Some surprising guest appearances!

Hot diggity dog! Have we got a great show for you this morning, boys and girls! At 10°F, it was pretty darn cold for the middle of February, but the sky was perfectly clear, and the winds out of the north never seemed as bad as forecast, especially down in the river valley, so it was pretty much a perfect morning in Estabrook.

It’s hard even to decide what the top story should be, but let’s start with someone warm and fuzzy.

That’s right, somehow one of the masked bandits found itself up a tree as the sun came up, and I was finally able to get some pictures of more than just footprints in the snow. The last time we saw a raccoon was last summer at the pond.

I found this cutie because I heard it cry a couple of times, and I wondered what the heck that sound was. When I finally spotted it up between two tree trunks, I thought it might be in some kind of distress, but it poked its head out one side and then the other, so it was certainly mobile enough. After I got what pictures I could, I backed off, and it scrambled back down the tree and ambled up the path, so the distress appears to have been temporary. Perhaps someone even scarier than me had come through before I arrived, and that’s what it was crying about and why it was up in a tree at all.

Phew! Now for some birds, and first up are the pair of buffleheads, who I was happy to find back on the open water far below the falls. Soon enough, they’ll be winging their way back to Canada to make more buffleheads, so we’d better enjoy them while they’re here.

I didn’t see anyone at the falls today, but as I continued north along the river, this handsome pair of cardinals were foraging right on the path.

The pair of red-tailed hawks at the north end must have been sleeping in this morning, and I didn’t see much else there besides this busy chickadee, but now you can see that the sun had come up and the sky was bright blue.

On my way back south, I stopped by the pond and was thrilled to finally get to see one of those common redpolls that everyone’s been talking about lately. Ta da! I hear that’s a “lifer” for me, in birder lingo.

While I was trying to get at least one redpoll picture to look presentable, another bird continued to make a loud call from a nearby tree. It was so loud, in fact, that I had heard it while still only halfway from the beer garden to the pond. The call was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it, so I sure am glad that I was finally able to spot the caller.

Sorry about the image, but it wouldn’t let me take a better one. Nevertheless, that’s the first northern flicker I’ve seen this season. The last one we saw was also beside the pond but all the way back in October.

As I tried to follow the path around the north end of the pond to get a better shot of the flicker, and almost immediately after I realized it had taken off already, I could barely believe my luck when this stunner landed on a branch right over my head.

It’s a young Cooper’s hawk, who was probably just as surprised by our sudden proximity as I was. It let me get just a couple of shots, and then it took right back off again. Perhaps it was also just as interested in the redpolls as I was, however, because it didn’t take long before it flew right back and perched right over where I had seen the redpoll above.

But those redpolls are flighty, and it was probably long gone by then, so the hawk gave up for now and left with empty talons.

Finally, as I made my way back south along the river, I found a pair of common goldeneyes, and the hen gave us a special treat when she hopped up onto the ice for a moment. I don’t believe we’ve seen that before.

But it didn’t take her long before she was right back in the water and beside her drake.

Lastly, before I forget, I’ve been invited to present about “Signs of Life in Estabrook Park” at the First Unitarian Society-Milwaukee Sunday Forum on February 13, 2022 at 11 am (CST). That’s tomorrow morning!

If you want to see it live, it looks like you need to request admission to their Sunday Forum ahead of time with the link on this page:

If you can’t or don’t want to see it live, they record the presentations and post the recordings on their First Unitarian Society-Milwaukee YouTube Channel:
It’ll be in the third row called “Forums”.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

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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