Still plenty of new sights to see…

Despite a scarier forecast, the weather in Estabrook was just like yesterday morning, cold as heck but not too breezy and with plenty of sunshine, so not too bad. All the mammals were absent again, and many of the little birds were absent, too. Perhaps they are also fed up with the cold and taking the morning off, but luckily for us, there are plenty of other birds in the park to see!

I heard the kingfisher and saw two pairs of common mergansers right away at the south end, but thought I’d have better light later. A bit farther north, I watched a mature bald eagle circle down to land on the ice, but before I could line up a shot, a herring gull glided by and told it to “keep movin’, Buddy.” Darn. You’d think an apex predator like that could get a little more respect, right?

Finally, about where the river bends west, I spotted a lone goldeneye hen, and it turns out, as with the kestrel, she was willing to pose for a bit if I was willing to lie down for a bit. I guess it’s better late than never to learn that trick, eh?

At the top of the mild rapids, before the river is frozen from shore to shore all the way up to the falls, there was a large group of mallards, and our intrepid gadwall drake was still toughing it out amongst them.

Meanwhile, this trio of mallard drakes was settling down for a morning nap on the edge of the ice.

I didn’t see the kestrel today, and I didn’t see much else either, all the way to the north end and back to the falls, where this cardinal finally greeted me. There was a female nearby, as well, but as soon as I turned in her direction, they both took off. Shoot!

On the open water above the falls, there was another bunch of mallards and this lone common merganser hen in bright sunshine this time.

As I was trying to get the best shot of her that I could, I noticed this amazing row of robins lining up at the edge of the ice for sips of water.

On my way back past the frozen part, before I could reach the open water again, I spotted this little cutie, the smallest bird of the morning and a completely new species for us! Say hello to a fox sparrow (Passerella iliaca), red morph, at the very northern edge of its year-round range. I did not see that coming. Did you?

Here’s a slightly different view, which is not quite as crisp, but which better shows off the red and gray pattern on the side of its face that clinches the identification for me.

When I finally got back to the open water, there were a couple of odd ducks among the mallards, and they quickly headed down river once they saw me.

One turned out to be this hooded merganser hen, whom we’ve probably already seen a few times this winter.

This time, however, as I was looking for the other odd ducks, she caught herself a relatively huge fish. That’ll warm your belly, won’t it?

I did finally catch up to the other ducks, and they turned out to be a pair of common goldeneyes. I’d like to think she’s the same hen we saw earlier, and she finally found herself a drake.

By the time I reached the south end again, the common mergansers were still there, but I already had a nice hen picture, and the kingfisher was long gone. Maybe I’ll have a better chance tomorrow when it is supposed to be a balmy 30°F. We’ll see soon enough.

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.

7 thoughts on “Still plenty of new sights to see…

  1. I’m a recent new follower – gotta tell you that I am thrilled to open your update emails whenever they pop in my inbox.

    It would be so cool to be able to be with you in person somehow. Maybe a lottery for your followers to accompany you on your exploits once a month? Perhaps a way to drive some contributions to Friends of Estabrook.

    Regardless – great stuff and so glad to be following you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bill,

      Thanks for your feedback and welcome aboard. It’s always nice to hear that someone is enjoying this odd little experiment.

      As for a “walk-along”, I haven’t received a ton of requests for that yet, so I think we can skip the lottery for now, and just set up a date and time that works for both of us. Let’s switch to email for that, so drop me a line at the address I spell out on the “Contact” tab.


    1. I had the same impression, but it appears we were incorrect. I read that some robins do migrate, as far as 5,000, but we are in their year-round range here in Milwaukee. Perhaps our mistaken impression stems from the fact that they don’t eat birdseed and so most of us are unlikely to see them if there is snow on the ground.


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