Just a stupendous morning in the park

Wow! What a gorgeous morning in Estabrook it turned out to be. To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations when I stepped outside because the clouds were back, and it was pretty dark out. The temperature was just around freezing, however, so mild for this time of year, the wind was calm, the trail was firm, and then the sun came out. Pow! It was like being in a postcard.

Best of all, I wasn’t the only one enjoying a break from the deep freeze. I hadn’t even started hiking down the bluff to the river when I just happened to notice that one branch of a bare tree seemed to have a lot of leaves. So, I took a look with my binoculars.

Ha! Those aren’t leaves! Those are a couple dozen cedar waxwings! Holy Moly, what a sight! Some were preening, some were chirping softly, but mostly they were just hanging out. I’ve seen a few do this before, but nowhere close to this many. Incredible.

When I finally got to the river, I saw our common mergansers, who are usually there, but didn’t see a way to get a good picture. Instead, farther north, around where the river bends west, there was a large group of mallards with our goldeneye couple hiding amongst them.

Above the mild rapids, at the southern edge of where the river is frozen over, I searched for our kestrel and found her on the other side, perched on one of the tower guywires.

Above the falls, another red squirrel was out, but less interested in me than the one yesterday.

At the far north end, I arrived just in time to watch another pair of love birds, red-tailed hawks this time, glide north to perch across the river on the copper-clad cupola atop the former Eline’s Chocolate company building, constructed in 1920 and supposedly “inspired by Bromley College, the Apethorpe Orangery, and the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary.

On my way back south, I happened to catch this grey squirrel crossing the river, without getting wet this time.

Back at the falls, a bunch of mallards were posing so nice, I just had to take their pictures.

Back below the falls, I was finally able to capture a scene that has eluded me several times before: a downy woodpecker, male this time, foraging amongst the leaves on the ground. I guess they’ll go wherever the bugs take them.

A bit south of the abandoned bridge abutment, yet another sparrow caught my attention, a white-throated, this time. We’ve seen these before, but not in a while.

When I got back to the grassy patch, where I had spotted the kestrel across the river on my way north, I was thrilled to find that she had come over to the east side. Plus, now the sun was out, and the sky was blue, blue, blue.

Just south of there, at the base of stairway 9, a male northern cardinal was practicing his song that we’ll be hearing all spring.

Back along the open water, I found one of the common merganser hens swimming with a hooded merganser hen, probably the one that caught the huge fish yesterday.

Meanwhile our gadwall drake was taking a well-deserved nap on the ice.

Finally, atop the bluff at the south end, I didn’t see our acrobatic red squirrel again, but this gray squirrel seemed to suggest that “I’ll give you as long as it takes me to finish this nut.”

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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