Moth Walk!

About a week ago I went on a Moth Walk aka Moth Hunting (no moths were hurt). Naturalist Jeff Steele led the walk through an area of Cherokee Marsh-North Unit in Madison, WI. He set up a few viewing locations, some with a sticky substance painted on trees and others using ultraviolet light. We began at 9pm with a short presentation and Q&A about moths. Here are a few things I learned:

  • There are approximately 10x the number of species of moths as butterflies
  • Moths are important pollinators
  • The main predator of moths is bats
  • Only one species of moth eat wool – and only the larvae of that species [Tineola bisselliella aka clothes moths]
  • Male moths can detect chemical cues with their antennae; one male moth was known to travel 23 miles in search of a female pheromone
  • It is not exactly known why moths are attracted to light; however, it’s thought to mimic the light from the moon and stars from which they navigate

Two viewing locations had a setup called “Larry’s Lantern” – an ultraviolet light within a net cylinder:

The other viewing locations were painted trees! A fermented mix of beer (Jeff used PBR), brown sugar, bananas, and molasses was painted on different tree barks earlier in the evening. As we walked by, he shined a flashlight on each tree. The moths apparently cannot resist the fermented sweetness. On this night we only saw a few moths on the trees, but Jeff assured us as the night progresses, more moths would appear.

A few insects were identified as well:

1 – A “dog-day”/annual cicada shedding its nymph exoskeleton: Cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs. Nymphs climb the nearest vertical surface and shed their nymph exoskeleton. Once that is completed, their wings will inflate with fluid and their adult skin will harden.


2 – Likely a Green Lacewing: These are used to control moderate aphid populations in gardens and greenhouses.

Below are a few moths found while on the walk.

1- Painted Lichen Moth (center):

2 – A species of Litter Moth?

3 – Possible Herpetogramma species?

4 – I think this is a Greater Grapevine Looper:

5 – Ummm…(did I mention there are a LOT of moth species?):

6 – Another mystery (but handsome, right?):

If you want to learn more, this book was recommended by Jeff:

“This is how moths speak to each other. They tell their love across the fields by scent. There is no mouth, the wrong words are impossible, either a mate is there or he is not, and if so the pair will find each other in the dark.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

(Public domain Header image Cecropia Moth courtesy of flicker account k_khteWisconsin)


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Biking the Glacial Drumlin State Trail

Last week I biked on a trail new to me – the Glacial Drumlin State Trail in Wisconsin.

It is a former rail trail with the western terminus in Cottage Grove and the eastern terminus in Waukesha. It is 52 miles in length and parallels I94. It was built in the late 19th century, likely for political convenience, carrying legislators between the big city of Milwaukee and the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison.

It is wonderful. Lovely. I think I was on a high all afternoon. I kept on marveling at the scenery, the birdsong, the little critters scampering about, the butterflies, and on and on. I’m already planning my return (and I did so yesterday).

Here’s a map, courtesy of

I started in Cottage Grove and turned around when I was halfway between London and Lake Mills. So…about 22 miles RT.

Here’s a short video I took during the ride:

(Below) In the distance is the feature the trail is named for – a glacial drumlin. It’s an elongated, teardrop-shaped hill of glacial till (rock, sand, and gravel) that formed under moving glacier ice. When viewed from the air one can see numerous drumlins.

Wisconsin has a vast history of glaciation. To see an illustration of the historical moving of ice, refer to the video below (courtesy of

Native Elderberry shrubs are abundant. When mature, the birds (and people) will be attracted to the black fruits that are high in nutrients and antioxidants.

Wildflowers, clockwise from top left: Spiderwort, Groundsel (I think), White Wild Indigo, Prairie Dock

The first town I came upon was Deerfield (named for the abundance of deer!). This building and the ones adjacent to it appeared to make up an old depot.

A few miles beyond Deerfield stood a large old structure, built mostly with rock. Another depot?

Wild parsnip (yellow) was also present along the trail in some areas – and I was surprised to see a lone Wild columbine (pink) still in bloom there as well, so late in the season. Wild white yarrow was sparse, but a welcome sight. Not a great picture, but wow – Tiger lilies (orange)!


The trail crosses Koshkonong Creek multiple times:

Here’s where I stopped for a break before turning around:

Here’s the view from that spot (can I live here?):

Great blue heron:

. . . I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days. . . .
Henry David Thoreau


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Why a V?

During a morning walk about a week ago I heard the muffled honking of a flock of Canada Geese. I stopped, turned south, looked up, and waited. The honking then grew quite loud. Soon they came into view, a magnificent V formation of about 70 birds! It was a delight to watch them move steadily north, and hear the raucous calls.

Bing free to share and use – Jitze Couperus, Flickr

Why fly in a V?   Likely for two reasons: 1) flying slightly above the bird in front lessens the wind resistance, saving energy, and 2) for better coordination and communication.

Other nature happenings in the area:

Even though they’re here year-round, I rarely see Wood Ducks. In early May, this male was spotted in the woods nearby. The female was there also but was slightly hidden. It is strange to see a duck in a tree! Here is more information about them, from this link“The Wood Duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times over a mile away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of over 50 feet without injury.”

Prairie Smoke is a prairie wildflower that blooms in early spring. The pink/red flower hangs down early on but once pollinated rights itself and opens. After flowering, the fruit/seed is on a 2-inch long plume; i.e. smoke fluttering in the wind. I think it’s quite stunning.



Garden plants retain the remains of a morning rainfall:


This eastern gray squirrel was munching on marrow from a discarded bone. Whose bone? How did it get there?

The flowering crabapple was impressive this year with bright shades of pink:


A nature surprise while walking to an appointment:

Artist: MIKE LROY, Madison, WI

Dame’s rocket is in bloom now in Madison, Wisconsin. They look alike, but it is NOT garden phlox. Dame’s rocket is actually invasive, so don’t plant wildflower mixes that contain it. It has four flower petals, while garden phlox has five. This thriving patch of Dame’s rocket is across the street from Warner Beach:

I’m reading this book – How to Catch a Mole: And Find Yourself in Nature. The author writes about the How part, and interspersed with it are his tales of roaming the UK countryside as a homeless teenager, observations about nature, gardening, rock walls, and people, and conclusions he has reached as an old man. It’s good. Today I read these words that follow. I’m still thinking about them, and if I could ever say the same. It’s not easy to turn off my questioning mind and just allow questions to hang.

“I prefer unanswered questions. At the end of the answers there is usually a person who enjoys the power of appearing to know. I have come to like things that are left unfinished. It’s the question that shines the light, that seeks. The answer’s often just a dim reflection of the vastness of the question. There are no answers that satisfy.”




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Springtime in Missouri

We needed to go somewhere. Get out of the house. See something different. Soak in some sunshine. Take the dog. Drive less than eight hours. Missouri checked all the boxes!

I found a nice rental on 70 acres with trails and a pond. It was quite warm several days. We got sunburned. Kayaked. Walked. Listened to the Spring Peepers and Tufted Titmice.    I was excited to see dandelions:


Missouri is rich in mineral resources. There are approximately 1200 underground mines; 36% are coal and 64% non-coal. The Missouri DNR website shows an iron mine near our rental. The water had an iron smell to it (we drank bottled water) and I found a number of rocks on the property with orange/red in them:


It’s like being in a cathedral:

The dog was content:

Left: Rue anemone wildflower that blooms March-June

Right: Lichen on a tree. Lichens are not plants; they are a combination of a fungus and an alga.  They are found on every continent in the world.


Left: Reindeer moss. It is actually a lichen. Most lichen are about 94% carbohydrates. So yes, alcohol has been made out of it.

Right: Pine tree branch against a stunning blue sky


I had never seen anything like this and later figured out it is a crayfish chimney.

Crayfish, aka mudbugs, have gills. They excavate tunnels near surface water, digging down to the water table. They are a food source to over 200 species.  The burrows, or tunnels also provide habitat for many species such as snakes, frogs, and dragonflies. More info about mudbugs is here.









Our little getaway was FUN.

I hope your Spring is appearing in your world! What have you noticed lately?


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I Miss Winter Already

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape–the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
-Andrew Wyeth, artist

There is a hushed and peaceful quality to winter. Of course, sometimes there is a bitter harshness to it, but doesn’t that make you feel ALIVE? What’s not to like about taking a walk in the winter, then coming inside and getting warmed by a fire, having a hot mug of tea or a dram of whisky, reading a good book, and thinking about what this world is offering you right now?

While it’s thrilling to see the daffodils popping out of the ground by the house, a sandhill crane overhead, and feeling temperatures in the balmy range on some days, I’m already missing winter. Let’s take a look back at some winter moments.

How can an icicle be crooked?

This was a GREAT day:

Can you see the buck?



A favorite turnaround spot for x-c skiing down a long, sloping hill:

American robins. Nature Art.


A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk hunting for grey squirrels, perched above their nest:



From All About Birds: The oldest known wild Red-tailed Hawk was at least 30 years, 8 months old when it was found in Michigan in 2011, the same state where it had been banded in 1981.

When cooled droplets from fog freeze and attach onto an exposed surface, rime ice is formed. This is our clothesline:

Shagbark hickory tree:

Up close – such a distinctive bark. They can live more than 350 years!

Spring is happening!


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