The Kickapoo Valley is in its full dress green and there are early summer wildflowers everywhere. I touch most of them I and stick my nose in for a sample of the sweet fragrance of the season. The tall yellow Poison parsnip is the exception and I stay a safe distance from its pretty but toxic yellow flowers. Touching the flower tops while in the sunshine can result in some nasty and painful blisters on bare skin. These days itís hard to find a place to take a nature hike without having to confront Poison parsnip.
My morning walk took me along a weedy fencerow where I spotted the tall viney stem of a Carrion berry. Round clumps of green berries grow out from the purple stem. When ripe, the berries will be black-purple and very showy but inedible. Where the fence line turns at the edge of the woods was a fancy bed of White anemone. Their pretty white flowers standing just above large, light green leaves. Behind them stood a nice thick bunch of orange-red columbine. They must really like it next to the anemoneóthere were more flowers that I could count.
The old country bridge has a small clear-water stream flowing under it and I always pause for a bit to look in the water. A few Cliff swallows chattered at me as they flew in and out from under the bridge. I quickly snapped a picture of some minnows in the shallow water then went on my way so as not to bother the swallows.
I noticed there seemed to be a fair number of butterflies in the area. A few yellow Swallowtails, several different kinds of skippers, a few Monarchs and quite a few Fritillaries. Itís good to see butterflies again. They were few and far between for a few years and I was beginning to wonder if their numbers would rise again.
Looking out across the meadow I find it hard to believe how green everything is. Literally everything below the blue sky and fluffy white clouds is green. To think, only three short months ago, there was no green to be seen.
A handsome black and white Kingbird flew out from the edge of the woods, caught a flying insect and returned to his perch in the leafy trees. Kingbirds, unlike most flycatchers, seem to be more protective of their nesting territories and will aggressively attack anyone who comes near the nest tree. Iíve seen them fly after horses, cows, dogs, other birds and people who come close.
On a sandy hillside my eye caught the color pink. The beautiful pink flowers of the Prairie rose just had to be examined with my nose. When I bent down closer I could see the Crab spider had the same thing in mind. She had caught a small bee that had also come to sample the roseís sweet nectar. The flowers serve nature in so many ways.
Itís was a beautiful and sunny morning and the songs of the birds are all around me as I follow the edge of the woods. A little Yellow warbler is curious and lands near me. Heís one of several kinds of warblers who make their home here for the summer. Warblers are inconspicuous birds by nature and like to stay close to cover. By making little squeaking noises with my lips, I can often attract a curious warbler who I would have otherwise not seen. Another sound I use to attract birds in thick cover is to force the word pish out of my closed lips. It sounds like pssh, pssh, pssh, pssh, and I repeat it every ten seconds while standing still. In thick cover itís hard to spot a very small bird so donít search for him. Let your eyes pick up his movement in the foliageóitís his movement that gives him away.
In the evening I took a short walk through the prairie to see whatís happening. The color blue is the most dominant now as there are hundreds of pretty blue Spiderworts in full bloom. They show their blue faces all day in the sunshine and close up each night. The lovely lavender large-flowered Beardtongue also stands out in the tall green grass. The color white is also very prominent now with plants like the tall Cow parsnip, with their huge white flower heads. The elegant white flowering spikes of Wild indigo are three feet tall and as pretty as any flower in the prairie. To think that these and several hundred other native prairie plants were all that grew here at one time. These days itís rare to find any remaining native grassland plants, but a walk through a prairie in bloom is one of my very favorite ways to relax.
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