This morning arrived, just as advertised, and I set out to see how much difference 14 hours makes. The cloud cover was pretty thick, so when I arrived at the river it was still pretty dark, and it occurred to me, now that temps are above freezing, that I might get to see beaver up on the ice again.
Soon enough, I did spot something up on the ice, but it was way too small to be a beaver, and it was near where I’ve seen goldeneyes several times before, so I figured that’s what it was. I don’t see them up on the ice very often, however, so I took a closer look through my binoculars. Holy smokes! It was a little mink, like the one we saw on the pond last summer, staring right back at me. It hadn’t moved yet, so I slowly put my binoculars down, reached for my camera, and that’s when the little stinker slipped into the water and dove out of sight. Dang! But at least now I know where to look, so here’s hoping I get another chance.
Anyway, I didn’t see any beaver this morning, and the buffleheads, goldeneyes, and mergansers were also still absent, but the mallards were back in a big way. I counted several dozen birds on the ice just above the open water at the top of the rapids, and another couple dozen beside the open water just downstream from the Port Washington Road bridge.
Above the falls, I found this cardinal foraging amongst the sticks and leaves on the ground.
And just past the cardinal, a pair of red squirrels looked and sounded like they were arguing over a nut. This one had the nut.
And this one seemed to want the nut.
And this gray squirrel wondered what’s my fascination with red squirrels, anyway?
I only saw the mallards at the north end and swung by the pond on my way south but didn’t see anybody new or especially photogenic. On my way back south along the river, I spotted some house finches and goldfinches bathing in one of the seeps coming out of the bluff, and the best picture I got was of this goldfinch working on its tail as it dried off.
Speaking of goldfinches, now that several experts have weighed in, I’m afraid that I must finally concede that our mystery birds from Sunday are simply “non-breeding American goldfinches in funky lighting.” Oh well. They’re still pretty birds.
Finally, as I approached the south end, look who paid us a return visit at last.
Yup, our little huntress, the American kestrel, was back and hard at work. Best of luck to her.
Lastly, I counted 19 species of bird this morning, plus the mink and squirrels, compared to just 10 species yesterday afternoon, so 14 hours made quite a difference! Perhaps I just don’t know yet where to look in the afternoon. This might require more investigation.