Goslings galore!

It’s a short report today ’cause we’ve got visitors. My fully-vaccinated mom and dad, whom we haven’t seen since December 2019, have stopped by, and Dad came along on the park walk this morning to act as my spotter.

We hit the pond first, and the new family with goslings, the one on the northern tip of the island, whom we first saw just yesterday, was out for a swim this morning.

The goose on the southern tip was still incubating, a green heron was back, and there were the usual few mallards and wood ducks about.

At the river, the robin chicks in the southern nest appear to be progressing with feathers starting to come in. Mom was off the nest when we arrived, as usual, but she let me know I was too close when I snapped this shot with my phone as fast as I could without making any sudden moves. Meanwhile, the mom on the northern nest was on it, as usual, when we went by.

We also saw 3 other families with goslings, a few water thrushes, more green herons, a sandpiper or two, and even my first grey catbird of the season. I look forward to hearing their song.

On our way home, we stopped by the pond again, where I was stunned to find another solitary sandpiper, taking a breather on its way to the north shore of Lake Superior. The pond doesn’t have much for sand, so I hope it finds one of the many sandbars down on the river exposed by the low water.

Also at the pond, the old apple trees are starting to bloom, and kudos to Karen for correctly identifying the wild strawberry blossom from yesterday.

Finally, at the south end, this male goldfinch was singing so nice and looking so sharp in its new yellow coat and bright morning sun that I just had to take a picture.

Lastly, besides the recent heat wave, I believe I heard tree frogs singing for the first time this season, and I’ve already seen a couple of dragon flies, so it really feels like summer must be just around the corner.

May says to April, “hold my beer”…

First, we’ve got goslings on the island in the pond at last, and I don’t think they’ve even gone for their first swim yet. There were none yesterday afternoon, and Dad was standing guard in his usual spot just offshore, but when I checked this morning, he was napping on the island for the first time I’ve ever seen, so I figured something must be up.

Sure enough, after a bit of waiting, look who snuck a peak at this big ol’ world. We don’t know who many there are yet, but based on the amount of jostling that was going on under that wing, I’d guess three at the minimum.

There wasn’t much else going on, and with a real-feel temperature of 42°, I didn’t guess that there’d be swimming any time soon, so I headed down to the river.

There a found on of the river geese families just waking up. Somebody was hungry!

And soon they were all up foraging, while Mom keeps a watchful eye on the sky. There’s been some hawks about lately.

Next, I checked on one of our nesting robins, and she was oddly perched over her nest.

Since she wasn’t actually incubating, I took a risk and nudged her off for a second to take a peak inside. Boy, I sure hope that’s how they are supposed to look. At least the other two have hatched, so that’s gotta be a good sign, right? As soon as I backed away, Mom went right back to it, and the other robin was just on her nest as usual.

At the north end, I spotted two more goose families out for their morning swims already, and as I tried to take their picture with them both lined up just right, somebody photobombed the shot.

I thought it was one of the sandpipers we’ve already seen, but then a real sandpiper showed up to nudge it out of the way.

Ha! By the looks of those long yellow legs and the lack of streaking on the flanks, I’m gonna say we’ve got ourselves a lesser yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) on its way from wintering along the Gulf of Mexico to breeding grounds along Hudson Bay. There were at least three of them filling up.

Then the sun went a way, so I headed back to the pond in case there were any new developments. On my way, I came across this handsome white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), also on its way to Hudson Bay and without any of the yellow displayed by the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) who only has to fly a bit further north in Wisconsin and who we saw singing about Canada a couple of weeks ago.

I did notice a new flower up at the pond. Anybody know this one?

Oh, and before I forget, during the visit to the pond I mentioned above, I spotted a red-heard slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) finally up from its long winter slumber to compete with the painted turtles for prime spots on logs in the sun.

And finally, there was a black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia) just daring me to capture an image of it not moving.

April bids us adieu…

As April heads for the door, there’s a lot to report, and let’s start with the egg roundup.

Both geese on the pond are still incubating, and both robins beside the river were on their nests this chilly morning, although I did capture this sight during a spot-check yesterday afternoon.

It appears that we have one freshly hatched robin chick, and a fisherman was standing too close to the nest for Mom’s comfort. He must not have heard her scolding him, but after I took this image, realized what was going on, and asked him if he would move down the bank a bit, he obliged without complaint. Mom was soon back on her nest, and she was on it again this morning, so I have no new news, which I’m sure we all hope is good news.

Meanwhile, there are still goslings on the river, and this family was on the mudflats just south of the robin’s nest above. Here they are getting ready for their morning nap.

Here they are heading out for second breakfast.

And here they are back at the buffet again, while Dad keeps stands guard. I’m not sure Mom likes this place, but the goslings must have seen the bright green grass and headed right for it with Mom and Dad in tow.

While I was there, our buddy the muskrat swam by again…

And a pair of teals headed down river with a pair of wood ducks, but I couldn’t quite catch them as close together as last time.

The raptors were out in force, perhaps because they’ve also got mouths to feed now.

I finally managed some slightly better images of the cowbirds that appear to be involved in some intricate mating rituals recently.

Foraging male brown-headed cowbird looking resplendent in the sun
Pair of female brown-headed cowbirds doing their own little dance as three males perch on a nearby branch.

Meanwhile, from over in Downer Woods, Kelly and Mark have sent in some fantastic images to update us on their owls. The owlet is growing up fast, and by the look on its face, I’d say it is now in the owl equivalent of the teenage years.

Dad brought home dinner, and can’t you just hear “Aw, raw rabbit again? Why can’t we just order pizza?”

Back in Estabrook, a squirrel enjoys an apple core that someone helpfully left behind.

And some wild fruit tree, maybe cherry, is in blossom beside the parkway.

A quick trip to the pond…

I stopped by the pond for a quick check on the egg situation on this grey morning before going to campus and look who I saw up in a tree in the middle of the island.

Its our old pall from last summer, the green heron (Butorides virescens), back from wintering along the Gulf of Mexico. Talk about your classic “snowbird”, eh? There were actually two of them, but I didn’t see the second one until they decided to go fishing.

Luckily, I knew to look for them because I had been tipped of by Gina and Jim, who posted a nice couple of pictures on Instagram last evening. Otherwise I might have missed them altogether.

Also at the pond was this little ruby-crowned kinglet, delightfully whistling while he foraged for bugs from branch to branch, all the while teasing me with glimpses of his little ruby crown.

Lastly, I caught a glimpse of another newcomer to the pond, a female or immature Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), back from wintering approximately south of the Mason-Dixon Line and whom we haven’t seen since last May.

Meanwhile, the wood ducks, mallards, and geese were about, and the two expectant moms were still on their nests so no goslings yet. I also checked the close two robins on the river, and have nothing new to report from there yet either.

Triple the fun!

I went to check on the goslings first thing, of course, and I was thrilled to find them doing just fine and back at the mainland breakfast buffet. Best of all, there was even another batch!

While I was trying to get the picture below showing both families at once a hawk shot right through the scene at about 4 feet off the deck. I thought for sure it was a Cooper’s hawk, and I couldn’t see where it landed, but the geese didn’t seem to care what kind of hawk it was nor where it landed and just made a bee-line for the water.

After they were all safely afloat, I started to proceed north, and that’s when the hawk came out of hiding and flew straight towards me at just about eyeball level. Like a true pro, I simply froze and enjoyed the sight as it flew right past me not even 10 feet way. Where’s the cameraman from Wild Kingdom when we need him?

The hawk, it appears, had its heart set on a gosling, took another pass at them on the open water, was rebuffed by the parents, and finally perched on this branch just above them to plan its next move.

Anyway, when it appeared that the hawk was gonna hang out there for a while, I tore myself away from all that excitement, and I continued north once again. That’s when I encountered new goose family number three (3!).

Holy Mackerel, that’s a lot of goslings!

On my way back south, I checked on the two nesting robins, who are still doing fine, and swung by the pond to find the two nesting geese doing the same. There were also two other pairs of geese, four mallard drakes, and eight wood ducks on the pond this morning.

Back at the river, over the mudflats, this sparrow posed so nicely that I had to take a picture, and given the location, it should come as no surprise that it appears to be a swamp sparrow (Melospiza georgiana).

Further south, I did finally spot a couple of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) perched on branches for a change and so finally managed to get images sufficient to make a positive ID. Maybe next time the sky will be that beautiful blue we get from time to time, and maybe they’ll perch on my side of the river.

Continuing south, I annoyed yet another robin by bumbling too close to her nest, which I simply did not see until she warned me about it, and I apologized profusely for my error.

Man, our odds of seeing freshly-hatched robin chicks keeps going up.

Anyway, while trying to get the picture above, from a comfortable distance, I noticed a serviceberry tree (Amelanchier arborea) in blossom halfway up the bluff. They also go by equally colorful “shadberry” and “juneberry”.

Back along the river, I spotted this little bird right at the water and thought it was yet another sparrow, maybe a chirping sparrow because of the eye stripe, but upon closer inspection, I am currently convinced it is instead a northern waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis). It’s right on the water, after all, and just look at that thin little beak and dark belly streaks. Best of all, if you’re a warbler nut, it’s not even a thrush at all. Instead, it’s a “thrushlike warbler”, and a legitimate member of the family Parulidae, the “new world warblers”. They winter in the Caribbean and Central America, and this one has almost reached its breed grounds just a little bit north of here. Man, the picture is so brown, I was almost not going to use it. Good thing I checked, eh?

Turns out, we’ve even seen one of these before, last fall. On September 6, 2020, it was the first migrant that we saw heading south.

Oh! Before I forget, the trilliums are starting to bloom! Specifically white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), I believe.

Finally, look who I saw keeping an eye on me as I tried to take a picture of some flowers.

Time for some close-ups!

Let’s cut straight to the chase. The goslings on the river appeared hale and hearty this morning. In fact, they had swum across the channel, and I found them foraging for breakfast on the mainland.

It was fascinating for me to see how much they attracted other, adult geese. There were at least three other pairs of geese hovering around, and Dad had to chase away someone who got too close on more than one occasion, and it was never me. After a bit, Mom and Dad escorted the little ones back across the channel to the island, perhaps for a well-deserved nap.

While I was there, trying to get the pictures above, I couldn’t help but notice a whole raft of blue-winged teals just off the northern tip of the island. I’ve never seen so many at once before, and they seemed surprisingly undisturbed by me. I counted 17 in all, but this image is the prettiest. I was torn between taking picture of the goslings vs the teals.

On top of all that, there was a new bird on the river, at least to me. This time, it’s a solitary sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), and yes, “solitary” really is part of its name. For comparison, here’s the best image I have of the juvenile spotted sandpiper from last summer, and the killdeer from last week.

There were tree swallows hunting insects over the river, and they seemed to be coming and going from one tree on the other bank, but I couldn’t get a picture to save my life. Instead, I was treated to a different little hunting party, two pair of wood ducks and a pair of teals slowly steaming upriver and munching something off the top of the water as they went.

I had no idea that teals were so clearly smaller than wood ducks, which are themselves diminutive compared to mallards. What will they think of next?

I stopped by the pond, twice, to check on our geese there, and both moms were still safely on their nests, but there was no hatching yet. Same goes for our two robins. As I reluctantly headed home, I did spot this little bit of evidence that we can hope signals a successful hatching somewhere.

Finally, there is yet another mushroom up in the park, and I have no idea what it is.

Not your average Monday…

Another cool and breezy morning in April. Who could have guessed? At least it’s not raining and the sun was even trying to come out.

My first greeter in the park was this chipper little goldfinch in nearly full breading plumage and doing his best to make sure everyone knows about it..

I stopped by the pond, of course, to check on our two soon-to-be mother geese, which were just fine, counted 7 wood ducks, and helped this little guy out of a predicament and back into the open water. It sure looks like one of the bullheads we saw schooling last summer, but now 3 times bigger. Yay!

Next, I headed to the river, for the morning robin egg check. The first nest I visited, the southern of the two, is usually unattended when I arrive, so I can snap a quick picture with my phone, but by the time I look down the river with my binoculars and turn to look again, mom is always back on the job. Meanwhile, the other nest, a bit to the north, is just about always attended. Different strokes, I guess.

Further north, I checked for the owl again, but no luck today, so I continued on to the northern island to see if maybe the shoveler was back, but also no luck. Since the river is so low, there’s a shoal of rocks mostly exposed now, where we saw the teals just last Friday, and the thought occurred to me that I could probably walk pretty far out into the river and still keep my feet dry.

Well, there was no one around to tell me not to, so out on the river I went, and I did finally spot a pair of teals, maybe our muckers from yesterday.

Then I turned to face south, for a look at that southern island from a new direction, and would you even believe what I saw!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got goslings, and my bet is that they are not yet 24 hours old. So I hustled back across the rocks as fast as I dared, right back to where I usually stand to see the owl, and I got there just in time to catch a few pictures of their first brief swim in the river.

Then mom led them back up the river bank and back to what appears to be the nest on which she incubated them. You can even see the white down on ground in the middle picture below.

Once they settled in for their nap, I finally tore myself away and I started floating home on a cloud, for what must be at least the third time in as many weeks.

Luckily, though, the cloud kept me close enough to the ground to spot these exquisite specimens growing right beside the trail. For readers not yet acquainted with the mushroom that needs no introduction, these are morels, likely yellow morels (Morchella esculenta).

Finally, as crazy luck would have it, directly across the trail from those two, was another popular edible, a pheasant’s back, aka dryad’s saddle (Cerioporus squamosus), which one author calls “the ‘consolation prize’ for an unsuccessful morel hunt.”

Ha! And its only Monday.

It’s Wood Duck Day in Estabrook!

It must have been Wood Duck Day at the pond this morning, because there were ten (yes, 10) of them, along with four mallard drakes, and I think they were all up on the lawn at once. This is my best attempt at capturing a sense of the duck density.

A pair of geese flew in, which caused a scene of course, and the two nest-guarding males even took turns chasing off the newcomers before returning to their ongoing standoff halfway between the ends of the island where their mates are incubating on their nests.

That kind of broke up the party on the lawn, and here’s one pair of wood ducks making for calmer waters in the bright morning sun.

At the river, I had another chance to sneak in an egg check, and this time I held my phone high enough to spotted 3! Then I stepped back to look around for who else might be about, and I am happy to report that mom was back on the job by the time I continued north.

It the north end, this red-tailed hawk was keeping a watchful eye on some squirrels I could hear rustling in the bushes, but I didn’t wait around long enough to see if it eventually caught one. I guess I’m just not as patient as a hawk.

That’s when I bumped into Lisa, a long-time reader, who tipped me off to the blue-winged teals mucking it up in the river. Thanks, Lisa! I’m sure I would have never spotted them.

On my way back south, I got another chance at the ever elusive ruby-crowned kinglet, who sing a delightfully cheery song, and even managed a glimpse or two of its little ruby crown.

There is yet another variety of violet opening up, and this one has a nice light shade of blue.

Finally, back at the pond, I spotted our first crayfish of the season.

Moms take a break

It was a mild, if dark and overcast, morning in the park, and the goose incubating on the northern tip of the island in the pond opted to take a little break. First she carefully covered all her eggs with down…

Then she and her steadfast mate took a moment to get reacquainted….

And finally, she got some “me” time.

Also on the pond this morning were a pair of wood ducks, but only this solo portrait turned out presentable.

And a pair of blue-winged teals, who were much shyer than even the wood ducks.

Along the river, both robins were also on break when I walked by. On my way home, I noticed that they were both back on the job.

Our next picture reminds me that I must apologize for my misidentification yesterday. The sparrow I showed you is a white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), not white-crowned, and here’s a blurry shot from this morning of an immature one whose yellow hasn’t come in yet. Thanks to Donna and Charles for pointing out my mistake so that I could correct it.

At the north end, I spotted the young goldeneye and Mrs. Gadwall, but no shoveler nor teals today. Instead, I stumbled across the yellow marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris L.) that were now in full bloom along the stream that crosses under the bridge near the northern soccer fields.

While I was down by the stream fumbling with my camera, Jennifer and Julie crossed the bridge on their morning walk and tipped me off to the flowers blooming at the far north end, near the intersection of Hampton and Port Washington, on the west-facing bank that must get nice afternoon sun.

Most remarkable for me are the Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) because I’ve never seen them before, so thanks to Jennifer and Julie for that tip!

Also there are a few yellow trout lilies (Erythronium americanum), which make a nice addition to the white trout lilies (Erythronium albidum) that have been in blossom throughout the park for the last week or so.

Lastly, on my way back south, I encountered the first bumblebee of the season that I could capture on film. Interestingly, it was conspicuously skipping over the violets and focusing exclusively on the creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea) blossoms.

Okay, now for a special treat. Here are some pictures of the owls nesting in Downer Woods sent in by Kelly and her husband Mark.

Amazing, right? I am told that Kelly does all the work spotting with the binoculars, and Mark is just the photographer. In any case, the results are spectacular.

Thanks to Kelly and Mark!

Spring resumes…

It was nice to start the morning with temps in the 40s instead of the 30s for a change, and the critters seemed to like it, too. Here’s robin taking a quick morning bath in the river. That’s gotta be bracing, to say the least, right? Well, I guess you get used to it.

Here’s a white-crowned sparrow looking like he’d rather stay dry this morning, as do I.

Further north on the river, I spotted a couple of old friends, Mrs. Gadwall and the immature goldeneye.

In the shallows between the northern island and the eastern shore, I found about a half dozen blue-winged teals again enjoying a nice morning on the river.

Finally, give a warm Estabrook greeting to our newest visitor, a male northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata). Note the genus name is actually Spatula. Ha!

On my way back south, I bumped into Charles again, and he pointed out another nuthatch busily at work on another nesting site.

Thanks, Charles!

Lastly, I’m happy to report that two goose nests and two robin nests are carefully being incubated this morning.

Robins take a lot more breaks that geese do, I am observing, so when I went by the second second time, I took a peak inside with my phone at arms length as I quickly walked passed. Don’t worry, after the nuthatch photoshoot, she was back on again.

That’s probably the best antidote to yesterday’s ending.