You know it’s gonna be a hot one…

when you hear the cicadas singing before 9am. Yup, it sure is hot out there, and the cicadas have begun to emerge from the ground, climb up into the trees, and announce their availability on the original dating app: known by many as mating call. I don’t have a picture for you yet, but I’ll be keeping my eyes open. There are supposed to be 9 cicada species in Wisconsin, and I don’t know which one we’re hearing now, but I read that “the one most frequently encountered is Tibicen canicularis, sometimes called the Dogday Harvestfly.

Cicadas are not the only critters emerging these days. Here’s another, a frog just out of the water still sporting a little bit of its tadpole tail. This one is sitting on a lily pad on the river, and I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly what type it is because it appears that the distinguishing features, such as ridges down the back or around the ear haven’t formed yet.

Below are the remains of yet another emergence, and this time it appears to be the empty exoskeleton from the final molt of a mayfly.

Here’s a female ebony jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata), who we first saw back at the start of June, and this time she looks like she’s up to something, but I’m not sure what. She’s supposed to lay her eggs “in the soft stems of aquatic plants“, not on this leaf. Maybe this is just a “dry” run, eh?

Keeping with our theme, below is a newly emerged mushroom, and this time I’m gonna go with Fairy Ring Mushroom (Marasmius oreades), despite the fact that there were no other mushrooms visible in the lawn at the time. explains “the ring created by Marasmius oreades is often indistinct, and can’t always serve as a way to identify the mushroom.”

One more. The ox-eye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) has just opened for business, and I found a few on the steep slope from the river up to the beer garden, which is also now open for business.

Finally, check out the fun these krazy kids look to be having going over the Estabrook falls. Good for them, right?

That’s it for today. Stay cool out there and tune in tomorrow for more exciting revelations.

My field trip report

I haven’t been to Estabrook yet this morning, but don’t worry, I’ll get there soon enough. In the meantime, I’d like to show you some pictures from my first excursion out of Milwaukee County since March. As I mentioned yesterday, Anne and I drove up to Kohler-Andrae State Park to visit with her family from a safe distance.

So let’s get right to the main attraction: sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis). I spotted several, both in the marsh on the west side and on the sand hills (aka dunes) on the east side. In the marsh, it seems, the red-winged blackbirds take quite an exception to their presence, although this one appeared to pay them no mind.

The best part for me, however, is that as I was busy taking these exciting action shots, I almost missed the main attraction! It sometimes pays to be slow at my craft.

That’s right. There was a little chick (which some folks adamantly call colts) standing just knee-high to its mom and running to keep up with her as she majestically sauntered along.

Meanwhile, up on the dunes, this pair seemed to be having a much more relaxing time.

The marsh was also full of noisy marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris), of which I failed to get a presentable picture. Instead, let me distract you with some pretty flowers, which were much more accommodating. First up is this aptly-named yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea), a striking alternative to the white ones we have on the Milwaukee River.

Also, a big hit with the pollinators was this marsh cinquefoil or purple cinquefoil (Comarum palustre). That must be some good nectar and/or pollen because even the picture in the Pedia of Wik includes a honeybee.

Finally, these members of the bluebell family, maybe tall lungwort, tall bluebells, or northern bluebells (Mertensia paniculata), which are available in blue or white and are supposed to be native to the Great Lakes Region, were a huge hit with the bumble bees.

Lastly, I laughed out loud when I looked up this large bug crawling on some milkweed only to discover that it is officially called the large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). It’s nice to see some truth in advertising, eh? Speaking of which, its coloration is thought to be no coincidence, but instead is an example of Müllerian mimicry. (Anne tells me that I should tell you to go ahead and click on that blue, underlined text for a full and fascinating explanation. It’s quick, easy, and 100% safe, I guarantee.)

Oh, and I included yet one more monarch picture because 1. to illustrate said mimicry, 2. there were a lot about, 3. who doesn’t like a monarch picture, and 4. I just couldn’t help myself. She appears to be a female, btw, because we can’t see those little extra black spots on her hind wings.

Okay, okay. Time to put this edition to bed and head on over to Estabrook to find something to show you tomorrow.

Shoot! I forgot to wish you Happy 4th of July! Darn it.

More signs of summer…

I spotted somebody new this morning, if you can believe it! The image isn’t very good, and this is the best of a bunch, because the water and low light really messed with my camera’s autofocus, but that’s a pretty big fish, and it has found itself cut off from the river in a mini “oxbow” pond north of the falls. It was “breathing” pretty heavy, and I hope some rain comes soon, for its sake, but in the meantime, let’s play who can name that fish! The body and coloration make me think some kind of trout, but the mouth doesn’t look right.

Near that same “pond” this morning were also one of the several mallard families I’ve spotted in the last few days, and mom was on her toes this morning, so I kept my distance.

Meanwhile, back up on top of the bluff, here’s a gorgeous monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), basking in the afternoon sun, who we’ve seen in the park since the start of June, but not like this before. He’s a male, judging by the single extra little black spot on each hindwing, and I observed him actively and repeatedly chasing either pretenders to this milkweed throne or potential mates. I couldn’t really tell which, and it was tricky enough just to get this picture, because it seemed that every time he sat still for a second, one or more other monarchs would fly up, and then they would all swirl up into the air and bolt off in the same direction, with only one returning alone each time.

Here are some black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), sunflower family natives to Eastern and Central North America, and in various stages of opening up at the north end of the wildflower meadow. I almost didn’t see them mixed in with the lance-leaved tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) we first saw a couple of weeks ago.

And here’s some wild garlic, onion grass, crow garlic or stag’s garlic (Allium vineale), a “perennial, bulb-forming species of wild onion, native to Europe, northwestern Africa, and the Middle East” growing along the east side of the parkway just south of the tunnel. I’ve been watching it develop since May, wondering what on earth it was going to open up into and when.

The little husk that the entire blossom was once crammed into is the whitish thing sticking up in the background. You can see the long (18″), slender (1/8″) stalk which supports the whole thing heading off to the right. The dark balls at the center are “not technically seeds.” Instead, “the bulbils that compose the flower heads are like tiny bulbs and can be sprouted.” reports that the taste is “somewhere in between onion, garlic, and chives.” Sounds delicious, eh Carolyn?

Check out this crazy-looking little t-shaped Plume Moth (Hellinsia homodactyla) almost hiding in plain sight on a bright pink Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) blossom. Even its legs are camouflaged.

Speaking of thistle, the first blossom on the musk thistle, which finally opened just about a week ago has already gone to seed, looking like a shaving brush, enough for the birds to be pecking at it already. And, yes, that would be an exciting image, but all we’ve got is this still-life for now.

Finally, here’s another monarch because 1. they are everywhere now, 2. they seem to like posing in the bright morning sun, and 3. who doesn’t want to see a monarch? This one appeared to be only interested in extracting some breakfast from that red clover.

That’s it for this morning, folks. Anne and I are off to Kohler-Andrae State Park to see her fam this afternoon, so wish me luck, and maybe we’ll have some fun pictures from my field trip for tomorrow’s report.


My morning got off to an amazing start when Anne got me up at 3:50am to see the ISS pass over. The new meteorologist on TMJ4 news mentioned it last evening, and this counts because we went to the south parking lot of Estabrook Park for some pretty good viewing conditions to the west. There are a zillion websites that will tell you when and where to look for it, and I used, which worked well for me. Also, while you’re up, Venus is shining brightly in the east just before dawn, and it is supposed to just keep getting brighter for the rest of the summer.

Meanwhile, back on earth, I was treated to this little one-act play, right after breakfast. The pictures are meh, but the dramatic tension when mom looks back after bolting off without her fawn, and the Hollywood ending? Be still my heart! I should be talking to Disney about the movie rights, eh?

After yesterday’s report, ever-inquisitive and long-time reader, Carolyn, asked how the mulberries taste, and I can now assert that the “red” ones are quite delicious. So are the raspberries, by the way. Don’t just take my word for it. Would this scraggly-looking teenager steer you wrong? If you’re a little squeamish about eating them off the ground, you can always just pick them from the tree, instead.

I also spotted a few more of our old friends near the river yesterday afternoon. There was a mallard with 4 ducklings, but the pictures are too poor even for this rag. Instead, these three are somewhat presentable. From left/top to right/bottom, we’ve got a green heron putting out his unique call, what looks to be an immature American goldfinch munching on seeds, and an indigo bunting not hiding from me for once.

Lastly, thanks to my new best buddy, Graham, for pointing out the spectacle below. What we have here is a handsome daddy longlegs, a.k.a. Harvestman, possibly Leiobunum aldrichi (which the Bug Lady asserts are not true spiders, I am stunned to learn) posing on some gorgeous butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), which is a native species of milkweed, I am relieved to read.

There’s even more, but I’ll have to save that for tomorrow. Ta ta till then.

The fruit is starting to come in…

Yesterday afternoon, I notice a robin picking at something on the sidewalk just south of the pond, so I took out my binoculars to watch as he broke off a couple of chunks and immediately swallowed them. The thing looked like a little pinecone, and I thought to myself “Don’t eat that! That’s no good for you!” and then, to my horror, he swallowed the rest of it whole.

Well, it turns out that was no pinecone, of course. Instead, it was a mulberry, and I should have gotten my camera out to get some really cool pictures instead of standing there like a knucklehead second-guessing one of the most obviously successful species in the park!

From left/top to right/bottom, we’ve got red mulberries (Morus rubra), white mulberries (Morus alba), and, at the north end of the pond, raspberries “the edible fruit of a multitude of plant species in the genus Rubus, which are really starting to look delicious, eh?

Speaking of the pond, two of our old friends, whom we haven’t seen in a while, were there this morning. From left/top to right/bottom, is a female wood duck and the muskrat, who I had just seen scamper across the parkway. Again, too late with the camera.

There’s also a new dragonfly at the pond, this handsome blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), who was quite willing to pose, first on one twig and then another, until I could get just the right shot. Now that’s my kind of critter!

Meanwhile, another fruit is still just getting started: the American black elderberry, Canada elderberry, or just common elderberry when we’re playing nice (Sambucus canadensis).

Finally, I’ll leave you with a bunny who appears to have had quite a hankerin’ for a certain tasty leaf.

That’s a lot of scrolling, eh?

Something old, something new…

Well, here’s an oldie but goodie, I hope. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of deer before, and I can positively assert that I already have pictures of this one due to the long thin identifying mark down her left side, but still, it’s nice to see such a magnificent creature out enjoying the park right after all the commotion of the Farmers Market, isn’t it?

By the way, when we first met her, in the southern parking lot, back on June 11, she also didn’t know what to make of me, and came pretty close trying to determine what I was made of. If you go back and look, you’ll see I chose a picture then that didn’t feature the mark because it still looked a little fresh, and I’m sure glad to see that it seems to have healed up pretty well.

Now, onto the new stuff! Below, I’m pretty confident that we have St John’s wort aka perforate St John’s wort or common St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). Note how the petals appear asymmetrical, like little fan blades with tiny black dots along the edges.

The Pedia of Wik reports:

St. John’s wort has been used in alternative medicine as a likely effective aid in treating mild to moderate depression and related symptoms such as anxiety or insomnia. [However,] study results on the effectiveness of St. John’s wort for depression have been mixed. [And,] since St. John’s wort causes drug interactions, it might not be an appropriate choice for many people, particularly those who take other medications. [Moreover,] the plant is poisonous to livestock.

It continues “the common name “St John’s wort” may refer to any species of the genus Hypericum. Therefore, Hypericum perforatum is sometimes called “common St John’s wort” or “perforate St John’s wort” to differentiate it.

Finally, “St John’s wort is named as such because it commonly flowers, blossoms and is harvested at the time of the summer solstice in late June, around St John’s Feast Day on 24 June.

Lastly, we appear to have some fresh little Japanese Parasol or Pleated Inky Cap mushrooms (Parasola plicatilis), below. Sadly, reports that it is “too flimsy to eat”, which really sounds like more of a challenge than a prohibition, doesn’t it? is a little firmer with “generally regarded as inedible”, but not much, eh? They make you wonder if they’re not just saving some tasty little morsels for themselves, don’t they?

Well, that’s it for today, thanks for checking in, and see you all in July!

Plenty of flowers and critters about…

A lot of cool new things to cover on this beautiful summer morning, so let me get right to it. First up are a couple of reader photos of the week, “sent in” by Donna, a keen observer and long-time reader. By “sent in”, I mean she invited me to stop by and bring my camera. 😊

On the left is a tiny hummingbird nest high up in a honey locust tree in her front yard, and on the right is a little American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)  under a bird feeder in her backyard. Sadly, I never spotted a bird on the nest, although I did see one shoot through the back yard. I’ve seen both critters in the park but have only managed a bad picture of a hummingbird so far, so I was glad to add these to our portfolio.

There are several new blossoms out, and let’s start with the pinks. On the left looks to be Japanese meadowsweet (Spiraea japonica), and on the left looks to be perennial peavine or everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius).

In white, we have yarrow (Achillea millefolium) on the left, and Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) on the right. Doesn’t the Queen Anne’s lace just make it feel like high summer?

Plenty of new creepy-crawlies, too. On the left is the fabled inch-worm, which I can’t yet identify any more precisely, and on the right is a good sized (3-4 inch) and quite handsome slug who looks to be a great grey slug aka leopard slug (Limax maximus), which I read literally means “biggest slug”.

In keeping with that theme, we’ve got another American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) on the left, which we’ve seen before, but with much more green and yellow. Our hero this morning looked almost black at first, and so I checked with the Pedia of Wik to find “skin color can change depending on habitat colors, humidity, stress, and temperature. Color changes range from yellow to brown to black, from solid colors to speckled.” Who knew?

On the right, the ants are up to something! My best guess so far is a battle between colonies of pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum), and I’m not making this up! If you don’t believe me, and I wouldn’t blame you, click on one of the links and read about it for yourself.

Well, there are plenty of more pictures; some new yellow blossoms, some new thistles, some new mushrooms; but I’m out of time, and I’d better keep them in reserve, as Anne suggests, for the morning when I come up with nothin’ new for ya.

Oh yeah, before I forget. The Shorewood Farmers Market seemed to go off without a hitch yesterday. There appeared to be over 30 vendors and plenty of visitors with masks. Best of all, the park looks no worse for the wear this morning. Yay, and kudos to the organizers!

Summer kicks into full bloom…

The wild chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) is finally opening, and some little pollinators are already all over it! I think these little guys or gals are all hoverflies of some tiny variety.

Another type of thistle has opened, unfortunately the invasive Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) this time, but it is also popular with the pollinators. On the left is a large bee-fly (Bombylius major), a fly that mimics bees but neither bites or stings, and on the right is our ol’ buddy the bicolored striped-sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens), a real bee that can sting, but just a little, and who we first saw last week.

The field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), which has been out for a while, continues to attract attention. In this case, it appears to be a bright green Scudder’s Bush Katydid nymph (Scudderia).

Sick of all these bugs and blossoms, are ya? If so, then I’ve got just the antidote. On the left, of course, is yet another family of mallards, this time with 6 ducklings! I can’t walk down to the river these days without coming upon a brood of mallard ducklings it seems.

On the right, is a chipmunk, who we’ve seen many times before, but when this guy heard that I took a picture of a little bunny sitting up on its haunches, he said “hold my beer! Wait till this joker sees me holding a morsel I’m in my own fuzzy little paws and nibbling on it! I’ll give him ‘cute’.”

Well, the Shorewood Farmers’ Market will be kicking off soon in its new location, the south end of our park, so maybe I’ll mosey over there to check it out. Let me leave you with one last bug on a blossom.

A smorgasbord

As promised yesterday, here are some of the new blossoms in the park. Left and right both appear to be pale purple coneflower or prairie coneflower (Echinacea pallida) growing by the connection to the Oakleaf trail just south of the middle parking lot. The middle looks like common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) blossoms covered with ants and growing by the southeast corner of the same lot. That’s where I found the monarch caterpillars earlier, but there’s been no sign of them for a while.

On the left is a member of the bellflower genus (Campanula), maybe peach-leaved bellflower (Campanula persicifolia), based on the written description of the leaves, growing along the Oakleaf Trail, and on the right appears to be blossoms of common mullein aka flannel plant (Verbascum thapsus), which the plant is only able to produce in its second or third year.

Meanwhile, this little guy seems to be wondering “so what’s with all the flower pictures? What’s a little bunny gotta do to get your attention? Sit up on my haunches?”

Well, yeah, that’ll work. Or be cute as ducklings, which is amply demonstrated by yet another brood of mallards, this time upriver from the falls, so I’m pretty confident these four are not part of the five we’ve seen earlier in the week downriver. Man, when they are not napping, they don’t sit still for a second. No wonder mom is always exhausted. Oh, and good luck asking the interwebs why one is yellow.

Finally, for something completely different, check out these mushrooms growing on an old log right by where the ducklings were exploring. These may be crown-tipped coral (Artomyces pyxidatus formerly Clavicorona pyxidata), and the Missouri Department of Conservation suggests that you can verify this identification “if you take a tiny taste, it will be peppery.” Be my guest. I can’t make this stuff up.

Well, that’ll do it for today. Tomorrow morning is the debut of the Shorewood Farmers’ Market in the park, so it will be interesting to see how that goes. Maybe the muskrat will finally be able to get some decent arugula, and maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one with the camera.

Speaking of old dogs…

I learned all kinds of new things yesterday.

It was nap time again for mom and her ducklings around noon again, and don’t worry, all 5 were still there. It’s just that this little pile o’cuteness on the river bank made the best photo. Also, chipmunks climb trees just fine, it turns out, a fact that I did not know until now. This little guy was about 8 feet up and passionately involved in some dispute with another chipmunk. Perhaps he just doesn’t want to do another album or he and a rival are vying for the affections of Brittany.

Swallowtails love the big blossoms on the tree between the beer garden and the parkway, which is now putting on an amazing show for eyes and noses. It’s a Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata), which I didn’t know existed, and we have it to thank for now having both a legal (in the park) picture of a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) and a female Eastern Tiger, on the same plant! The females of this species may be yellow or black, which is called “dark morph”, and which I was stunned to learn.

Speaking of a male and female of the same species on the same plant, on the left below is a pair of silver-spotted skippers (Epargyreus clarus) on the same blossom! You may recall we last saw the male in the wildflower meadow earlier this week. On the right is a pink-edged sulphur (Colias interior) making me work again for another unimpressive shot.

Meanwhile, Red Spotted Purples (Limenitis arthemis) also continue to do their darndest to keep me from getting a halfway decent photo. Some critters are just camera shy, I guess.

Finally, after yesterday’s first successful fish picture, the other species in the pond appear to be lining up for their photo ops! On the left is probably a common goldfish, bred from Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio), which I did not know, and on the right, I really just don’t know. It looks just like a gray-green version of the goldfish on the left, but maybe an experienced angler can help us out, Steve.

Finally, some beautiful new blossoms are opening up, but we’re out of time and space, and so they will just have to wait until tomorrow.