The park is abuzz, despite the clouds…

The day didn’t look very nice, with grey skies that dimmed the light pretty good at times, but the cooler air was nice, and the critters in Estabrook were out anyway and making the most of it. There were no herons that I could find at the pond again, but the wood ducks took it past eleven and all the way to twelve individuals this morning. No pictures caught my eye, however, so off to the river I went.

Our three hooded mergansers were still there, off the northern island, and on break when I arrived.

It didn’t take them long to get back to “fishing”, and man, oh man, were they having a morning. In ten minutes, I have pictures of at least five crayfish going down the hatch, but some came out blurry, so count your blessings.

Here’s an example of the thrashing the mergansers give the crayfish to prepare them for a ride down an esophagus.

Here’s a simul-catch.

The mergansers were just hauling them in and at one point I thought to myself, “are they catching wild animals or harvesting fruit?” Anyway, here’s one last picture of the three of them all hunting together.

The blue heron seemed to look upon the spectacle with some annoyance, but that look could just as well be aimed at me. For all the pictures I’ve taken of this one, you’d think we’d be best buddies by now.

Meanwhile, there was nearly as much action back on shore. The goldfinches were busy mining the cone flowers for seeds, and this little cutie took a short breather for this portrait.

Now try the other side.

Here’s yet another one of those visiting thrushes, and I have now received two reliable confirmations on the instagram that they are indeed Swainson’s thrushes. One commenter helpfully added “based on the buffy eye ring and the lack of a red tail.”

Best of all, we’ve got another first-time sighting! There were a few of these sweethearts flitting about with the goldfinches, and the fine folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology assure me that they are Philadelphia vireos (Vireo philadelphicus) on their way from Canada to southern Central America.

They also explain thatPhiladelphia and Red-eyed Vireos [whom we just saw last Wednesday] sing very similar songs, with Red-eyed’s usually sounding simpler and faster. As if to make matters more confusing, where these two species overlap on the nesting grounds, the Philadelphia Vireo may sing perfect imitations of Red-eyed song. These imitations, scientists speculate, might help the smaller Philadelphia to avoid aggression by the larger, heavier Red-eyed Vireo.

Tricky little devils, eh? But, this one looks so innocent, doesn’t it?

I eventually had to head back home, and on my way south I spotted another shocker from the boardwalk below the beer garden. It appears to be a common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), and while it is not common for them to blossom this late in the season, it is not unheard of. Ha!

Yesterday, I had a nice-enough picture of a bumble bee on a cut-leaf cone flower from about halfway to the south end on the river trail, but it didn’t make the final cut. So, as I walked by the same flowers today, perhaps the same bumble bee said, “Let’s try that again. I think I can do better,” and it sure did.

Finally, several dryad’s saddle mushrooms, aka pheasant’s back, are in various stages of development. Here a couple by the boardwalk in their early, pig-nosed stage.

And here are a few huge ones, dinner-plate sized, starting to look slightly past their prime at the south end.

Lastly, this appears for all the world to be the entrance to an active beehive (not hornets, thank goodness!), it the end of a big, downed log, and they were busy as heck today. They don’t have a lot of time left, so I guess they gotta hurry. I read that honey bees can survive the winter by forming a “winter cluster” and consuming the honey they have stored up over the summer to fuel shivering to generate heat. I don’t dare guess if that’s what’s in store for these bees, but I kinda hope they make it one way or another.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. The flower-of-an-hour (Hibiscus trionum) just happened to be open when I walked by the crosswalk at the southern end of the middle parking lot. How’s that for some luck?

Well, them’s all the pictures fit to publish for today, and Go, Pack, Go!

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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