Some surprises still…

The weather in Estabrook this morning has snapped right back to beautiful, after all the excitement of yesterday’s downpour, and I hope you get to enjoy it while it lasts.

Life on the pond continues to wind down slowly, despite a nice surprise now and then, and our young night-heron was dozing off in its usual spot…

While one green heron was looking intently for breakfast…

But I saw only three wood ducks and no mallards there today.

In contrast, things remain a bit more lively on the river, and here are a pair of mallards busily foraging in the falls.

Plenty of other regulars were there again, including geese, more mallards, wood ducks, and this blue heron.

A cormorant was back and drying out after a quick dip, and it only has to make it to southern Illinois for the winter, so it has time to dawdle.

The new arrivals I spotted were a trio of mergansers, and here’s one of them. It’s hard to say for sure, but the light cheeks and neck has me leaning towards female or non-breeding male hooded merganser. What do you think?

In any case, two of them soon caught crayfish, and here are a couple shots of the ensuing struggles that came out in focus.

Meanwhile, in the trees right behind me, this pretty little female or immature magnolia warbler (Setophaga magnolia) was hunting up its own breakfast before continuing its long journey to southern Central America.

Here’s a picture, perfectly focused on the branch in the near foreground, that nevertheless shows the distinctive black stripes down its yellow breast and sides.

While I was focusing on sticks, this flycatcher patiently waited in the warm morning sun for me to pay it some attention. These cute pictures are not perfect for identification, but I’m gonna go with eastern wood-pewee anyway.

Lastly, on my swing back by the pond to see if anybody new had shown up, I managed to catch this quick-moving bug hunter deep in the bushes at the north end, and that distinctive black-and-white eye striping makes it a red-eyed vireo, I believe, even though we can’t make out the red eyes. It’s got even farther to go than the magnolia warbler, all the way to the Amazon basin, and I expect it will be on its way soon.

The prize for surprising me this morning, however, goes to this intrepid squirrel, yes, a squirrel, swimming briskly across the river to the southern island. You can even make out its cute little nose and bushy tail. I was scanning ahead with my binoculars, hoping to find a new migrant in the shallow waters between the islands, when I spotted it, and I couldn’t even tell what it was at the time. Only when I could look at the image on my computer did I finally realize what it was. Who knew, right?

And those are all the surprises I’ve got for you today. Till next time.

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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