Kohler-Andae Field Trip Report No. 2.

Long-time readers may recall my trip to Kohler-Andrae State Park last summer, when I was thrilled to show you a couple of sandhill cranes and a colt. Well, the critters up there must have heard about all the sightings we’ve been having since then here in Estabrook because they sure have come out in droves this summer!

On my first excursion, Sunday afternoon, I finally managed to capture a portrait of several marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris), whom I don’t believe we have in Estabrook, and who had completely evaded me last summer.

They even obliged me with a couple of their classic reed and cattail poses. Sweet.

The next morning, I got out before sunrise and ended up losing track of all the deer I encountered, but here’s one handsome buck and two different does with their fawns.

If you are questioning how I can assert that they are different does, I’ll just say, “look a little closer” and leave it at that. If you just like pretty pictures, maybe don’t look too close.

At one point on my walk, I came across an actual wildlife traffic jam as a pair of deer crossed the frame between a turkey in the foreground and a pair of cranes in the background. It was crazy!

The other huge sighting came this morning when I finally managed to capture a few images of some of the many American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), whom we’d seen flying overhead, and who are on the extreme eastern edge of the migratory range. For perspective, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that they are “one of our largest flying birds: considerably larger than a Bald Eagle; smaller than a California Condor.” They weigh from 10 to 20 lb and have wingspans of 8 to 9.5 ft!

We’d seen them fly over several times, but I don’t tend to carry my camera with me all day, so it sure was great when the birds and my camera got their acts together.

This morning, as I checked the boardwalk through the marsh from the campground to the Black River, I could hear a bunch of splish-splashing through the reeds but couldn’t see anything.

When I finally stood on top of a bench, I could just see them busily fishing with their huge bills in the lily pads on the river, but only through the thick reeds. That’s when I had the potentially-problematic idea to run back to camp to borrow my father-in-law’s folding ladder.

Good thing it was just 6 am because I bet that sight would have raised some eyebrows. Anyway, with Anne helping hold it steady, I could finally see over the reeds from the top rung, and I didn’t even fall off the ladder into the marsh, so here we are. What a treat to see, eh? And thanks to Don and Anne for their help!

There were also plenty of song sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinch, cedar waxwings, eastern kingbirds, blue jays, green herons, crows, and monarch butterflies, all of whom we’ve already seen plenty in Estabrook, so I’ll spare you from those images this time.

Instead, I am thrilled to finally show you pictures of an eastern bluebird, whom we did see last summer in Estabrook, but who seem to be missing this summer. I’m just happy to see them wherever they want to be.

Finally, I believe I’ve spotted my first American redstart at long last, but see my comment above about cameras, so that’ll give me something to work on when I go back later this week. Wish me luck!

Some nice peak-summer scenes…

It appears that we get a bit of a reprieve from the hazy, hot, and humid weather, at least for today. Oh, it will still be plenty warm, but there was some nice blue sky this morning, and I was greeted by this fawn and its mom on the lawn of the Benjamin Church House.

After a bit, they ambled across the road and the soccer fields toward the woods, but the fawn didn’t want to give up playing in the open field right away.

At the pond, the ducks are herons are still there, but the star of this morning is this belted kingfisher who was distracted for a moment after catching what appears to be a dragonfly nymph, and provided me my best opportunity yet to take her portrait, even if backlit by the morning sun.

I also managed to get out yesterday, but never had the chance to post these pictures. One more weed is blossoming on the west edge of the soccer fields, burdock this time, and the monarchs are taking advantage of the new food source.

The house wren is still there and still singing from his nesting cavity. There were actually two of them this morning chasing each other, and the sky was blue, but the pictures from yesterday came out better anyway.

Finally, this little bunny was enjoying its greens so much yesterday morning that I was able to capture this little series.

Lastly, I’m gonna be taking a break for a while, first for some family camping, and then for a trip to see my folks, so I won’t be seeing much of Estabrook Park for a couple of weeks. As before, I’ll try to show you anything interesting that I see, but I probably won’t be able to do that daily. Then it will be time for the fall semester to get rolling, and there’s been some recent turmoil with my teaching schedule, so we’ll just have to see how things go.

One hot heron.

Oof! It is seriously hazy, hot, and humid out there, and it appears that even this blue heron on the river was feeling it.

Meanwhile, this spotted sandpiper seemed unperturbed.

A pair of red-tailed hawks circled over the north end for a while, and I even got one presentable image out of it.

And a green heron on the pond was up to its usual tricks.

Besides all the birds, there appears to be a new, little, brown butterfly in the park, and I saw them fluttering about nearly everywhere, but never could spot one taking a break. Maybe next time.

Some interesting behaviors.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Estabrook Beer Garden for the festivities yesterday afternoon. The weather was beautiful, and the event appeared to be a huge success. I didn’t post yesterday, by the way, to avoid stealing any of the limelight the Bucks deserve. I did get some pictures yesterday and this morning, however, so here we go.

First off is this fascinating view of one of the wood duck ducklings on the pond resurfacing after dabbling for a snack. The wide eye is a cool effect, if you can pull it off.

Here they are in a much more relaxed pose.

Meanwhile, this painted turtle was up to something, and I’m not sure what. The sun was not out, and the air was not very warm at the time, so it sure wasn’t sunning itself.

It is easy to tell, however, what this young robin was up to in the mulberry tree.

There are a few blossoms opening that we haven’t seen since last summer, and along the path from the beer garden to the skateboard park, there is a nice patch of Culver’s root or tall speedwell (Veronicastrum virginicum).

The Pedia of Wik explains that “The name “Culver’s root” derives from a certain Dr. Culver who was a pioneer physician of the 18th century and used its bitter roots for purgative purposes,” although a citation appears to be needed to confirm that detail.

On the slope down to the river is one small but striking clump of royal catchfly (Silene regia).

Finally, along the boardwalk are a few hyssops, and one of them has some nice color to it, which might make it blue giant hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).

Lastly, just as I was crossing the Oak Leaf Trail, I spotted this little beauty, a ‘summer’ spring azure (Celastrina ladon neglecta) feeding on a crown vetch (Securigera varia) blossom.

P.S. The robin was on her nest, so no egg picture today. Maybe tomorrow.

A big breakfast in a little bird.

I could see a blue heron in the bushes at the north end of the pond when I arrived this morning, and as I tried to make my way around to a better viewing angle, I was treated to the spectacle of this little omnivorous wood duck duckling, almost all grown up, scarfing down a pretty good-sized frog it had managed to catch.

After quite a bit of thrashing, down it went.

That’s gotta provide quite the full-belly feeling, eh? Even makes me want to take a nap.

I never did get a good shot of the blue heron, but this green heron did it’s best to fill the gap.

I didn’t see a thing on the river today other than one goose and maybe a couple dozen mallards.

Back at the pond, the blue heron was out of the bushes, and checking out what the ducks are always finding up on the west lawn.

And finding no fish, frogs, or crayfish, it continued south to the reeds on the west side, where it did find what appears to be, based on the tail, at least one little fish.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Wood Duck and her special friend were keeping an eye on me, and after the frog and mink episodes, I have new respect for their abilities.

Finally, by the soccer fields, I found no butterflies today, but the goldfinch were back on the bull thistle and being quite photogenic about it.

Lastly, on day 3 of Clutch-Watch, we’ve still got 3 robin eggs. Yay!

PS. The forecast is looking perfect for tomorrow’s event at the Estabrook Park Beer Garden. At 5pm it is supposed to be 70° with 57% humidity, a light breeze, and 1% chance of precipitation, so you don’t have to worry about melting from either the sun or the rain. It would be great if you could support Friends of Estabrook Park, but it’s a public space, and I’ll be happy to see you either way.

Oh, and Go Bucks!

Monday gets off to a slow start

I had such good luck with the late start yesterday, that I tried it again today, but that lightning appears not ready to strike twice just yet. Nevertheless, I did get to see a blue heron on the pond.

A grey squirrel checked me out along the river.

And then back to the pond again already, where a young or female Baltimore oriole was checking on the fruit situation,

And the wood ducks were lounging on their log as Mom gave out free face preenings,

Which some ducklings seemed really to enjoy,

And some less so.

As I approached the soccer fields, I encountered yet another small white moth, which could be a large lace-border (Scopula limboundata) with the “lace” worn off the boarder and the pattern faded a bit.

This butterfly, possibly a similarly worn pink-edged sulphur (Colias interior), was feeding on dandelion in the field.

And this monarch found one of the sow thistle blossoms starting to open throughout the park.

Finally, the robin still has three eggs in her nest.

Lastly, the forecast (partly cloudy with 6% chance of rain and a high of 74°) is looking great for the Estabrook Park 105th Anniversary Celebration on Wednesday at the beer garden. I’ve copied their latest flyer below with all the details. It would be great if you were willing and able to chip in, but you certainly don’t have to, and I’ll be happy to see you in either case.

Several new sights to see.

We slept in a bit this morning, and I didn’t get to the park until 7, but wait till you see what that timing did for us. When I got to the pond, I found all the ducks huddled together near the island, and the first thing I thought was “hawk”, so I immediately began searching all the nearby trees.

As I searched the trees in vain, suddenly there was a commotion on the water and look who swam right in front of me from the island to the east shore.

Nope, that’s not a hawk, nor a muskrat, beaver, otter, or even raccoon. Instead, this critter was long and skinny with a pointy nose we haven’t seen before, and thus I believe it is an American mink (Neogale vison)! At last!

The surprising thing for me was that the ducks immediately followed it and spent a long time huddled near the shore where it exited the water as if to say, “and don’t come back!”

I waited around a bit, and it didn’t come back, so off to the river I went. Along the way, I spotted this intricately marked moth, who turns out to be a promiscuous angle moth (Macaria promiscuata). I knew angles could be obtuse or acute, but I never knew they could also be promiscuous. Ha!

Also at the river, I spotted the smallest mushrooms I believe I’ve ever seen. That stick they are growing out of is about the size of a pencil, they appear to be called horsehair parachute (Gymnopus androsaceus), and I can’t believe I was able to find them online.

On the island in the river at the north end, a female belted kingfisher uncharacteristically posed for this portrait.

And after I painstakingly worked on that for about 15 minutes, look who was right above her, observing my labors, and looking none to happy about it.

While, on the water, these mallard ducklings were too busy foraging and let Mom keep an eye on me.

Meanwhile, in the meadow, a silver-spotted skipper appeared to sunbathe in this young Queen Anne’s lace blossom.

Since yesterday afternoon had been so gorgeous, I popped out again to see who I could find in the meadow, and this cedar waxwing obliged, if only for a moment.

As did this slightly-roughed-up monarch on a purple cone flower at last.

Back to this morning, on my way south along the river, I spotted the bullfrog, chillin’ picturesquely on a rock in a little side backwater.

And an ebony jewelwing played coy, but not too coy.

Finally, as I made my way out to Wilson Drive, I remember to check on our new nesting robin, and she wasn’t home at the moment so I tried to sneak this shot as quickly as I could with my phone. Woo hoo! Three more eggs to hatch.

Nothing really comes to mind

Beautiful weather has returned to Estabrook, and it sure was nice to see a little sunshine and not feel as if I’m walking through a sauna for a change. I briefly glimpsed 3 raccoons and 1 beaver but failed to capture an image.

I didn’t see any sandpipers today, at the falls or elsewhere, but I was fascinated to watch a large gaggle of geese negotiate a group decision to go over them. First, they all approached, then most of them headed back up river, and then finally, the yeas carried the day.

This one was quite gung-ho about the idea and pioneered a route.

And these ones held back to see how that was going to work out.

I didn’t see any green herons today, but here’s a blue heron looking all fancy on the river.

And another one on the pond hiding behind some brown muck on a stick.

I did spot a couple of mallard ducklings on the river really starting to look like there mom,

And the quintet of wood duck ducklings on the pond continue to grow up under their mom’s watchful eye.

I can hear juvenile jays begging to be fed and exasperated-sounding adults suggesting perhaps that it’s time for them to start taking care of themselves. The good news for me, though, is that they are both distracted enough to ignore me for a moment.

With the sun out, I thought I’d catch a pretty butterfly on a pretty blossom to show you, but I was disappointed until right at the southern exit to Wilson Drive. There, tucked down low and in the back of the big stand of Canada thistle that grow there, I found this beauty sunning itself while it sipped nectar. Long-time readers may recognize this as a red admiral (Vanessa atalanta), which we saw several times last summer, but not yet this summer until right now.

The Pedia of Wik explains that “most of North America must be recolonized each spring by southern migrants,” so that likely explains the delay and perhaps also why it looks so roughed up.

While I was working on getting that shot, I was standing in the shade of a little oak tree that the village planted near the end of the Wilson Drive reconstruction and whose branches might not yet spread to 12 inches from tip to tip. Then, when I finally walked away, a robin shot from a nearby bush right into that little tree. It turns out that she has a nest in there, about 6 feet off the ground, and was probably waiting for me to wrap things up so she could get back to it. I’ll have to keep an eye out for when she’s not there so I can use my phone camera to peak into the nest. Here’s the best I could do while not disturbing her from it. Those are her tail feathers sticking straight up out of the nest.

Dance of the Sandpipers

I was treated to that rare and delightful phenomenon this morning when a pair of critters are so interested in each other that they mostly ignore me. This time, it was a pair of spotted sandpipers on the rocks in the river just below the falls, and I was up on the boardwalk partially concealed by the railing.

I can’t tell if it was part of a courtship or just a youngster still hoping to be fed, but one relentlessly followed the other as it foraged, and once in a while the chasee would relent to produce these scenes.

Either way, they sure are adorable creatures, aren’t they?

Further north, between the two islands, I spotted another tender moment when a wood duck hen nuzzled her duckling.

Then they continued their foraging with another hen.

Meanwhile, the geese are back, bigly!

And a mallard hen is still watching over her two ducklings.

On my way to the pond, I stumbled upon this amazing blossom, which plantnet.org believes, with 68.57% confidence, is Papaver rhoeas and known commonly as Corn poppy, Common Poppy, Corn Rose, Field Poppy, Red Poppy, Shirley poppy, or Flanders poppy. Take your pick.

And another blossom called Saponaria officinalis (96.96% confidence) and commonly known as Bouncing Bet, Latherwort, Soapwort, Common soapwort, or Sweet Betty.

The Pedia of Wik helpfully explains:

“As its common name implies, it can be used as a very gentle soap, usually in dilute solution. It has historically been used to clean delicate or unique textiles, especially woollen [sic] fabrics;[9] it has been hypothesized that the plant was used to treat the Shroud of Turin.[10]

A lathery liquid that has the ability to dissolve fats or grease can be procured by boiling the leaves or roots in water. Leaves are chopped, boiled, and strained; the liquid can then be used as soap.[11]

In the Romanian village of Șieu-Odorhei, natives call the plant săpunele. It is traditionally used by the villagers as a soap replacement for dry skin.”

Furthermore:

“An overdose can cause nauseadiarrhea, and vomiting.[citation needed][12]

Despite its toxic potential, Saponaria officinalis finds culinary use as an emulsifier in the commercial preparation of tahini[13] and in brewing to create beer with a good head. In the Middle East, the root is often used as an additive in the process of making halva. The plant is used to stabilize the oils in the mixture and to create the distinctive texture of halvah.”

When I finally reached the pond, just about everyone was there.

The wood ducks:

A couple of green herons busy hunting:

Then this one jumped into the water, which I missed, and immediately returned to the branch with a little fish.

Plus:

And a damp blue heron who took a break up in a tree, which gave me an opportunity to get closer than they usually permit.

Finally, at the soccer fields, our wren friend appears to have eliminated a step and now just sings from the lip of its cavity.

And a black swallowtail tried to dry out without the sun to help.

Herons are a hoppin’ at the pond.

It was one of those mornings that remind me that “10% chance of rain” often means “steady rain, but just at 10% intensity.” The good news is that the continuous spritzing didn’t slow down the critters in the park, and there were at least three herons ont the pond, one blue and two green.

Here’s the blue:

And here’s one of the greens hard at work:

And here they are together in a reflective moment:

Here’s a bullfrog just hoping to stay out of the action.

The wood duck hens and ducklings, the black duck hen, and a couple of mallard hens were also about, but not as photogenic as the herons this morning. The situation was similar at the river.

The one other bright spot, however, is that the bee balm was finally getting some traffic.

Meanwhile, in related news, Friends of Estabrook Park is planning its annual picnic at the Estabrook Park Biergarten on Wednesday, July 21 at 5pm, the Biergarten is also celebrating the 105th Anniversary of Estabrook Park on the same day, there is no Bucks playoff game scheduled for that day, so I’m planning to go, and I hope to see you there.