Some tantalizing new sights.

At 32°F, it was wonderfully mild this morning, even if the wind was blowing a bit. The pretty blue skies were gone, but the birds were out in droves, so all-in-all, it was a great day to visit Estabrook.

The rapidly expanding open water on the lower river was chock full ‘o mallards this morning, and just as I put my binoculars down from trying to count them all, the little mink scampered across the ice right before my eyes, from the water to the shore before disappearing into a pile of driftwood. One of these days I’m gonna catch that little rascal on film even if I have to camp out in a blind overnight to do it.

It was still pretty dark, so I left the mallards and a few goldeneyes alone and continued north. Above the falls, I came across an amazing scene. A little tree growing right at the water’s edge was hosting a hairy woodpecker, a red-bellied woodpecker, a couple of downy woodpeckers, a pair of nuthatches, and at least four chickadees. The chickadees and the nuthatches were all speaking at once, and the woodpeckers would chime in from time to time. I’ve never heard such a fun cacophony from such diverse a bunch of birds in the wild before.

There is a hole in the tree trunk, and the chickadees were taking turns hovering in front of it when I arrived. Then the nuthatches moved in for a closer look. I never found out what was in that hole, but the birds seemed equally drawn to it and repelled from it. Here are some pictures I managed to capture of a male nuthatch trying to peak inside without getting too close. I’ve seen both chickadees and nuthatches hop in and out of holes smaller than that, so I can’t imagine why they didn’t just hop into this one. The whole thing was fascinating to watch.

Anyway, the party eventually wound down, and I continued north, where I was alerted by a quartet of gulls calling that something might be afoot. I thought maybe our red-tailed love birds might be about, but that was not the case. Instead, this little cutie was perched high above the northern island.

That, Ladies and Gentlemen, might be a new raptor for us, subject to confirmation by the experts at If they agree, and I sure hope they do, then we’ve got ourselves our first sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), the diminutive cousin of the Cooper’s hawk we often see. Either way, it’s a young one, but it has broad, blurry, brown streaks down its breast and belly instead of “neat brown streaks concentrated on its chest,” so I’ve got my fingers crossed for sharp-shinned.

As I backed away after my first few pictures, it took off, but by the time I climbed back up the riverbank, it was back already and in an even better perch. Then it seemed content just to watch me struggle to capture something presentable of such a small bird so far away. Cooper’s hawks are seldom this accomodating.

Here’s a side view from farther north. It almost looks like our kestrel, doesn’t it?

I eventually moved on, counted the pigeons on the wires over I-43, and on my way back south, of flock of Canada geese flew over. Best of all, 2 landed on the ice. I can hear the conversation they’re probably having, can’t you?

“I thought for sure this would all be melted by now.” “Yes, Dear.” “Seriously. There’s no way I would have made you fly all this way if I knew we’d be walking around on ice.” “It’ll be fine, Dear. It’ll melt soon enough.” I sure hope she’s right!

At the pond, I was treated once again to a flock of cedar waxwings, and here’s one of the beauties.

Finally, back on the river, I found the buffleheads and one goldeneye hen just hanging out amidst all the mallards.

Lastly, I see we got a nice bump in signatures on our petition to continue the active streets program in Estabrook again this summer. Thanks! And, in case you’re worried about accessing your favorite venues, remember that when they closed the parkway last summer, sure you had to use scenic Wilson Dr to get to the beer garden from Capitol, but you could still drive to and park in all three parking lots. So don’t delay! Help us convince the Parks Department to make Estabrook really feel like a park again this summer.

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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