May Day in Estabrook!

We have some very exciting new surprise guests this morning, but first, let me set the scene.
There was frost, at least on the cars, but maybe for the last time. We can hope, right? It’s May, after all! The bright sun did warm things up quickly, however, and by the time I got to the pond, the Gosling family were all energetically munching on the grass beside the pond. I was busy taking a few nice and bright photos when suddenly all the goslings made a beeline for either the pond, or the tall stalks and reeds sticking up right on the edge of it. At the same instant, I noticed a shadow gliding over the grass and looked up just in time to see a great blue heron drift to a silent landing just out of sight in the northeast corner of the pond. 
I doubt herons eat goslings, but I bet there are plenty of raptors who gladly would, so that’s probably a pretty good instinct on the part of the goslings.
I thanked the goslings for the heads-up and started to move north in hopes of capturing an image of our spectacular new visitor, but before I could even catch a glimpse, something or someone had already spooked it, and off it went, leaving me only with this slightly-blurry snapshot:

Note the slightly visible “head plumes” that help distinguish it from other herons.
Anyway, with my heart still all aflutter, I tried to focus back on the task at hand, and soon bumped into a fellow park goer who asked if I’ve heard about the sighting over at Newton and Prospect. As you already know, I try to focus on signs of life within the boundaries of the beautiful Estabrook Park, but this opportunity sounded too good to pass up, so I made my way over there.
Holy Moly, was it worth the walk!

That’s right! A brood of great horned owlets! Apparently, they hatched a few weeks ago high up in a nearby pine tree and are already able to fly, at least as far as this branch just up the block. When I entered the particulars into Merlin, the app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, just to be sure I was actually seeing what I thought I was seeing, it even indicates “UNCOMMON”. An adult, with the “large ear tufts” that confirm the identification, was perched on another branch of the same tree, perhaps keeping an eye on things or just waiting for the next take-out delivery.
I’ve uploaded that image and others to

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

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