Surprise, surprise, surprise…

It is hard even to describe how beautiful it was in the park this morning. There was still plenty of shiny white snow on the ground, it was 20°F warmer than yesterday, and there was a breeze, but not so much that there weren’t areas of calm along the river and in the woods. Most of all though, the sky was a stunning, tears-in-my-eyes, deep, deep blue, and here’s what you can do with that kind of sky.

When I got to the river, there was not a mallard in sight, just this cast of misfits:

Clockwise, from 7pm: a male and female bufflehead, two goldeneyes, two female red-breasted mergansers, and one male red-breasted merganser.

It turns out, the mallards were taking a quick vaca, leaving just the diving birds behind, because there were a couple of new sheriffs in town, at least for the moment.

Pair of bald eagles

As soon as those two flew away empty-taloned, though, dozens of mallards materialized seemingly out of nowhere, as though orchestrated by air traffic control. I mean, what were they doing? Just circling at a thousand feet waiting for the raptors to move on? The timing and coordination was uncanny.

Then there was all the usually self-congratulatory chatter: “Carl! Glad to see you made it, ol’ buddy! Phew, that was a close one, eh? Can you believe there were two of them this time? I mean, come on, man. Give us a break.”

Well, after all the excitement, I thought nothing could top that, but looky what we have here! That’s right, a wooly bear caterpillar, larvae to an isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), just trekking across the snow! What on earth is it doing up at this hour, right?

Well, to calm us all down from that, let’s listen to the soothing coos of a surprisingly elusive white-breasted nuthatch before it bids us adieu.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot! It appears that some little critter fished something big out of the river and dragged it across the ice and snow to a burrow in the river bank. Hope it was tasty, eh? There were no human tracks anywhere on that ice, the drag mark made a one-way, if not perfectly straight, trip between the open water and the shore, and the paw prints sure aren’t from a dog.

Maybe that’s as close as were going to get to the ermine, sorry Carolyn, but I have a hope not. How fun is that?

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.

7 thoughts on “Surprise, surprise, surprise…

  1. You really hit the jackpot today! Amazing photos ~ the eagles are spectacular! Thanks for sharing your visit.


  2. Everything looks beautiful today. At Estabrook, an eagle even flew overhead today. Probably flying to all 50 states. Possibly eating ermine.

    Carolyn Bucior


  3. OMGoodness!!! 2 Eagles!!!! What a most exciting and symbolic day!!! 2 new leaders? Alice Davis? Hip! Hip! These eagles are such a gift to us all!!!! Nature is the best!


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