Yesterday afternoon was so nice, I went out again and ran into our newest little buddy, the friendly American coot, at the south end again, almost within sight of the Capitol Ave bridge.

Then, this morning, I finally confirmed that there are indeed at least too coots on the river. Maybe our friendly coot from the south end met up with the shy coot from the north end. As with most birds, they look so similar, I’ll never know for sure, but here they are heading to the west side across from the mud flats in the pretty morning sun.

Above the falls, I spotted this pair of mallard drakes soaking up that morning sun after a pretty cold night. There was frost on the grass as I made my way to the river. One of our beaver poked its nose out of the water near there, too, but ducked back under as soon as it spotted me and must have kept swimming south because I didn’t see it again.

At the north end, there were a few wood ducks around, at least one hen, and at least 3 drakes. Here are two drakes who found a spot where the blue sky reflects nicely off the muddy water.

Here’s a tree trunk stretching out over the water from the northern island, and it was pretty crowded this morning. How many birds can you find on it?

I had hoped that I might find a warbler again in the trees east of the meadow there, but they were quiet this morning so I reluctantly headed back south. The river trail was seeing pretty good traffic by then, so I forded the little oxbow pond and kept close to the river.

As luck would have it, I found some litter to collect, and as I concentrated on picking it up without losing my phone or my keys, a big commotion erupted on the southern island just across the channel from me. A pair of mallards came first, on the wing and quacking for all they were worth, followed closely by a Canada goose doing the same. As I turned to gawk at the skeptical, I spotted a huge dark form land on a big branch high above.

At first I thought it was a hawk, but it was far too big for that. Then I thought maybe a young eagle who hadn’t gotten its white feather yet. Finally it dawned on me that this must, at long last, be an owl, a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus).

Well, I did the best mix I could manage of “as fast as I can” and “don’t make any sudden moves” and got out my camera. Meanwhile, our new guest quickly hopped down the branch into a less-conspicuous location.

It looks like that might be a thick grape vine beside the tree trunk that it found to hide behind. Here it is keeping an eye on me, at least for the moment.

Finally, it settled in behind that vine, and succeeded in waiting me out.

So, for the second time this week, I floated home on a cloud, at least until my reverie was broken by the call of this cardinal that was almost as bright as he was.

Long-time readers may recall last spring when a fellow bird enthusiast tipped me off to the great horned owls and owlets residing over at Newton and Prospect. Well, now we can finally say that we’ve seen at least one of them in Estabrook Park, too.

PS. Both geese were incubating away this morning on the island in the pond, so our string of good luck appears to be holding.

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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