Where the wild things are…

Those of you who read these words and don’t just look at the pretty pictures (and you know who you are) may recall me mentioning yesterday that there were no water fowl on the pond. Well, I found a whole bunch down on the river, instead!

Yesterday afternoon I spotted two families of mallards: one mom with a single teenage daughter, and another mom with five toddlers. They were all surprisingly willing to let me take pictures, and both moms took naps in the middle of the afternoon as I stood there taking more. What’s your guess, moms? Just plain exhaustion?

Also, down on the river, right by the waterfall, was our ol’ buddy, Blue, or maybe his cousin Bill. It’s hard to tell them apart.

Plus, there’s another butterfly in the wildflower meadow I mentioned a couple days ago. This one is an eastern comma (Polygonia comma) because “there is a silvery comma mark in the middle of the hindwing”, and man, was he shy. The instant he realized I was there; I never saw those beautiful flashy colors again. Good thing I’m finally learning to start recording even before I have a clean view, eh? And they say old dogs….

Anyway, back in the pond, there’s still plenty of action below the surface, the fish were particularly bold yesterday, and I finally got a decent image (left) of one that isn’t just a bright orange goldfish (Carassius auratus) (right), which “are rarely eaten”, I read, “although edible and closely related to some fairly widely eaten species.”

Any anglers out there? Might the fellow on the left be a bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) mentioned in the Milwaukee urban fishing rules? He does appear to have a prominent blue gill, but he looks a lot sleeker than the pictures of bluegill I see online. Perhaps that’s just an optical illusion.

Finally, it seems that the musk thistle is now open enough to begin serving pollinators.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay tuned for exciting new images right here tomorrow.

Another good morning for sleeping in…

And most of the critters in the park seemed to see it that way, too. Sure, there were a couple of rabbits about, and plenty of birds were singing from the safety of their well foliated branches, but the pond was still, and I saw nary a mosquito even when on the trail beside the river.

One surprise guest, who was too quick for me, appeared to have been a raccoon loping up the trail ahead of me with that distinct gait they have. My work buddy, Greg with Friends of Estabrook Park, reported seeing one searching for delectables by the Benjamin Church House recently, so we know they’re here, but he didn’t manage to get a picture either.

Thus, we are stuck again with pictures I captured yesterday, and the first one is a beauty! All I had on me at the time was my phone, and thankfully, this butterfly let me crawl up to within about a foot for this nice close-up.

That’s an American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis), not to be confused with American Woman, a song by The Guess Who, who probably prefer not to be confused with The Who, who recorded Bald Headed Woman instead. Try to keep up.

Anywho, I spotted him or her on a dandelion blossom in the lawn just east of the beer garden, and it is of the same genus as the red admiral we saw back on the 12th. There is also a Painted Lady butterfly in the same genus, which looks just like our hero here, but only has black dots “on the underside of the hindwing” where the American Lady has “two large, black-ringed blue eyespots.”

Also out and enjoying the sun while it lasted was this striking female widow skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa), taking a break perhaps from chasing smaller bugs over the soccer fields.

Meanwhile, all this rain, of course, has induced some mushrooms to emerge. This one looks like it could be Conocybe apala, colloquially known as the white dunce cap, growing in the grass near the southern playground. Please note that “while it has not caused deaths, it is toxic, containing phallotoxins,” which just sounds bad, right? Therefore, please do not eat, smoke, or ingest in any way, just as with chlorine bleach.

Finally, some new blossoms are opening up, including common cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex) on the left and two-flower cynthia also known as two-flower dwarf dandelion (Krigia biflora) just opening its second set of petals on the right.

That’s all I’ve got for today, and let’s hope that a change in the weather will bring a change in the scenery, eh?

Cool Tuesday

It’s a cool and breezy morning with not much new to see. Instead, I propose we take a look at who else was out on Sunday afternoon, when the air was warm, and the breeze was mild.

First up is a silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus), of which we first saw an example just over a week ago. Prancing from flower to flower, this guy was putting on quite a show for somebody, probably not me, but I got to watch anyway. The Pedia of Wik reports that “adult males compete for territory to attract females,” and so that is probably what he was up to.

Oh, and the flowers he was prancing between are in an amazing patch on the, now-closed, northernmost, former parking lot. It’s got daisies and daisy fleabane, white and red clover, bird’s-foot trefoil, white campion, a patch of lance-leaved tickseed, yellow sweet clover, crown vetch, and some bright-blue tufted vetch. Here are some pictures in which I attempt to capture the spectacle, but don’t really do it justice. I hope you try to see it in person. Sometimes beautiful things like this don’t last.

Next, I spotted this amazing snowberry clearwing (Hemaris diffinis), a moth that mimics the appearance, but not the sting, of a bumblebee. It may also be called the hummingbird moth, but after watching a hawk moth sip nectar from blossoms, Anne’s hostas and sadly not yet in Estabrook Park, it is my personal opinion that they deserve that title more. Plus, besides the coloration, the snowberry clearwing pictured below is also the size and shape of a bumblebee.

This tiny pair, sharing a single daisy, just barely caught my eye: a tiny bee, possibly a squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa) because of its “very hairy thorax (region behind the head)” and tiny moth, maybe one of the 326 featured on this page (let me know if you spot it).

Also striking are the various stages of a nodding or musk thistle (Carduus nutans), an invasive species, I am sad to read, growing out of a crack at the north end of the middle parking lot.

Finally, some of the tadpoles in the pond have started sporting hind legs. Next thing you know, they’ll have forelegs, too, and start walking on land.

Meanwhile, the calendar votes just keep pouring in over at the pictures page. Any day now, we’ll have a statistically relevant sample size.

Sleepy Monday

It looked like it was going to rain on a quiet and sleepy Monday morning in Estabrook Park after all the excitement of Fathers’ Day and the Summer Solstice this past weekend. I did see a couple of the baby bunnies just north of the beer garden again, but there were no deer on the lawn nor waterfowl on the pond, and we’ve already seen all the birds I heard, so let’s let the sleeping critters lie and take a look at who was out struttin’ their stuff in the bright sun yesterday afternoon.

First up is this handsome common buckeye (Junonia coenia) by the pond. So handsome, in fact, that it was featured on the 2006 United States Postal Service 24-cent postage stamp. Who wouldn’t like to have that on their resume, right?

A little less flashy, perhaps, but just as deserving of our appreciation, don’t you think, is this common wood-nymph (Cercyonis pegala) at the edge of the bluff north of the beer garden. Later in the day I saw plenty more of these, but none would sit still for me, so I feel pretty lucky that this one did.

There’s another sweat bee in the park, and this one is the bicolored Agapostemon (Agapostemon virescens), the official bee of Toronto, if you can believe it, on another lance-leaved tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) blossom that we first saw on the steep slope from the beer garden down to the river last Wednesday.

Finally, down on the river, I spotted this little caravan of Canada geese in various stages of adult coloration. It looks like a couple of scrawny teenagers shopping for school clothes with their mom, eh?

That’ll do it for today. Don’t forget to mosey on over to the pictures page and cast your votes for which you like to see in our forthcoming 2021 calendar. We’ve gotten some votes already, but we could sure use a few more.

Happy Days!

Happy Summer, everybody! I hope you all survived your raucous Solstice parties unscathed, or at least barely scathed.

Oh! And Happy Fathers’ to all the dads out there, including mine! I hope you are all enjoying your new neckties as much as our painted turtle buddy from Friday. You can just see the pride in his eye, right? Maybe his tie is on backwards after his own raucous Solstice party.

painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) with a striped leech on the back of its neck

Meanwhile, this little cutie approached me almost like a timid puppy. She walked up to within about 5 feet of me, and the reason her head is a little blurry, besides just my bad photography, is that she was bobbing it slightly as if trying to figure out if I was friend or foe. I gotta start carrying some deer treats in my pocket for situations like this.

I know we haven’t seen as many birds as we used to. First, the trees now have leaves, and second, I suspect their behavior has changed some as the mating season progresses. Nevertheless, this little house wren, which I first managed to photograph back in May, was distracted enough by his singing duties in the oak tree over the wren house, that I was able to capture one more presentable image.

Finally, I spotted a family of Canada geese out enjoying a family bath on a sandbar in the river. There appear to be 4 goslings, so Lord only knows how they might be related to the ones we all got to know and love on the pond, if at all.

Man, what a difference 57 days makes, eh?

Lastly, I think I have managed to set up a way for you all to vote on which pictures to include in our fundraising calendar. Just head on over to the pictures page and make your voice heard.

Lots of visitors this morning…

Thanks to eagle-eye Anne, this morning I finally got that baby bunny picture I’ve been after since first spotting them in May. This little cutie, barely bigger than my coffee mug, is probably from a new batch. They grow up so quickly.

Meanwhile, have you ever had that experience when you just get yourself all spread out on a nice leaf and then every spider and his brother has to come crawling all over you? Well this pale beauty, and yes, that’s its real name, (Campaea perlata) knows exactly how you felt.

Arachnids are not the only visitors these days. Below, from left to right, we’ve got a Gold-backed Snipe Fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus) on white campion (Silene latifolia subsp. alba), a damselfly of some type on American white water-lilies (Nymphaea odorata), and a pair of tiny hoverflies on field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis).

Plus, a couple of butterflies. What might be a mustard white (Pieris napi) or a West Virginia white (Pieris virginiensis) “nectoring” on bee balm aka wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) at the  Benjamin Church House, and a red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis) on the trail down by the river not letting me get any closer.

Finally, I spotted the muskrat again, who we haven’t seen in a while, right on the tiny path worn in the grass between the parkway and the south end of the pond. I didn’t manage to get a picture, but I’m as glad as you are to know he’s still around.

Everyone’s out for a morning stroll

Man, this string of beautiful mornings is really something, eh? Even the critters seem to be feeling it, and here are two out making the most of it.

The turtle was at the disc golf first tee, and the toad was in line at the beer garden. I let the turtle play on and told the toad that the beer garden hasn’t open yet and suggested that he’d be better off waiting in the woods until it does.

Also out were a young rabbit and a young deer.

As sometimes happens with these bouts of fair weather, yesterday afternoon wasn’t too shabby either, and here are some bugs making hay, or rolling in it, as the case may be, while the sun was shining.

Finally, something new. The American white water-lilies (Nymphaea odorata) are open on the river and looking resplendent. Mwah!

Ladies and gentlemen…the Beetles!

Well, one beetle, at least. You’ve got to know by now that I’ve been dying to use that headline for days, and today’s the day I just couldn’t wait anymore. If any of you are gardeners, you know darn well that if there’s one beetle, there are sure to be more, right?

I found this handsome character on some milkweed as I was checking on the monarch caterpillars we first saw yesterday. It looks just like a ladybug, such as Coccinella septempunctata, but the antennae are too long, and it’s body is more oblong than round.

Instead, it looks closer in appearance to the handsome fungus beetle (Endomychus biguttatus) except that all the images I can find of them always have just four black spots, not the cool, hieroglyphic-looking pattern our hero is sporting. Man, if you haven’t already found a rabbit hole in the interwebs and are looking for a good one, try identifying some random beetle you found in the park. If you happen to know what it is, or have some time to blow searching, please let us know!

Meanwhile, I found another empty eggshell yesterday, and isn’t it a beauty?

It was on the mudflats right by the river, in a well-traveled area, so I’m pretty sure it didn’t hatch right there. Instead, it appears to be a killdeer egg, I’ve seen them along the edge of the parking lot across the river, and they are reported to carry their empty eggshells away, for security reasons. Clever birds, eh?

Finally, I spotted a different type of bird over the park this morning…

That’s a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, and yeah, I know it’s not very natural, but how often do you get to see a helicopter capable of carrying a 20,000-lb load? That’s 6.5 Prii! Based on its N-number, N6979R, it was built in 1968 and has a shiny new paint job. It’s task this morning was to replace one of the antennae on top of the WVTV tower across the river. I learned this from the friendly and talkative employee assigned to keep pedestrians out from under the flight path.

Heirs apparent!

Thank goodness their mom was able to find some native milkweed after such a long flight, eh? I hear the non-native milkweeds are actually bad for the monarchs. Thus, the less-than-fastidious lawn mowing in the park this summer is serving a greater purpose, it seems.

Meanwhile, the yellow salsify (Tragopogon dubius) has opened just outside the maintenance yard, and the lance-leaved tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) is feeding some tiny pollinator on the steep slope from the beer garden down to the river.

My favorite new pollinator, though, is this pure golden-green sweat bee (Augochlora pura) on the meadow garlic (Allium canadense) we first saw on Sunday near the base of one of the stairs down to the river. And, no, that’s not the typo I thought it was. They’re really called sweat bees, not sweet bees, as I had originally thought, because “they are often attracted to perspiration.” Luckily, “they are only likely to sting if disturbed,” and “the sting is minor.” Amazing color, though, eh?

Finally, here is a firefly without a flash (Pyropyga nigricans), as far as I can tell, near the base of another one of the stairs down to the river.

Well, that’s it for today, campers. Make sure you enjoy the fine weather out there, with appropriate precautions, of course, before it gets too steamy.

Smoke on the water…

The bright sun on warm days and a clear, cool night made for a nice mist rising off the pond this morning.

It would be a great morning for swimming lessons, if any of you are old enough to remember taking swimming lessons in the local pond on cold summer mornings.

I’ve got only one new butterfly for you today, a shy little summer azure (Celastrina neglecta). Maybe someday I’ll catch one with its wings open.

In the bird world, it is the season of the young and/or protective parents. From left to right, we’ve got a young robin still in spots out fending for itself, a pair that I can’t quite identify, and a female red-winged blackbird quite agitated by my presence by the pond. She looks just like the same one I annoyed on Saturday.

In the plant kingdom, the Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) are now open and plentiful, and what I think is Crown vetch (Coronilla varia) just starting to open along the parkway.

Lastly, let’s hope this is the sign of one more successful launch. Right?

No matter what we get out of this
I know I know we’ll never forget