A whole lotta incubatin’ goin’ on.

It was another beautiful April morning in the park, and I am thrilled to report that the incubating appears to continue undisturbed on the island in the pond. Here’s a quick shot of the two geese on their nests as the ganders keep watch nearby.

Along the river, both our robins appear now to be incubating as well. There where on their nests as I went north and again when I came south over an hour later. Both are not on an island and are amazing accessible, so keep your fingers crossed that their camouflage, such as it is, does the job.

Meanwhile, at the north end, our newest exciting find, the great horned owl, was on the same branch again this morning. I looked but could not find a nest nearby, so I don’t know what exactly the situation is. Is this one alone this season, is there a nest that I just can’t see, or is this like a bachelor pad “in the city” to take a nap while mom (or dad!) watches the kids at home. Perhaps time will tell.

I have heard from fine fellow local amateur naturalist, Jim Kogutkiewicz, that “a great horned owl is nesting this spring in Downer Woods, and for the last couple weeks or so.” You can see Jim’s beautiful pictures at https://www.instagram.com/p/CNz_0rgnAbM/

While I was carefully walking up and down the river bank trying to find the best angle for a shot, I spotted our first live mussel I’ve seen in the river. I’ve been seeing shells, hole and in pieces since last year, but I always wondered if they were just left over from someone’s clam bake. Now we may surmise that they were locally grown.

I read that “Wisconsin alone has 50 different species of freshwater mussel, and 18 of them have been found within the Milwaukee River.Here even is a gallery of pictures for identifying 13 of them, so have at it! Even the Journal Sentinel has a 2019 article on them titled “Underappreciated but important: DNR completes statewide mussel survey“. Of those 13, I’d go with Elktoe (Alasmidonta marginata). You?

Also at the north end, I spotted our first toadstool of the season. It might be one of several inky caps, of the genus Coprinopsis, or parasols, of the genus Parasola, but I can’t find a picture that matches exactly. Looks tasty, though, doesn’t it?

Anyway, on my way back south, I spotted our killdeer on the mudflats again, and I managed to get some nicer pictures this time. If you haven’t seen their “broken wing act” when they are trying to draw you from their “nest” flat on the ground, it is worth watching a video of one of nature’s most fascinating spectacles. You’d almost think it would just be easer to pick a better nesting site, but I guess they don’t see it that way.

Finally, some new blossoms have pushed through this colder weather and managed to bloom anyway.

Here’s a pretty white with blue speckles hybrid violet at the far north end that I don’t believe we’ve seen before.

Here’s Greek valerian, aka Creeping Jacob’s-ladder, Creeping polemonium, Spreading Jacob’s-ladder (Polemonium reptans), with 99.42% certainty, just north of the underpass along the path.

Here’s a thick patch of trout lilies that are open everywhere throughout the park now.

Finally, the hepticia, aka liverleaf or liverwort is opening up beside the parkway across from the guardrail.

Lastly, here’s an interesting bit of litter I picked up. It looks like it’s been there a while, 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.

6 thoughts on “A whole lotta incubatin’ goin’ on.

  1. What a great gift it is to follow you through the park. I try to get to the park a couple times a week to check to lagoon and the river, thankful for your insights Joan Wessel

    Sent from Outlook



  2. Always wondered why they gave that sweet little flower such a weird name like Liverwort. I mean, really! The dime is beautiful!


    1. Yes, it is a bit surprising that there aren’t more common names, including some less clinical-sounding. As for the liver, though, the Pedia of Wik reports that “the word hepatica derives from the Greek ἡπατικός hēpatikós, from ἧπαρ hêpar ‘liver’, because its three-lobed leaf was thought to resemble the human liver.” Pl@ntNet does list a few more names, including “Herb Trinity, Roundlobe hepatica, Common hepatica, Kidneywort, Pennywort, Round-lobe hepatica.” I can just imagine someone thinking “liverwort” isn’t too attractive, so let’s try “kidneywort”!


  3. Hi Andrew & Audience! A few Shorewoodians have been watching a Great Horned Owl couple in Downer Woods for about a couple months…and in the last couple weeks, we’ve seen one owlet! My husband has some pictures. We’ll have to figure out a way to share them soon…we don’t have IG or a blog.


    1. You could send me one or two, and I would feature them as reader photos of the week .

      Andrew Dressel, PhD Depts of Civil & Mech Eng University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee



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