The Day of the Raptors

Our string of pitch-perfect weather continues, and it was another glorious morning in the park.

Right off the bat, as I was checking on the female common mergansers we’ve been seeing regularly at the south end, I annoyed a hawk on the near shore, who flew across to the other side to keep hunting, glare at me, and pose for this picture. I’m going to go with red-tailed hawk, just based on the size of it.

Just north of there, I also startled a grey squirrel, who darted up this tree a bit, and then froze, while perhaps thinking as loud as it could at me, “I am not the squirrel you are looking for.”

Near the end of the open water on the lower river, the growing group of goldeneyes were right where we’ve been seeing them lately. The male called again, and this time I did catch him with his head completely up against his back. Maybe next time, I’ll focus first.

By the mud flats, where the river becomes completely iced over, some little critter appears to have hauled something home again across the snow from the edge of the ice. Not as big a catch as last time, though, or maybe the snow is just firmer now.

Just south of the bridge abutment, I found a pretty little goldfinch, where we’ve seen them before.

And this time, it was accompanied by this female cardinal, who seemed to be enjoying both the nice morning sun and the smooth jazz stylings of this male cardinal who was serenading her from the tree behind me. They would make a dashing pair, eh?

As I approached the falls, I paused to survey the scene from afar, and a flock of mallards buzzed the group still in the water, who immediately scrambled to follow them. A few seconds later, I was treated to a new spectacle that had just caused the previous one.

Not one, not two, but three, yes three bald eagles soared over the falls! Two were mature adults in white heads and tails, which we’ve seen before, and the third was a juvenile, perhaps in its second year, based on the whitish belly and dark head. They all circled a few times before confirming that there was not a bird left on the water and then headed south.

After that, with my heart all atwitter, I continued north along the river before it occurred to me that if I could spot a Cooper’s hawk, perhaps at the pond where we’ve seen them several times before, I’d have my first raptor hat-trick. So I made a bee-line to the east.

As soon as I arrived, I could tell by the sound of all the chatter, that there was no hawk around. Well, I’m at the pond anyway, where I’ve seen some nice things, so I settle in to take a look. Not more than a minute later, a hawk glides right in and perches on a branch in a tree at the northeast corner. The pond ice is nice and firm these days, so I head directly there, and it must have been hungry, or I’m getting a little better at this, because it let me get nice and close before I turned around and left it to hunt in peace. Ta da!

At that point, I was almost exhausted from all the excitement, so I opted to walk straight home along the Oak Leaf trail. Well, there are plenty of birds there, too, and what’s the point of such a beautiful blue sky if we don’t spot a woodpecker against it. Right? By the looks of the marks on her white tail feathers, I’m gonna say she’s a downy.

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 “The Day of the Raptors

  1. I think it’s interesting, and fun, that you leave the most colorful sightings to the end of your post!!


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