A morning of surprises…

It was still raining when we woke up, but soon enough the big green radar blob drifted out over the lake and left us with a pretty nice morning in Estabrook Park. As usual these days, there were plenty of birds making rackets, but hardly anybody had time for my camera.

This sparrow by the river was one exception.

At the time, I thought it was a fox sparrow, of which we’ve been seeing a lot lately, but when I got home and took a closer look at the pictures, I was thrilled to realize it is actually a swamp sparrow! I guess that would explain it standing in water up to its little round belly, eh? That’s the first one of those I’ve seen this season.

Another bright spot in my hike north was spotting this male eastern towhee by the pond, and this is the best picture he let me have today, but that’s another first for the season. Yay!

At the north end, I was happy to see a pair of red-breasted mergansers and a pair of buffleheads still around. I even spotted the quintet of mergansers who put on a show for us yesterday, for a total of 7, but I couldn’t get a picture worth showing today, and I was beginning to think that I really should have saved some pictures from yesterday.

Then, on my way back south, I was using the binoculars to try to get an accurate count of Canada geese on the southern island when I was stunned to spot this American coot just hanging out. What a pleasant surprise. We haven’t seen one since the first half of March.

There was one exciting moment when some big bird flew north over the river. At first I thought it was a young gull because of its grey color, but then I caught a glimpse of its profile, and it had a neck like a heron, but not the long legs I’m used to seeing on great blue herons. Then it even soared a bit, as I see raptors do, so I had no idea what it really could be.

Anyway, I continued south and took the stairs up the bluff by the falls to check for starlings or cowbirds on the lawn among the robins, and I can report that a crew was busy at work preparing the Beer Garden for their spring opening. As I walked along the edge of the bluff from the beer garden, I just happened to glance down to the river, and I could not believe my eyes. Our mystery bird was perched in a tree on the other side, and it turns out to be a black-crowned night-heron! Holy Moly!

It perfectly fits the description: a big grey bird, like a young gull, with a heron’s neck but not long legs like a great blue heron. Best of all, it was pretty comfortable with me hiding behind a tree on the far shore to take pictures, the sun came out a bit, and I even spotted a second one. Wow!

Long-time readers may recall that we had a juvenile black-crowned night-heron on the pond for a few days in August of 2020, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen an adult in Estabrook Park, or anywhere for that matter.

Why do I ever doubt that Estabrook Park will deliver the goods?

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.

%d bloggers like this: