The day of the mammals…

I got to the park just around 6am where the air was cool and dry, the wind was strong enough already that I could hear it roaring through the towers, and the full moon was bright and clear in the western sky.

With the wind like that, I didn’t expect to find much, but I needed the walk anyway, so here we are. I did see a deer scampering around the southern lot, but there’s no way I can get an action shot in light that dim.

Further north along the parkway, I was happily surprised to encounter three more, a doe with two fawns. Her coat looked noticeably darker and browner than her fawns, in a way I don’t recall seeing before, so I wonder if she’s new here. The DNR explains that coats turn brown in the winter and deer that spend their time in the forest have darker coats than deer that regularly get more sun. Anyway, she acted as we’ve seen fawns behave before, and came across the parkway and then straight towards me to get a better look. I get that a lot.

I actually sat down on the pavement, in hopes that I would appear even more harmless than usual, and after she was satisfied that I was harmless and that I had nothing good to eat, they all went back across the parkway. Then she stood on her hind legs to sampling a maple tree branch, as I and her fawns looked on in amazement, decided that they had all seen enough, and took off down the path with her fawns in tow. Finally, they tucked into the woods between the parkway and the Oak Leaf Trail about 100 yards south of me. Remember what I said about this not getting old?

I marveled at that encounter as I continued north to the pond, where I saw one wood duck hen, but left her in peace.

I headed west, heard a munching sound in a tree, and looked up to find two squirrels in the same small tree busily husking and eating fresh walnuts. Mmmm, fresh walnuts, right?

Along the river, I did see fresh work done by beavers to fell another large cottonwood tree, which they had already girdled some time ago, but I did not manage to catch a glimpse of the culprits themselves this time.

Also along the river, I accidentally spooked another wood duck but did not get a picture, and I think I glimpsed a heron on the wing just as it went around a bend in the river, so no picture there, either.

On the mudflats by the river, I finally managed to capture an image in a natural setting of what appeared to be a healthy raccoon. It was ambling through the tall grass when I came upon it, and luckily for me, it chose to freeze for a few seconds before guessing correctly that I wouldn’t chase it.

Let me wrap up this celebration of all things brown and grey with at least one dash of color from yesterday. Here’s a monarch butterfly tanking up on nectar from a cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) growing near the river. I’ve been seeing these flowers for a while, they’re bright yellow, grow quite tall, and so are hard to miss, but I just haven’t found a good reason to look up yet another yellow flower until now.

Every single time I think to myself “Well, that’s the end of that. There’s finally nothing new to see here.” I end up with a day like today, just chock full of surprises. When will I ever learn, eh?

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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