Some water birds…

This’ll be a short report. My sister and I walked the Quinnipiac River Gorge Trail to Hannover Pond and back this morning, and there was plenty to see (8 deer and 45 bird species!), but the skies were very dark, so I don’t have a lot of pictures for you today.

I was quite surprised to spot a common merganser hen standing on a rock in the middle of the Quinnipiac River. We get them on the Milwaukee River in Estabrook Park, for sure, but only when they come south during the winter and maybe linger a bit into the spring, but not in mid-May.


At the Hannover Pond, we saw a great blue heron wading in water a bit deeper than I usually see them.


Finally, we counted 30 mute swans on the pond including this mom with her cygnet.


We saw a few swifts and a couple of barn swallows hunting over the pond, but they stayed pretty far from shore, so here’s another look at the friendly barn swallow from yesterday, when the sky was nice and blue.


Along the trail, we heard several Carolina wrens and even spotted a couple, but there was so little light I didn’t even try for a picture, so here’s another look at the one from yesterday in the nice bright sun.


Familiar faces, and some new ones, too.

This morning was quite nice, about 10°C warmer than yesterday, with still air and blue sky again, at least for a while. I borrowed a bicycle and rode along the old Farmington Canal to see who I could see.

My first customer was this northern mockingbird in almost the same spot as I saw one last December. If it is the same bird, it sure made me work harder for a picture this time. In any case, the last time anyone reported seeing a mockingbird in Estabrook Park was May 2021, so maybe I’ll get to see one there, too.


I saw swallows flying and tried to ID them in the air, but if you’ve ever tried, you know how fast they are and how tricky it can be. I saw the white bellies and so figured them to be tree swallows, at first. Then a couple perched on an overhead wire, and I couldn’t believe how close one of them let me get, so now I can clearly see that their red faces make them barn swallows. We’ve seen barn swallows in Estabrook, but with more color on their bellies, and we’ve seen barn swallows with white bellies, but those were in South Holland.


I’ve also seen a lot of grey squirrels before, but never one posing quite like this little fella. You?


Another bird that has just recently returned to Estabrook is the eastern kingbird, and I was happy to see a few here as well this morning.


There are a lot of water features along the path, it was once a canal towpath after all, and so you can almost bet on seeing a green heron. I saw two, and here’s the one who posed in the best light.


Once the sun was high enough in the sky to reach down into that little pond, the turtles came out to sun themselves in droves. I’ve never seen so many in one place before. I count 9 in this picture but counted over two dozen in the immediate vicinity.


There were plenty of song sparrows singing up and down the path, just as along the Milwaukee River, and here’s the one that perched in the nicest spot.


Finally, there were also a few house wrens, but there were far more Carolina wrens belting out a different tune.


Lastly, this little cutie pie is a young grey squirrel who I heard had recently been orphaned when a hawk snatched its mom. It was gnawing on solid food this morning, so it does have that going for it, but it was showing no better skill at staying out of sight than its mom apparently did. I suppose that’s how nature works. Right?


A little sampling of Connecticut.

I got out nice and early this morning for a bit to check out the Connecticut wildlife. As you can see, the sky was bright blue, and the air was nice and calm, but the temperature, at 34°F, really surprised me. There was frost on the grass, and I had to borrow a warm coat. 

Anyway, there were some warblers up and singing, and here’s one of at least a half dozen yellow warblers I saw.


The abandoned field I was in is now half filled in with honey suckle bushes and other small trees, also seems to be a favorite of grey catbirds, and here’s one of probably a dozen.


There is a tall pine tree in the northwest corner, and a red-tailed hawk was using it as a perch from which it could scan for breakfast.


The last human use of the field was as a driving range, so there are still some old utility poles that had held up the netting, and this northern flicker found one to be a nice place to warm in the morning sun.


Finally, there are also a few tall cherry trees, black cherry, I think, growing near that pine tree with the hawk in it, and this goldfinch parked in one for a moment.


That’s it for today, and tomorrow I’ll head down to the linear park where I’ve had some luck in the past.

Travel Day

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m traveling today and didn’t get a chance to visit Estabrook before I left. I’ve arrived in Connecticut safely and hope to look for some pretty pictures tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are some recent leftovers, mostly from yesterday, but not all.

Here’s another chestnut-sided warbler singing his little heart out.


A Cooper’s hawk in a tree over the northern island.


Down on the water below the hawk, a hybrid-looking mallard, or a mallard-looking hybrid, perhaps with a Duclair duck, based on that white bib. I read that “the Duclair duck is an excellent forager and are able to fend for themselves in the wild,” so that fits.


A Blackburnian warbler.


A yellow-rumped warbler, and yes, they are still around.


That cedar waxwing in the apple tree again, and this time with its beak on a petal.


Another look at the Swainson’s thrush from Monday.


Finally, a close-up of a couple of those gangly tweener goslings on the river from yesterday. Reminds me of a story, but that was about a swan cygnet. Maybe Mr. Andersen hadn’t seen a Canada goose gosling.


The forecast here looks good for tomorrow morning, if cold for mid-May at 34°F, but the winds should be 0 (zero!) mph, so not much wind chill to speak off. Wish me luck!

A day to enjoy it while it lasts…

It was another wonderful morning in Estabrook Park today. The sky had a little white in it, but it wasn’t cloudy, the winds were light, and the air was 10°F warmer than yesterday morning. The birds responded in kind and were singing while they foraged in droves throughout the park.

As I was listening for warblers down the bluff from where the park gets narrow and there’s a guardrail between the parkway and the path, I spotted this perfectly perched olive-sided flycatcher waiting for the next fly to snatch out of the air.


I reached the river just in time to watch this quartet of gangly-looking goslings, probably tweens, steam by while carefully guarded by their mom and dad.


Farther north along the river, the great horned owl was not quite as well hidden as it has been lately. “Great to see ya, Sweetie!”


The river water is getting low enough again to expose rocks and tree trunks around the northern island, and this green heron was taking the opportunity to fish in a new spot.


Back on shore, I saw a trio of rose-breasted grosbeaks, and two of them weren’t “feeling it this morning”, but this female gave me a stare just long enough for one picture.


I’d gotten a tip about bird density along the river north of the islands, so I continued on up the trail to check it out, and holy moly, that was one hot tip. The trees were literally crawling with birds (especially if you consider the black-and-white warblers who forage along trunks and branches like creepers or nuthatches). Anyway, here’s a blackburnian warbler searching oak tree blossoms for something tasty to eat.


Then a small flock of about 4 birds shot overhead to join the mix, and at first, I thought they looked just like Eurpean goldfinches, with white bellies, dark faces, and bay-colored sides. They didn’t have finch beaks, however, because they are bay-breasted warblers instead, and this is only the second image I’ve ever managed to capture of a bay-breasted warbler. They sure are elusive little devils!


Finally, on my way south, as I passed a beautiful apple tree in full blossom and thought what pretty a picture that could make, a cedar waxwing flew in and began feasting on the blossoms. “Thanks!”


I’ve got some more pictures for you, but tomorrow is a travel day, so I’ve saved a few to show you then. It’s supposed to be a lot cooler tomorrow, anyway, after our pneumonia front comes through.

The sun returns at last…

I was thrilled to see a clear sky when dawn approached this morning, so I hustled into Estabrook Park to see if the sun would bring out anyone new. There was more activity at the pond than there has been in a few days with a green heron, a couple of wood ducks, and a few mallards, but the funnest bird was this male belted kingfisher whom I watched make several unsuccessful diving attempts for fish from the tree over the west lawn.


As I was watching the kingfisher, in hopes that I might catch him as he caught a fish, I spotted this fun little scene steaming west towards shore.


I had to shoot through some brush to get the picture above, so it’s pretty fuzzy, but I didn’t have to wait long before the little cutie headed back east to collect another bunch of leaves. Say “hi” to the muskrat who appears to have taken up residence in the pond.


From the pond, I headed back to the river and continued north where I found a pair of house wrens who appeared to be working on a nest. I read that “the male wren finds dry sticks, which he adds to the nest.”


So perhaps this is the female singing her encouragement.


Speaking of females, it took me a moment to recognize this little darling as a female American redstart.


As I was trying to get good pictures of the redstart, look who came cruising down the river. After a bit of a slow start, the goslings are really coming on strong.


Back on shore, I found another pair, this time of blue-gray gnatcatchers. Here’s the female,…


and here’s the male, with his iconic angry Groucho Marx eyebrows.


I was surprised to read that hermit thrushes, of whom I’ve been seeing so many this spring, are now considered “rare” because they’ve all moved north to their breeding grounds, and in their place, we now have Swainson’s thrushes, which look remarkably similar.


Back at the south end, it was a special treat to catch this brown thrasher at eye level and in the sun.


Speaking of “in the sun” here’s a Baltimore oriole looking pretty against a nice blue sky.


Finally, here’s a shaggy ink cap, lawyer’s wig, or shaggy mane mushroom (Coprinus comatus), as far as I know, and I read that “the young mushrooms, before the gills start to turn black, are a choice edible mushroom, but should be prepared soon after being collected as the black areas quickly turn bitter.” Plus, don’t eat them based solely on my identification! I’m no mycologist!


Happy Mother’s Day!

The thick cloud cover continues in Estabrook Park, so I didn’t see any pictures worth taking until I hiked back down to the river after visiting the pond. At the base of stairway 5, across from the southern island, there was a lone mallard hen standing on the riverbank. I tried to get off the stairs and up the path without bothering her, but she hopped into the water anyway, and I said I was sorry and didn’t think more of it.

A little farther up the trail, however, I spotted a bunch of fishing gear that some kindly angler had left for me, I suppose to fill out my collection, and as I headed to the water’s edge to collect it, I accidently flushed a little bird out of hiding. At first glance, I thought it might be the sora again, but by the time it hit the water, I could see that it was a duckling instead. So could its mom, as it turns out, and the mallard hen was already making a beeline across the water towards us. Happily, the two soon met, I didn’t give chase, and here’s a picture of the little one telling Mom all about its big adventure while she gives me a stern look.


In short order, those two rejoined the other two ducklings waiting on the far shore, and they all started preening themselves as if nothing had happened at all. I suspect it is the same quartet we last saw on Thursday, and I’m glad to see that they are still doing fine.


After all that excitement, I continued on to the north end where I finally found an indigo bunting who was more intent upon announcing his presence than he was worried about hiding from me for a change. The lighting is terrible, but it’s a step in the right direction.


I also got another crack at a redstart portrait, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. It’s still quite a striking little bird, though, even in a mediocre picture.


And that’s nearly all I managed this morning, so here’s another look at the magnolia warbler from Friday.


Here’s another look at the rose-breasted grosbeak from Saturday.


Here’s another look at the beaver from Friday.


And here’s the last family of geese I’ve seen in the park, beside the river at the north end on Friday.


Here’s another look at the chipmunk we saw on Thursday.


Lastly, eagle-eyed Lisa pointed out that there was a patch of toadshade, aka prairie trillium (Trillium recurvatum) in bloom on the side of the path, so here’s a pretty little flower for all the moms out there. I hope you have a great day.


Insert title here

Our wifi is out, so I’m borrowing some, and I gotta make this short. There were a ton of birds in Estabrook Park this morning, but the clouds were extra thick, so there wasn’t much light, and the good pictures were few and far between.

At the pond, I was stunned to find not a single goose or duck, probably for the first time since the pond was frozen over, but there was one green heron, and it looked no happier for the solitude.


Here’s a goldfinch enjoying some dandilion seeds.


At the north end, the indigo buntings were singing like crazy, but still in no mood for pictures, so here’s a least flycatcher.


Speaking of flycatchers, the eastern kingbirds have arrived, and here’s one perched just off the tip of the southern island.


We’ve seen a lot of warblers and vireos lately, but here’s our first warbling virio (Vireo gilvus) of the season.


Finally, here’s another rose-breasted grosbeak who was too busy stuffing his beak and singing his song to show his beautiful rose breast.


Lastly, after my walk in the park, I took a bike ride north on the Oak Leaf Trail, and look who I found.


Creatures big and small…

The fabulous blue skies are gone for now, but the clouds hadn’t started leaking yet, the temps were mild, and the air was still, so it was a pretty good morning for seeing wildlife in Estabrook Park. 

The deer were back in hiding, so the biggest critter I saw was this beaver on the prowl for some breakfast along the river below the southern playground.


It was about to sample these tasty looking saplings when it must have spotted me, crouching behind some other twigs about 25 yards farther up river, and opted to amble back into the water instead. “Sorry about that!”


As I approached the north end, the geese and mallards sounded excited, and I was thrilled to spot the likely cause high in a tree on the northern Island. I used to see eagles only in winter, when they came south looking for open water, but perhaps their range is expanding southward, and I hope it means we’ll get to see more of them.


After the eagle continued south, I spotted this goose and her goslings swimming north.


At the north end, across from that island, there was a lot of little-bird activity in the treetops. I heard and glimpsed a few indigo buntings, but they evaded my camera today. Instead, this magnolia warbler was more accommodating.


This redstart was a little less so, but we managed to work something.


Finally, little-bird-wise, this Nashville warbler opted for something more artsy.


Back at the pond, I spotted my first baby bunny of the season, and I bet there are more from where that came.


The chipmunks were feisty today, and after this one paused at the far side of the bridge at the north end of the pond, it continued right on towards me and then scampered into the bushes at my end.


Finally, the trillium were open and bright wait in a few spots throughout the park, and here’s a nice little clump right beside the river path.


Comings and goings…

The stretch of beautiful weather we’ve been enjoying lately has lasted for one more day, and it was just a perfect morning in Estabrook Park. Plus, with sunrise now at 5:35 am and no clouds to block the sun, I started my journey at 5:30 and enjoyed the park all to my lonesome for nearly an hour. What a treat.

It was nice to see the pair of deer again on the southern soccer fields after a couple-week break.


The toads were singing like crazy again this morning, you can even hear them up on the bluff, and it appears to have already paid off for some of them, like the happy couple below. There were hundreds of them in the river along the banks where the water is mostly still.


There was a notable absence at the pond this morning because the goose and gander must have decided overnight that the goslings were finally ready to make their annual march down to the river. If you’re desperate for a fix, you can still see a few families along the riverbanks, and here’s a picture I took on May 7th, but if you need to see them live at the pond, you’ll have to wait until next year.


Anyway, on my hike across the baseball field toward the river, there was a male northern flicker foraging in the grass along with the grackles and starlings, and as I tried to get a decent picture, it must have taken pity on me and hopped up onto this post for a moment, which really made my job a lot easier. He even showed off his namesake “yellow shafts.” “Thanks, buddy!”


Back at the river, the sun was finally high enough in the sky to really light up this darling blue-headed vireo.


On my way back south and back up on the bluff, I finally hit pay dirt when I spotted our first scarlet tanager of the season. If I had a fake bird with little wire feet that I could wrap around any branch in the park, I don’t think I could have come up with a pose as perfect as this one.


Back by the water, I spotted the trio of ducklings we last saw on May 8th.


There’s a new flower blooming on the slope down from the beer garden. Does anyone recognize it?


Over the swampy bottom at the base of stairway 8, which leads down to the river from the southern playground, I spotted this little flycatcher searching for its next morsel, and it appears to be a yellow-bellied flycatcher. By crazy coincidence, the last time I saw a yellow-bellied flycatcher was on May 11, 2022.


Since there’s a little room left on this page, here’s another look at that chestnut-sided warbler from yesterday.


And here’s another chipmunk from yesterday who stayed in the shade.