts flying through my large silver maple to collect small sticks for their nest.
For 18 of the past twenty years, I have had Eastern Screech-Owls use my land as part their territory. The past two years have changed with a Great horned Owl taking its place.
No House Sparrows or European Starlings
Granted the site is small and larger landowners cannot be this intense regarding their observations. The value to me is I know my birds. I can observe any responses they exhibit when I make a decision on what to do in my yard. An invaluable feed-back loop that helps with better bird habitat decisions in the future.
Start of Peak Season for Dragonflies: Dragonfly observation and identification has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. Close focusing binoculars and several recently published guides help naturalist enjoy and conserve this group of interesting and beneficial insects. In addition, Wisconsin has some truly rare species that need dedicated conservation efforts.
Late June through early July is the peak season for the greatest diversity of dragonfly species. One habitat subgroup of special note is the river specialists. These species are especially vulnerable to a changing climate due to their preferred habitat of cool clear and ell oxygenated moving waters. Species to focus on between now and the end of July are:
Fawn Darner found in small to large streams that are shaded.
Dragonhunter prefers swift flowing shaded streams.
Green-faced Clubtail prefers riffle areas of medium shaded streams.
Mustached Clubtail prefers rapids on small streams with clear cold water.
Ashy Clubtail prefers small streams with moderate current.
Rapids Clubtail prefers pools below rapids and riffles
Cobra Clubtail prefers large swift rivers.
Skillet Clubtail lives in fast flowing streams.
Midland Clubtail inhabits fast flowing large rivers.
Splendid Clubtail prefers gravel bottomed rivers.
Arrow Clubtail lives in sandy bottomed rivers.
Riverine Clubtail prefers fast flowing mid-sized rivers.
Zebra Clubtail inhabits sandy bottomed cool fast flowing streams.
Least Clubtail prefers fast flowing sandy bottomed streams.
Boreal Snaketail lives in clear cold fast moving rivers.
Extra-striped Snaketail inhabits clear fast moving rivers.
Pygmy Snaketail lives in large, clean gravelly rivers.
Riffle Snaketail prefers swift clear streams with riffles.
Rusty Snaketail lives in clear cold rivers.
Wisconsin Snaketail only in the St. Croix River watershed.
Twin-spotted Spiketail lives in clear trout streams.
Arrowhead Spiketail lives in headwater spring runs.
Delta-spotted Spiketail lives in small spring rivulets.
Brown Spiketail lives in small spring trickles.
Stream Cruiser prefers small sandy bottomed forested streams.
Clamp-tailed Emerald prefers small shaded forest streams.
Forcipate Emerald lives in small spring fed streams.
Hine’s Emerald is endangered and lives in small seep areas in Door County and the lower Wisconsin River.
Occelated Emerald prefers clear streams with high levels of oxygen.
Plains Emerald lives in small prairie of savanna streams.
Ski-tailed Emerald prefers slow streams with some rapids.
Williamson’s Emerald lives in cold streams.
Walsh’s Emerald lives in headwater steams flowing through cedar swamps.
Late June floral peaks: Peak blooming ends in the maple basswood forest, since most of the light is captured by the tree leaves. Late June starts the transition for botanical flower observation from forest to open prairies, savannas, meadows, and northern conifer forest and barrens. June is also the time for more experienced botanists to key out sedges, since many species require perigynia for positive identification.
Table 1. Native Wildflowers with peak blooming times June 21 – 30
Lepidopteran activity continues: Plants in the woods and fields grow rapidly during June, thus providing food for many moth and butterfly species. Most of these species do best in summer and early fall.
Table 2. Large and more recognizable Lepidopterans whose flight period either starts in late-June or is limited to this time period.
The first fall migrants usually appear in late June. Yes, the time frame with virtually no migrants in Wisconsin runs from June 12 to June 27. Most shorebird species abandon their young when they are only a few days old and start migrating. Nearly every year birders will report Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers as the first fall migrants around June 28.
If you are fortunate enough to be in the Northwoods and hear Northern Parulas, take some time to follow them. In late June, they should be feeding young. Parulas are usually found in older forest wetlands. They build their nest of Old-man’s beard (Unsea) mosses. These are the mosses hanging from tamarack and cedar trees. A Northern Parula carrying food can be followed to find this nearly invisible nest.
One of earliest and most common katydid species arrives on the scene in late June. The gladiator meadow katydid can be found in moist prairies and sedge meadows from now through July. They can be found by listening for the “song”, a long buzz of 6 to 8 seconds that can last well into the night.
Black flies are notorious pests in many locales. More than 30 species are known from the state, although only 6 species feed on humans. They are found mostly on streams with activity from mid-May through most of July. Late June is the time frame when populations reach their peak.
Broad-gill fungi are regularly found on rotting logs in hardwood and conifer forest at this time of year.
Grass Pink Orchid
White water lily
June grass in seed
New Jersey tea
Canada St. John's-wort
Juneberry (fruits) - several species
Moist shrubby areas
Bogs and wet acid sands
Shallow ponds and lakes
Shallow ponds and lakes
Wet-mesic prairies and fens
Open bogs and wet conifer forest
Boreal forest esp. ravines
Cool conifer forest
Prairies and fields
Prairies and sandy conifer woods
Dry to mesic prairies
Prairies, common in planted prairie
Shallow ponds and stream edges
Dry-mesic to moist woods
Oak savannas and forests
Dry to moist conifer forest
Dry to dry-mesic prairies
Dry prairies, sandy disturbed areas
Nearly all wooded & shrubby habitats
Sandy praires and barrens
Tawny edged skipper
Little wood satyr
Common wood nymph
Big poplar sphinx
Spiny oakworm moth
Open grassy areas
Open grassy areas
Prairies, barrens, old fields
Wet meadows, stream edges
Wet meadows, stream edges
Prairies and wet meadows
Woods & old fields
Prairies and meadows
Woods and edges
Open woods and barrens
Boggy tamarack forest
Migrant from the south
Water & curled dock
Migrant from the south
Aspen & willows
Oaks and hazel