Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve

A Baltimore Oriole pries open a blossom to see what's crawling inside.  The sun is rising over the Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve on this last day of May 2014. Hundreds of birds are darting about searching for food…breakfast if you like. 

Hopping from branch to branch, hungry birds look for the lucky blossom that contains the worm.  

No one is keeping a tally of  which blossoms are visited, so each bird inspects every blossom in ongoing scramble of activity. These inspections are repeated thousands of times over millions of blossoms covering the seventy-three acre nature preserve. It's natural theater.

This worm show goes on every morning about this same time.

A Cedar Waxwing is working a tree nearby.  The Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve is located in the Town of Grafton. Sited along the Lake Michigan shoreline, it’s especially busy at this time of year.  

Multiple species of birds are traveling to their summer nesting grounds. Some birds will stay and make Lion's Den their home, but most use it as a stopover on their annual spring migration elsewhere.

Birds are most active and approachable in the morning. If you want to see birds up close, you will have to get up early.

Some people come to walk the sandy beach or the bluff overlooking the lake, others come to walk their dogs. Dogs on leashes are welcome. 

It is a quiet, peaceful place at sunrise.

I appreciate the long daylight hours of May, when it’s only the birds and me.

With newly budding trees, the birds stand out against a slowly brightening sky.

If you don’t see birds, listen for them. 

The Red-eyed Vireo is a dependable singer.  It makes no difference if it’s morning or evening, the Red-eyed Vireo will let you know where he is, if you follow his song.

The Red-eyed Vireo is a small stocky songbird with an olive green back, white belly and white eyebrow. He likes the midlevel branches when searching for food. He sings while gleaning leaves for caterpillars.  

He’s not particularly colorful or ‘drop dead’ gorgeous, but he has a nice song and beautiful dark red eyes.

His red eye shows you he is watching you, so move slowly and wear muted woodland colors.  Whites and bright colors startle birds and will lessen your chances of getting a good up-close view. 

The Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve is adjacent  to the USFWS Wildlife Production Area to the north. Lake Michigan forms the eastern boundary. 

You may find a Green Heron patrolling these waters.   Green Herons eat aquatic life, so look for one at the edge of the pond.     

Along with the Baltimore Oriole you may find an Orchard Oriole in the lowlands surrounding a pond.

The Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve may be the stopping point in this Orchard Oriole’s migration.  Wisconsin is near the top of the Orchard Oriole range.  

They won’t be here for long though. They will be traveling back to Central America for the winter by mid-July. 

This Orchard Oriole calmly rested as I watched him. It was hard to tell if he just arrived, just ate or was just worn out after a long flight. If he searched for caterpillars this morning, I didn’t see him do it. He was happy where he was and felt no need to fly away. He sat quietly for a long time just soaking up the morning sunshine. 

(Click any picture to enlarge)

This Yellow Warbler, singing at the rising sun, offers a double treat.

His sweet song combined with his bouncy antics accounts for two of the many joys of nature. 

As he sings and searches the bushes for bugs, he’s unaware that his yellow-on-yellow color matching with the leaves makes the early morning even more special.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition