Grey skies are back…

The thermometer said 36°F, but my skin said 23°F, and the sky was covered by a thick blanket of clouds. It sure wasn’t like the previous two beautiful days, but I was glad to be back in the park after taking a quick break to help kick off the spring semester at UWM.

Luckily, all the critters appear to have done just fine without me. At the south end, there were a couple of male common mergansers and at least eight females, which is more than I’ve ever seen before in one day, let alone in one place. The most I could get in a row, however, were these three:

As I was trying to line up that shot, a bald eagle drifted overhead, but kept right on going. Just up river from the mergansers was our female goldeneye, a bit down river from her usual spot, and still unaccompanied. Come on, guys!

The usual crowd of mallards and interlopers were in their regular spot above the falls. The pair of buffleheads, at least four male goldeneyes, a couple more male common mergansers, and even a Canada goose or two were all there. No black ducks, though. Sorry Lou.

Further north, as I paused on the trial for a moment, I heard the familiar chirp of a woodpecker, but closer than usual. I slowly turned around, and there it was, right at eye level and not even ten feet away from me. Usually, once they notice me looking their way, they take right off, but this one must have thought it had found the mother lode in that tree trunk because it just keep working on that spot of the bark while I took a couple dozen pictures in hopes of having one look nice.

From the comfort of my dining room table, I’m gonna say that she’s a downy woodpecker because of the dark spots on her white tail feathers and her smaller beak relative to a hairy woodpecker. In the “after” picture on the right above, you can see how much bigger and deeper she had made the hole in the bark during the two minutes she allowed me to stand there taking pictures. That was a rare treat, and I sure hope she got what she was digging for.

Finally, as seems to be my habit these days, I swung by the pond to see who was about. There were goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, juncos, and a bunch of that sparrow/finch we keep seeing, but this little character really stood out.

It looks similar to the other dark-eyed juncos we’ve been seeing lately, but not quite the same because it has a more distinct line between its black hood and white chest plus the noticeably brown back and sides. Therefore, I’m going to go out on a limb, despite the range maps, and suggest that this is an Oregon dark-eyed junco (J. h. oreganus).

I can’t wait to see how much snow we get this time. How about you?

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.

3 thoughts on “Grey skies are back…

  1. Wow! I really appreciate seeing the woodpecker’s progress on the tree. Thanks for the before and after!
    And what’s the black dot all about on Junco’s beak?


    1. Oooh! Good eye! Those marks on the beak lead me even more towards calling our visitor an Oregon dark-eyed junco.
      See other images here “Dark-eyed Juncos Flock Back for the Winter | Lyric Wild Bird Food” and here “Dark-eyed Junco – eBird”.
      Dang. WordPress does not appear to give me the option to include links in my replies, but if you google images for “Oregon dark-eyed junco”, two on the first page of results also have dark marks on their otherwise light beaks. Brava!


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