Kohler-Andae Field Trip Report No. 3.

After coming back to Milwaukee to get some work done at UWM during the week, I returned to Kohler-Andrae for the weekend, and the American white pelicans were still there. Yay! Plus, with those huge wings, they fly nice and slow, which makes them about the easiest birds to photograph in flight I’ve ever had the pleasure of aiming at. Here are three separate birds, not the triple exposure of just one bird that it appears to be, on final approach to the Black River. You can even see their landing gear coming down.

Meanwhile, new critters, at least for me at this park, continue to make their appearances. First is a painted turtle sticking just its head through the duckweed to reconnoiter the situation.

And here’s a bullfrog playing a little less coy.

A special treat was this young blue heron fishing in a little clearing in the reeds beside the Black River and tolerating me closer than any of his cousins in Estabrook ever have.

It struggled a bit with the depth of the water, perhaps just a tad deeper than it prefers.

There was also something going on with its head feathers that I don’t believe I seen before. Maybe just too much product that day.

By the fishing pond, where I had spotted the bluebird last weekend, I noticed a little path, the so-called “Ancient Shores Trail”, which the signage claims follows a bit of the Nipissing Great Lakes shore from 7,500 years ago, and so I gave it a try. It was nice enough, and at the far end of the loop, in a small grove of pine trees, I could hear a chorus of calls. One was coming from a family of raptors, with at least three and maybe four members, and a second set of calls was coming from either squirrels or chipmunks in the neighboring trees.

I never did see the rodents, perhaps by design, but one raptor was kind enough to offer us these views, from which I conclude it to be an immature Cooper’s hawk.

Back to the pond, I was pleasantly surprised to spot a nice little yellow warbler, a female based on her lack of stripes, soaking up the morning sun.

On the walk back to the campground from the pond, I spotted our first eastern phoebe of the season, pausing on a guardrail and nicely backlit by the morning sun.

At the same spot, where the road crosses over the Black River, a green heron was also enjoying the morning sun. I guess it had been a cold night.

That spot is so popular, even a bluebird paused to give us one more look.

Just a bit up that road, I couldn’t help but take another picture of a marsh wren doing what marsh wrens do.

Closer to the campground, a hungry crow was too busy picking berries to remember that we’re usually not allowed to have such a nice close look at them.

Right by the crow was this unfortunate-looking northern cardinal appearing to suffer from male pattern baldness, which could be due either to an unusual molt or feather mites. It didn’t affect his singing, however, and I read that the good news is that “in most cases new head feathers grow in within a few weeks.” It sure accentuates that big ol’ beak, though, doesn’t it?

And that’s finally it for the birds. For the mammals, we swap out one of the largest, the white-tailed deer from last weekend, for one of the smallest, this very shy and very small rodent, either a cinereus shrew, masked shrew, or just common shrew (Sorex cinereus) or an American pygmy shrew (Sorex hoyi). They weigh in at just 5 or 4.5 grams, respectively, vs a relatively whopping 23 grams for the eastern meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus), sometimes called the field mouse or meadow mouse.

Finally, on our way home, Anne wanted to show me the “Black River Trails” at the north end of the park, which features a huge wildflower meadow, and that’s where I finally found our first eastern tiger swallowtail of this season. At last!

I had hoped to wrap up with a monarch on one of these pretty knapweed blossoms, probably spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe), but I goofed up that picture, and we’re stuck with this hard-working bumblebee instead.

And that concludes our field trip to Kohler-Andrae State Park for this season. It’s back to Estabrook for us until next summer.

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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