August 24, 2017

A Great Hike at Mud Lake Wildlife Area

monarch on thistle

There are so many wonderful places to hike very close to my home. Nearly every time we hike I take a few photos, but I don't always get around to posting about them. One thing I've learned over the years is that wetlands are great places to see wildlife, and more specifically bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

mud lake

A few years ago, we hiked at the Mud Lake Wildlife Area, which includes approximately 1,450 acres of wetland, 590 acres of upland, and 220 acres of wooded habitat. It's near Rio in Columbia County, about 30 minutes north of the Madison area.

At the time of our hike, in early September, quite a few native plants were blooming in full force, including:

new england aster

New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae),

green tiger on snakeroot

White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima),

bumble on goldenrod

Various Goldenrods--I think this one is Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), and

common yarrow

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

This was also the first and only time I've seen Giant Swallowtail caterpillars in the wild, which was very exciting.

giant swallowtail cat

They camouflage themselves to look like bird droppings.

giant swallowtail cat 2

We saw the caterpillars on Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) shrubs, one of their host plants.

As I mentioned before, wetlands are great places to view butterflies, and on this day we saw quite a few:

viceroy
Viceroy

pearl crescent
Pearl Crescent

monarch on joe pye
Monarch

black swallowtail
Black Swallowtail

swallowtail and bumble
A worn Black Swallowtail sharing Thistle nectar with a Bumble Bee.

When I look back at hiking photos from the past several years, most of them are from late summer and early autumn. It's a beautiful, comfortable time to get out and enjoy nature in the Upper Midwest.

worn black swallowtail

44 comments:

  1. What fun to get out this time of year when it is a bit cooler and there is still plenty of bugs to see.

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    1. Yes, it is. These photos were taken in early September a different year, but our weather lately is reminding me of September! Great for hiking! Some of these plants are blooming now or about to bloom.

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  2. How fun! I love hiking, and I tend to hike more in the fall as well. I have some wetlands near me, and I really do think that it is a draw for wildlife.

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    1. Some people don't think hiking is exciting, but it's my favorite form of exercise (well, that and gardening). I don't even realize I'm exercising! And there's so much to see, with a different canvas every time!

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  3. Interesting to see the Giant Swallowtail caterpillars and the variety of butterflies.

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    1. Yes, it was nifty. I had forgotten we saw these in September, which is prompting me to do a little more research about Giant Swallowtails. I haven't seen any GS caterpillars or butterflies this summer. The GS butterflies are so huge and beautiful!

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  4. Delightful tour. I have only seen a Giant Swallowtail butterfly once, seeing their caterpillar would also be cool.

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    1. I've only seen them a few times, Gail. Not in the last two years, so I'm a little disappointed. Maybe I'll have to go back to this wildlife area next summer. :)

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  5. Looks like a wonderful excursion!

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    1. It was, and there are so many wonderful places like this nearby. Often, I think we take these little pockets of nature for granted. Hopefully, many will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

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  6. Looks like a perfect place for a nature walk.
    Very interesting that Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar . . . wow!

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    1. Yes, it is. I know: The Giant Swallowtail is a fascinating species. I've only seen the caterpillars in the wild once, and the butterflies just a few times.

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  7. Can't believe I've never been there! Looks like a wonderful experience.

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    1. We're so fortunate to have these places nearby, aren't we? It's a great place to visit. There's no designated trail, but there were some areas where regular foot traffic made it pretty easy to pass. It was worth it to see all the butterflies!

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  8. I actually saw a giant swallowtail in the garden this week. He was feeding on the butterfly bush. Ed tried to go out for a photo, but a hummingbird chased the huge butterfly away before he could get there!

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    1. Wonderful! They're so huge, aren't they? How fascinating that the hummingbird chased it away. That must have been a sight to see!

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  9. Great photos--my favorite is the New England asters. They're uncommon in WY, only in the northeast corner (Black Hills)

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    1. Thanks, Hollis. New England Asters are so common here, along with many other Aster species. The photos in this post were taken in September, but some of the Asters are starting to bloom here now.

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  10. I used to hike a similar trail near Mirror Lake in Wisconsin Dells. I didn't take photos, however; so, thanks for the memories.

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    1. You're welcome. Yes, Mirror Lake is beautiful, too. I haven't been there for a while. Thanks for the reminder--I need to get back. It was one of our favorite hiking destinations as a young couple many years ago.

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  11. Oh, how I wish I could grow New England asters but they don't do well for me. Love this posting and all the beautiful wildlife. P. x

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    1. Pam: I haven't had much luck with Asters, either. I know they can handle some shade, but they prefer a little more sun than I have, and then the rabbits do enjoy eating them! Ugh.

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  12. Wow, what an incredible assortment of butterflies! Great shots! As you saw yesterday, our asters and goldenrod here in Chicago are mostly not yet in bloom.

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    1. Hey Jason: The photos here were taken in September a few years ago, but the Asters and Goldenrods are starting to bloom here, though not quite as much as in these photos. The location is great for butterfly sightings, though. Thanks for hosting the gathering on the weekend! I think everyone had a great time.

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  13. I did not know that Giant Swallowtail caterpillars look like bird droppings! That is interesting, and your photos are great examples. I am going to start looking at bird poop more closely! Thanks for sharing your lovely butterfly images.

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    1. LOL. Yes, I think before I found out about it several years ago I wouldn't have even noticed the GS caterpillars, because they blend in so well. Thanks, Deb.

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  14. WOW, I have never seen a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar. AMAZING!
    I enjoyed your photos.
    Carla

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    1. Thanks, Carla! Yes, they're really unique. Tricky camouflage, eh?

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  15. P.S. We do have the Giant Swallowtail butterfly visiting daily in our garden. Huge and Beautiful.
    Have a great week,
    Carla

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    1. Lucky you! I noticed several people have sighted them in Wisconsin this summer at wisconsinbutterflies.org. I missed them this year. :(

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  16. Nice photos beth. Im curious were the New England Asters in moist soil, mine seem to dislike drought.

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    1. Thanks. I'm not sure about the NE Asters. Actually, I've seen them in various places in our area--in moist and normal garden soils. I think you're right about the drought, though. Someone was mentioning recently that the Asters didn't bloom very long in 2012--the year we had a horrible drought.

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  17. My goodness that is wonderful to see all those butterflies and the camouflaged cats....you have many more later wildflowers blooming....no asters here and goldenrod just starting...we are in for a cool down in the beginning of September so I expect to see asters soon.

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    1. Well, Donna, these photos were taken in September--a few years ago. There are so many species of both Asters and Goldenrods, and some of both are starting to bloom, but we're definitely far from the peak of either. This post was to illustrate that late summer/early fall is a good stretch of time for great hiking, particularly at a wetland if you want to see butterflies. :)

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  18. Lovely post and stunning photos, the Butterflies are beautiful..
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thanks, Amanda. It's such a joy to see so many butterflies in the wild! I didn't get out as much as I'd like for hiking this summer, and I missed it. I guess I'll need to do some fall hikes!

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  19. What beautiful photos of such a variety of creatures. I remember the first time I found a swallowtail caterpillar in my garden. A stunning disguise.

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    1. Thanks, Pat. Yes, the Giant Swallowtails are stealthy. I love to see the other caterpillars and butterflies, too. They are such amazing creatures with fascinating life cycles!

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  20. a tiny little prince in waiting - your Monarch caterpillar

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    1. Yes, all the caterpillars are princes and princesses. :) We didn't see any Monarch caterpillars during this hike, but it was neat to see the Giant Swallowtail caterpillars. They really do look like bird droppings--especially from a distance and if you don't realize what you're looking for.

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  21. I'm so glad there are places like this left for nature and for us to observe what we can of it!

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    1. Me, too, Sue! I hope there will still be places like this left for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to enjoy.

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  22. Have never been up in that area. You got some great butterfly shots.

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    1. Thanks, Heather. You'll have to take a drive--maybe next spring or summer. It's really close, just up Hwy. 22 near Rio. :)

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