Look who’s back!

Anne and I are back home, and we both have a ton to get done before our next trip later this week, but she went for a bike ride this morning, so I figured I could afford a swing through Estabrook, and I sure am glad I did.

As I approached the pond from the south, it looked empty, and my first thought was that the wood ducks have finally fledged or hiked down to the river. I did spot a green heron quietly fishing from a stick at the south end, but it was still pretty dark, and we’ve seen a lot of them lately, so I left it alone.

The big surprise came when I could finally see the west lawn. Ha! The geese are back! It appeared to be a family of two adults and four goslings, and my bet is that the goslings have fledged, and they all flew up from the river for some of that sweet, sweet Kentucky bluegrass.

What are the odds that they’re one of the families that hatched on the pond? They seemed quite comfortable with me and even let me sit on the park bench, but I can never remember their names, so I can’t be sure.

As if that were not enough there were eight wood ducks also up on the lawn: the five ducklings, their mom, her special friend, and a new one who appears to have quite a limp but was not slowed down.

One of the ducklings even snagged a frog for breakfast!

After just sitting on the bench and enjoying the antics of the crowd on the lawn for a while, I continued around the island to see who else might be there, and look who was in the northeast bay. Man, it was like they threw me a welcome home party, and everyone came!

There was even a mallard hen to round it up to 5 bird species on the pond this morning. It did occur to me to check back on the green heron for a picture, but it had already moved on, with a full belly we hope, so I headed down to the river where yet another old friend swam by to say hi.

After the beaver was out of sight, I briefly glimpsed what I’m pretty sure was a hawk moth doing its best hummingbird imitation, but it bolted as soon as I moved, and my heart had a chance to slow back down.

Anyway, I couldn’t stay forever and so headed south along the river. As I kept my eyes open for hawk moths, I spotted a bit of wasp paper, which I’ve seen plenty of times before, but this bit happened to come with a whole bald-faced hornets‘ nest that had recently fallen to the ground and was still full of bald-faced hornets! Yikes!

Fortunately, they were pretty subdued in the cool and dark morning air, so I stiffened my spine and tried to get a better shot. As I leaned in, however, somebody buzzed my ear, and I had to bolt down the trail after my skin, which had leapt clean off my body. I eventually caught it and got it back on, but on the strict condition that I don’t go back and try again.

So, if you’re hiking the upper river trail, south of the southern-most stairway, keep your eyes peeled for a downed hornets nest just off the east side of the trail and don’t dawdle. Sure, I could have tried to do you a solid and move it further down the bank, but if I literally had a ten-foot pole, I don’t think I would be physically capable of doing that job.

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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