Back to Costa Rica

Ah yes, back to the land of beach sunsets:

And Great Kiskadees are everywhere as usual, making their kis-ka-dee calls at dawn and again in the late afternoon.  I was able to photograph the yellow crown patch of one, below. I looked it up and learned they eat quite a variety of food – fruit, flying insects, spiders, fish, snakes, mice, and even your pet’s dog food!


Canna lilies are found on the roadside and in gardens:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – not the best picture due to the low light, but one appeared a few times. They do not take well to trespassing in their territory and may attack other birds such as Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Mourning Doves, and Western Kingbirds.

A Blue Morpho Butterfly larvae wandered onto our back porch one day. I took several photographs of the colorful little thing – reddish/brown body, lime-green hairs on the body, and aquamarine blue head and longer hairs at both ends of the body.

After emerging from a chrysalis, the butterfly looks like this, a common sight in parts of Costa Rica:

In the evenings we’d sit at the table on the back porch, enjoying a Costa Rican rum drink, listening to music, and talking into the night. A few candles lit the space. The geckos gathered on the outside walls of the house, lurking in the corners up high, tsk-tsking occasionally. And one or two 4-inch long Praying Mantis would silently crawl into view; it was fascinating but creepy because if you got close enough, its beady eyes followed your movements.

I’m not sure what plant this is at the front of a restaurant but I want one!

While grocery shopping in Jaco, we noticed another wall mural:

Artist: Jade Rivera

From the Artify Jaco website is this explanation of the painted scene:

The mural, named “Legado” or “Legacy” incorporates Boruca indigenous art from Costa Rica in a thought provoking scene of a boy wearing a jaguar mask being blessed by the hand of the Universe. The masks depicted in the mural are made by the Boruca tribe, hand carved usually out of Balsa or Cedar wood and all uniquely hand painted. Use of the masks dates back to when the Spanish Conquistadors first came to Costa Rica to conquer the land. The Boruca Indians we able to ward them off for a period of time by wearing masks and jungle foliage and surprising their enemies in their home territory. This style of Boruca masks are still worn in the Boruca village for “The Festival of the Devils” which happens every year around New Years.

When flying home, I snapped this photograph of what I think is Grand Bahama island:

If you’re interested in Wisconsin birding 2019 year in review, here’s a link. It includes dozens of incredible close-up photographs.

Until next time,




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The Arm of Massachusetts

In October of 2019, I vacationed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. During an Archeology tour at the Museum of Natural History there, I was informed that the shape of Cape Cod is like a sailor’s right arm. I like that!

Of course, the beaches were fantastic:

Wilson’s plover (left) and a small fish (~3″ long) – both seen while beachcombing:

When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick.

George Burns

I attended a bird-banding event early one morning at the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. In addition to the banding, staff determined the species, age, sex, dimensions, and weight. Helpers (in blue hats, below) documented the data. In the background are a few bags of birds waiting for their turn.

The town of Provincetown is located at the “fist”. It is home to the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum. The 252-foot monument commemorates the history of the Mayflower Pilgrims who arrived here in November 1620. One can walk up up up to take in the sweeping views of the northern part of the Cape. While still inside the monument and near the top, you’ll see I took a photograph looking downward as well.

Here are a few photographs from the town:

On my last full day, I hiked the Dune Shacks Trail. From the main road (Hwy 6) start walking east and follow the footprints in the sand dunes. Talk about a workout! Several rustic shacks are located near the shore; some are available for rent to artists and writers.

The clouds were marvelous!


Gray seals were resting on Head of the Meadow Beach. I kept my distance. After I started walking back to the car, a man let his dog loose and the dog chased all of the seals into the ocean. (GRR…leashless dogs are illegal on beaches and I reported the incident.)

Several times while walking along the water, a lone gray seal would be curiously following:

I visited Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary:

There were many Fiddler crabs in the salt marsh. Below are photographs of a male (with one major claw) and an entrance to a burrow. The sediment “balls” near the entrance to the burrow are leftover material from the crab gleaning edibles.


Sassafras tree leaf:

My beach finds:

Yes – that’s a Great white shark tooth!

Almost home – can you name the lakes?

Thanks for tagging along on this trip to Cape Cod.


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Days Gone By

It’s cold and dark and windy in Wisconsin today. Perfect for staying in with a mug of Ginger Spice tea and looking at photographs from the past. Days Gone By. Bygone Days.

When I look up the phrase “Days Gone By” I learn it has been used quite a bit, such as by Joe Walsh, Hillsong Young & Free, Van Morrison, and Hidden Mountain Resort.

Back to Wisconsin…

This delightful butterfly, Painted Lady, showed up for one day in mid-September. 


The Woolly Bear caterpillar is known by nearly every child. According to one version of folklore, it’s coloring indicates how severe the winter will be in the area. The body has 13 segments, each one corresponding to the 13 weeks of winter. (Um, the folklore must not be from Wisconsin.) Each black segment represents one week of more severe winter conditions, while orange bands indicate milder temperatures. What does this one below predict?

What is this Woolly Bear predicting?


A bike ride around Lake Monona (Madison) in early September allowed me to photograph several nature scenes. Who doesn’t love the bright golden yellow of sunflowers?

A stand of Gray Birch trees(?) (photo modified to be black and white):

One of my favorite trees in Madison – a very large Cottonwood – stands proudly near the Yahara River (photo also modified with a filter):

John Muir Memorial Park in Marquette county, Wisconsin is a lovely place to visit. It is part of the Ice Age Trail as well. John Muir moved here with his family when he was 11 years old. It is said that his love of nature began here. 

There is a trail around Ennis lake. The view is gorgeous and peaceful:

There were other sights as well.

Black raspberry vines lined in frost:

Fallen leaves:

A common garter snake on the sunlit path:

A happy dog!

Close to John Muir Park – and said to be frequented by the boy himself – is Observatory Hill State Natural Area. It is the highest point in Marquette county. 

Here’s the story of how the land came to be a State Natural Area:

And here is a view from the top of the hill:

Back in my neighborhood later in October, I photographed fall colors against the blue sky:


Okay, one picture with snow. From mid-November. As I write this in mid-December there is no snow. So strange! This day called for a hike in Madison’s Cherokee Marsh – North Unit. Near the observation deck on the boardwalk I noticed a pattern of snow:

“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
– Vincent van Gogh


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Warm temps + fog + spiderwebs = WOW




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Switzerland and Italy

Another European vacation! Parts of northern Italy were a must-see, and then Switzerland was added. In this post are photographs of nature-related scenes from these special places.

The Limmat River in Zurich, Switzerland has offered public swimming for decades. Basically the city provides the structure over or surrounding the river “pool”. The water is exceptionally clean and clear – and cold! There is a pool for women-only, a pool for men-only, and several others that are coed. It closed for the season a few days ago and today the temperature is 66 degrees – brrr. The below photograph is of the women-only pool across the river.

At Flussbad Unterer Letten pool, the current is strong and not suitable for children. It looked like loads of fun to be carried along and then make a quick exit for the ladder.

Oh, look at that, a Giant Sequoia in Switzerland! We learned someone brought it here from California. These trees can grow to 26 feet in diameter.

The next stop in Switzerland was Kandersteg, a village a few hours away by train from Zurich. It is surrounded by stunning mountain peaks and raging waterfalls. There are miles and miles of hiking trails and many come here to mountain climb and ski.

And of course, there are cows. Because Switzerland is famous for its cheese.

There are massive cows. With cowbells. You hear the jingle-jangle everywhere.


Here is a small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) on the pavement. The nettle plant is necessary for its survival; the eggs are laid on it and the larvae feed on it.

I thought this scene of a mountaintop with wispy clouds was lovely.

My partner and I took a small gondola car up, up, up – to Oeschinensee Lake.

The lake didn’t look as pretty as in the brochures, plus there were flocks of tourists – ugh.

At the end of the ride we were closer to the snow-capped mountains:

While resting on a bench by the lake, a male common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) was poking around for crumbs nearby. It was cute!

We walked back down to Kandersteg, and there was no shortage of impressive scenery.

Here’s Trumpet-Gentian (Gentiana acaulis), an evergreen alpine perennial:

A local artist painted the garbage houses in Kandersteg; here’s one:

Artist: Mirjam Molenaar

Kandersteg has big slugs. I think these two are Lusitanian slugs (Arion vulgaris). They can live up to one year and lay up to 400 eggs in a summer.

Next up was Lucerne, Switzerland. Here’s a view of Lake Lucerne from our Airbnb:

The famous Lion Monument in Lucerne is a tribute to the Swiss Guards killed in Paris in 1792 during the French Revolution. It is carved out of sandstone rock.

Many Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) were seen along the shoreline of Lake Lucerne:

New country – Italy! One day we drove around the countryside and happened upon the village of Montelupo Albese. Its namesake comes from a legend in which the place was inhabited by wolves. Various Italian artists have painted wolf murals throughout the village:

Here are three murals:

Artist: pending

Artist: pending

Artist: pending

The Piedmont region of Italy is dotted with small villages, mountains, hills, and plains. The agricultural areas produce rice, corn, and grapes (for wine). With the sun shining and the warm temperature, it was a picture-perfect day.

Back to Madison, Wisconsin – on September 11th – the last of the Monarch butterflies before they flutter away to Mexico?



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Summer cottages of long ago

I found a few postcards of cottages from Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin in my grandparent’s picture albums. They’re from the 1950s and 1960s. Currently, the town is touted as “Serenity at the Top of Wisconsin” on the Chamber of Commerce website. Some of the postcards are blank so perhaps my grandparents vacationed there and brought back the postcards as keepsakes. Others are addressed to them.

For Nanakiki Cottage (below), the 1954 postcard message to my grandparents is as follows: “The fish are biting just swell so are the mosquitoes. The weather is just wonderful up here.”

Bungishimo Cottage is pictured below. What does Bungishimo mean? I have no idea and neither does the internet as there were no results found.

Bring along a book and sit back –

For the bright white Park View Cottage (below), the 1960 postcard message to my grandparents is as follows: “Having a good time and a good rest, Fishing isn’t too good, but we are catching enough for a few meals.”

Courtesy of my friend Mary is a picture of a sun halo! I had never heard of such a thing.

From, “randomly-oriented hexagonal ice crystals with diameters less than 20.5 micrometers are responsible for the halo observed in the sky. This geometric size and shape causes light to undergo two refractions, or bends, as the light passes through the ice crystal. Once the second bend is made, the light appears as a halo in the sky.”

How did they ever figure that out?

A mid-June display of yard flowers brighten up the house:

July 24th backyard flowers and bees…


…and a female Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly (males have white spots between the brown ones):

Yesterday I joined a Butterfly walk with about 10 others in Yahara Heights County Park, Madison. But it is impossible for me to just look at the butterflies!

On the left, one stunning pink/purple-flowered stalk of Swamp Milkweed stands out. It is a popular pollinator species. On the right is a picture of the Partridge Pea plant before its buttery-yellow flowers emerge. It is also a pollinator species, the seeds are food for many birds, and it adds nitrogen to the soil.


Ironweed was just beginning to bloom. At 4-6 feet tall it is a magnet for butterflies.

The commonly-found Viceroy butterfly can be confused with the Monarch butterfly. The Viceroy is smaller, has one heavy black line through the middle of the hind wings, and has white spots in the black margins of the wings.









I am always mesmerized by a field of Queen Anne’s Lace. When I was a girl I’d pick a bunch and put them in different vases of dyed water, and then wait a few days for the pale colors to emerge.

“We have more possibilities in each moment than we realize.”—Thich Nhat Hahn



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Nature salmagundi


1: a salad plate of chopped meats, anchovies, eggs, and vegetables arranged in rows for contrast and dressed with a salad dressing
2: a heterogeneous mixture: POTPOURRI

I like learning new words; how about you?

This post has a mix of late winter to spring pictures; hence, SALMAGUNDI!

I saw these funky ice designs while walking the dog in mid-March:

April 7th: Lake Mendota ice-out had occurred the previous week and unstable grey ice was abundant (I think that’s what it is called – here’s a table of lake ice terms). For a few short minutes on this day a fog bank formed over the lake:

The same day I noticed these mushrooms growing on old tree stumps in the neighbor’s backyard:

April 9th: Cedar Waxwings took advantage of the recently unfrozen water bath:


April 10th, during a brief snowfall: This adult Cooper’s hawk found the best perch for its next meal:

April 14th: The tops of the trees seemed to be on fire as the setting sun rays struck them:

Late April: I was spoiled with a week stay in a northern Wisconsin cabin, experiencing ice-out all over again:


What I found on the pier:

Not a painting but don’t you think it could be?

Small shards of lake ice:

An American red squirrel is watching me. Is that a scar next to its eye? Did you know they use sight and smell – and not memory – to locate buried nuts in the winter, which incidentally may not be the ones they buried?

The loon pair returned the day of ice-out. One morning I was awoken by their calls – what a blessing!

Back home in Madison, a birdwatching episode in the neighborhood on May 19th revealed a few firsts. Can you find the bird in this picture? Is it a Least Flycatcher or a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher?

Scarlet Tanagers! There were four bright red and black males and two olive-yellow females. They migrate from as far south as Bolivia.

A Gray Catbird on the home feeder. Their calls are like mewing cats!

Click here to read about a fascinating study of migratory birds dying from building collisions, because they are disoriented by the artificial lights. The article also lists the 10 most dangerous US cities for spring and fall bird migrations. I’m near Chicago, and sadly it is #1 on both lists.



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