Soft-Focus Saturday!

It was still quite dark at sunrise under thick cloud cover. Then the fog rolled in, and I’m surprised any of my pictures came out at all. Here are the ones that seem presentable.

There was no sign of the huge snapping turtle at the pond, but a handful of wood ducks are still around, and here are four of them just off the far shore.

As I continued to the north end of the pond, in search of that turtle, this northern flicker really did not want to quit mining the ant nest it must have found beside the path.

Once I got past the flicker, this chipmunk made me stop again.

When I finally reached the north end of the pond, the four wood ducks were still on their branch, but with a prettier background.

I heard a kingfisher but couldn’t see it or anyone else around, so I pressed ahead to the river. I couldn’t find any pintails, teals, mergansers, shovelers, or cormorants today, but there were plenty of mallards, a few geese, some wood ducks, and this one blue heron.

On shore, a flycatcher, looks like an eastern wood-pewee, was perhaps waiting for enough visibility to spot flies.

A bit lower, a white-throated sparrow was taking a break from foraging in the tall flower stalks.

Lower still, I was surprised to find a purple cornflower still in bloom, and this one had a lethargic bumblebee resting on it, perhaps waiting to dry out and warm up.

On my way back south, I was super surprised to spot one more green heron on the far shore. I haven’t seen one in a while and thought they had all flown south already.

South of the falls, a golden-crowned kinglet was kind enough to tilt its head our way for an instant.

When I got to where the stream from the pond empties into the river, there were two more surprises waiting for me. First, this odd couple, a wood duck drake and mallard hen foraging together.

Second, this bullfrog on a lily pad reminded me that we haven’t seen the last of them for the season either.

Finally, right at the south end, as I was about to walk out of the park, a long-time reader stopped to chat about starlings. It turns out that they were introduced to the US from Europe by pharmacist and “self-described Shakespeare fanatic” Eugene Schieffelin in the late 1800s, even though “Shakespeare only mentioned starlings once, in Henry IV, Act 1, when Hotspur is rebelling against the king.”

Anyway, as we were chatting, this magnificent red-tailed hawk made a try for a squirrel but missed and ended up on the lawn, not 30 feet away, right by the parkway. For a moment, it appeared to be torn between trying for the squirrel again, who was just right up there…

or fleeing from all the people standing around in the parking lot looking at it, and it eventually opted for the latter and took off. Better luck next time, buddy!

Lastly, I rode my bike down the Oak Leaf Trail yesterday afternoon to stop by campus, and look who I spotted on the New England aster by the Urban Ecology Center. Yup, one last monarch who hasn’t made its way to Mexico yet.

PS. I’ve gotten two comments about that mystery bird from yesterday. Pam suggests it’s a grey bunting, but she might be joking because they’re only found in Asia. Sorry, Pam. And Alex suggests it’s a “immature white-crowned sparrow”, which does look about right with a sparrow’s beak, a brown crest, a dark eye stripe, and two white wing bars, so that’s what I’m going to go with. Thanks, Alex!

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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