You know the drill…

I’ve gotta go give an exam this morning, but the sky isn’t the beautiful blue that we had yesterday, so I don’t mind so much. Plus, there were so many pretty sights yesterday, I’ve got some more to show you today.

Here’s another, slightly blurry, look at that red-tailed hawk that really shows off its red tail. It must have decided that the river wasn’t big enough for the two of us. Sorry, buddy! Maybe it had finally gotten warm enough in the sun, and I was just the impetus it needed to go get some breakfast. I was all the way across the river at a pretty wide part, after all.

Here’s a nice close-up of one of the two female hooded mergansers who probably didn’t mind that the hawk finally took off.

And here’s another look at the female bufflehead. This might be my best bufflehead picture yet. They are usually quite shy, but that could have always been the male’s reaction, and the female could be a bit bolder. That certainly seems to be the case with mallards and wood ducks and perhaps is a result of females usually wearing better camouflage. I’ll have to look into that.

Here’s another shot of the fishing herring gull. It was diving and getting back out of the water repeatedly, but I didn’t see it manage to catch anything. Keep trying, buddy!

While I have you, here’s one more look at the muskrat from Sunday.

Finally, here are two more shots of the foraging chickadees from yesterday.

Till next time.

Puttin’ the “brrrr” in “brisk”!

The thermometer said 21° this morning, and the manual for my camera assured me it was good for 14°, so we were good to go with 7° to spare! That’s a good thing, too, because the sky was crystal clear, and it would have been a crying shame to miss the park today.

The first pretty sight I saw came a bit before the abandoned bridge abutment, near where we saw the muskrat yesterday, and where this blue heron was warming itself in the bright morning sun on a log over the water. Those darn vines hanging down between us were giving my autofocus fits, so I’m thrilled that it somehow focused on the heron one time. Phew!

Meanwhile, as I was trying to trick my autofocus into doing my bidding, look who came cruising down the river. Yup, that’s a beaver heading home once again after a night of gnawing on trees upstream.

After all that excitement, things were calm for a bit until I got above the falls and tried to check on another spot where I’ve seen beaver before. Look who caught my eye in a tree across the river as I approached the water: a red-tailed hawk appearing to try the same trick as the heron.

The beaver hangout was all iced over, so nothing to see there, but there was some new action out on the water.

Mrs. Bufflehead has come down river a bit and has been joined by a pair of hooded merganser hens. Sweet! Here’s a nicer picture of Mrs. Bufflehead as she caught her breath between dives to forage for tasty morsels on the river bottom.

Speaking of tasty morsels, the herring gulls were back to fishing on the river, and here’s one just about the splashdown at the far north end.

There was no sign of the young eagle this morning but be patient. I bet we’ll get to see it again, and hopefully its elders, too, as the river ices over in the coming weeks, and everyone starts frequenting the few patches of open water left.

On my way back home, I spotted this fascinating phenomenon trapped in an eddy just below the falls. It appears to be foam churned up by the falls now frozen into plate-sized pancakes that lazily circle each other on the surface. I do not recall seeing that before, but I read that this is not the first occurrence, and it is perhaps distinct from the so-called “pancake ice” that forms on oceans and lakes. Fun, eh? What will they think up next?

Further south, the little birds were finally up, and here’s a chickadee with breakfast already.

Finally, here’s a goldfinch who just needs five more minutes in the sun, please, before it’ll be ready to forage.

Yet another big bird!

Skies were cloudy at sunrise again, so I took my sweet time getting to the park, and this handsome devil was waiting along the river trail to welcome me. How’s that for an auspicious start?

The next fun sight was this little cutie enjoying a muskrat’s breakfast at the river’s edge just a bit south of the abandoned bridge abutment. As before, I watched it make a couple of sorties onto shore for more helpings before a big flight of geese coming down river and honking as they came scared it into hiding.

As I approached the falls, this other gaggle of geese arranged themselves nicely in the reflected light upstream.

I reached the two islands just in time to catch these two crows enjoying a fish they found in the middle of the river. Could be salmon. There are a few of them littering the length of the river these days.

From there, I could see Lisa upriver at the boat launch, so I headed her way to hear what she had found this time. We thought it might be our osprey, but it turns out to be a young eagle instead.

We weren’t the only ones to notice it, either. The mallards had all already made themselves scarce, and these four crows took the fight right to the eagle.

When I thought I had the best eagle picture I was gonna get, I went looking for the bufflehead from yesterday, and sure enough, she was right where I left her.

Suddenly, she started paddling upstream as I’ve never seen before, and when I took my eye away from the viewfinder, I could see why. The eagle had finally had enough of the crows and came our way before it headed back north. Let’s hope we get to see a lot more that that one in the coming months.

On my way back south, I encountered a big group coming north at the boardwalk. They call themselves the “Sunday Birders”, Katie, who had tipped me off to the bufflehead just yesterday, was in the lead, and long-time reader Donna was deep in the pack.

I would have loved to tag along, but I had an event to get to, so continued south, and as I passed the wide and slow part of the river, where the stream from the pond empties in, I finally got a chance to capture this sweetie, who I’d been hearing all morning.

And that’s all she wrote for this morning. Best of all, the forecast for tomorrow morning looks fantastic, if a little cool and breezy, so let’s hope for some nice blue-sky backgrounds.

Plenty of black, white, and blue

It was cloudy but much warmer than yesterday, and my morning in Estabrook got off to an interesting start when I spotted this herring gull with a fish in the river near the south end. We haven’t gotten to see much of that.

Things were quiet again until I approached the abandoned bridge abutment below the dog park. There was a blue heron fishing from a log on the east side, and it was much less shy than they usually are. Here’s the view straight west from the path.

And here it is again but straight south from the riverbank upstream.

Above the falls, I finally found one of the nuthatches nice and close to the ground that I’ve been hearing for the last few weeks but have not managed to photograph.

The main event, however, came at the north end, as I approached the boat ramp, when a birder walking south mentioned that they had just seen a bufflehead. Be still my heart! I hustled up to a gap in the brush, and sure enough, there it was. There was just one, so far, and here she is, showing off her namesake head.

She was diving regularly for “aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, and mollusks,” and eating her fill, we hope.

We were lucky enough to have a pair on the river for most of last winter and into the spring, and I’m thrilled to see at least one back again. Let’s hope she sticks around, and another shows up to join her, eh?

Finally, as amazing luck would have it, my morning wrapped up just as it started, with another herring gull catching a fish. What are the odds of that?!?

A slow day at the portrait studio

Well, it was a beautiful morning in Estabrook, as forecast, but everyone must already be on the road for the Thanksgiving holiday because just about nobody was home.

I did manage to catch this red-bellied woodpecker, who I’ve heard but haven’t seen much of lately.

Near the same spot, where the river is wide and slow, this goldfinch appears to be trying to warm its toes. You can see one claw pulled up into its belly feathers.

And right behind the goldfinch, one of the many mourning doves who frequent that area maybe thought I was aiming at the goldfinch and so let me sneak this shot.

I hiked all the way up to the north end and back before I saw a shot worth taking again. This time of a junco keeping an eye on me over its shoulder.

Finally, there are still plenty of mallards scattered along the whole length of the river, and these two looked especially nice in the morning sun with the blue sky reflected off the water.

And those were all the pictures I thought worth taking. Meanwhile, I keeping seeing reports of buffleheads in Port Washington, and I wish they would hurry up and get here.

Three birds and a buck

I didn’t make it to the park today, I am sorry to say, even though the morning looked as beautiful as forecast, at least before the winds came up, the clouds blew in, and the flurries started. Anyway, I do have a couple of pictures in my back pocket that might be able to tide you over.

Here’s one more picture of one of the great horned owls from last Saturday when there were two of them on the southern island, and they were both perched facing away from the east bank. You can see it has turned to face the sun, and it has its eyes closed, or at least the left one.

Here’s one more picture of the osprey from the same morning, which was the last time we saw this magnificent bird. With the sun just starting to peak over the horizon to add a golden glow, it looks like a fantastic picture, until you notice the little branch right in front of its eyes. Cursed branch!

Here’s one more blue heron picture from Sunday morning, when we saw the young buck swim across the river. I already included a good picture of a heron from where the river is wide and slow, so I opted not to also include this one of a heron farther south where the river is narrow and fast.

Finally, here’s a picture from the second sighting of that young buck with the funky antlers near the north end on Monday, which I mentioned on Tuesday. I think you can see why I didn’t use it then, but you can also see that the beaver have been busy there gnawing the bark off of some trunks they fell. I sure am glad to see that!

The forecast for tomorrow morning is even better than for today, and I don’t have to go to school, so I expect I’ll be in the park at sunrise. Maybe I’ll see you there, and let’s hope we’re not the only ones awake this time!

What a bunch of sleepy-heads!

Wow, it was dark and warm this morning, and the sky barely started to lighten when the sun supposedly rose. Dawn could not be denied, however, the sky eventually did lighten, and I ventured into Estabrook to see if anyone was up yet. It turns out, they weren’t. Ha!

Despite our amazing luck lately with pretty big fauna; such as osprey, deer, herons, beaver, and owls; I barely saw a squirrel or a mallard this morning. It was eerie. I could hear a few little birds; such as juncos, cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, and nuthatches; and even glimpsed them once in a while, but nobody wanted to sit for a portrait today.

Instead, here are the unlucky laggards, whom I did manage to catch, and the first one is this shy, but not quite shy enough, song sparrow deep in the brush on the slope down from the beer garden.

Second is this golden-crowned kinglet who appears to have started its leap to better cover two milliseconds too late. Better luck next time, little buddy. We are inside the north edge of their winter range, so here’s hoping there is a next time.

And that’s all of them, if you can believe it. I saved a lot of film today.

The next two mornings are forecast to be sunny and seasonably cold, so let’s hope that helps everyone get out of bed in the morning.

Insert “part 2” pun here.

As promised, here’s the rest of the story.

After that special encounter yesterday with the two does and two bucks on the river at the south end, I continued north along the river path looking for the osprey. Well, I never did see the osprey, but as I approached where the river gets wide and still, I could see a blue heron up ahead out on the water warming up in the morning sun.

There wasn’t much to see as I passed the falls, and as I approached the southern island, I stopped to see if I could spot the owls again before I inadvertently spooked them. I was standing right at the edge of the water, to see past the brush that grows there, with the binoculars to my eyes, and I had just spotted what looked like owl feathers near the same spot as last time, when I noticed a ripple in the water right in front of me.

As luck would have it, there was a beaver in the water not 10 feet away from me. It appears to have noticed me at about the same time as I noticed it, and it began to hustle out of sight, but I did manage to squeeze off this one blurry picture first. Then it was gone.

Luckily, I had no time to bemoan that lousy shot, because there was an owl waiting for me up ahead. There was just one this time, and it was facing our way for a change.

I took a lot of pictures that almost all look the same because the owl didn’t move much. I almost fell into the river trying to get low enough so that the leaf in front of its forehead doesn’t completely cover its face, but I managed to stay dry and only hit myself in the head with my camera instead. Fortunately, my camera is a lot harder than my head, which is really saying something, so it’s no worse for the wear.

After I figured that at least one picture must have come out presentable, I continued north and was soon greeted by this happy scene. I am seldom able to get my ducks in a row like that.

As I continued north, I’m pretty sure I saw our swimming young buck on the riverbank up ahead, and he was keeping dry this time, but I didn’t manage to get a presentable picture. If it was him, though, he sure is getting around!

At the far north end, a kingfisher and plenty more mallards are still around, but there were no geese nor killdeer yesterday. Instead, a female cardinal let me have a pretty shot again.

Finally, on my way back south, it appears that the heron had moved to a higher perch over the water.

It looks perfectly beautiful out my window right now, as I type this, but I’ve gotta go to school this morning, and so we’ll have to wait till tomorrow to see who comes out to enjoy the forecast warm spell.

Dance of the River Deer

It all started with just one doe, whom I accidentally spooked as I made my way north along the river trail from the southern end. At first, she bolted inland, but when I didn’t pursue, she came back, crossed the trail, and continued down to the river.

I continued a bit north along the trail and then hiked down to the river myself to see if I could get a better shot of her.

That’s when I noticed that there were two of them.

As I tried to line up a decent shot of those two, a buck strode out of the brush to join them. Now things are getting interesting.

But wait, there’s more! Soon a second buck came along to fill out the foursome.

The does headed right on over to check out the new guy.

They were soon followed by the first buck, and the does gave the guys some room.

Things looked tense for a moment.

But it never came to blows, thank goodness, and they took a little walk together.

Then they all hiked back up on shore and left me to pack up my camera.

I did hike up to the north end and took some more pictures before I went back home, but let’s save those for tomorrow.

No snow, yet…

It was a soggy morning in Estabrook, but the winds were light, the snow didn’t materialize, and there was a lot more activity than I expected. I went straight to the river again, and didn’t see the osprey this morning, but there was a blue heron just off the near shore where the river gets wide and slow at the base of stairway 8.

As I continued north, I could hear a kingfisher, and didn’t pay it much attention because they are always too shy for me to get close, but then this one took a break right across from the base of stairway 7, so here we are.

There were plenty of mallards at the north end, but no geese, mergansers, or any other odd ducks that I could see. There was also no sign of the owl pair from yesterday. Instead, I finally caught a chickadee, who’ve been around all fall, of course, but have been too fast for me lately.

Speaking of fast, I was surprised to spot a golden-crowned kinglet but failed to get a picture. Instead, on my way back south, I finally caught a junco and its striking black and white tail, for the first time, I think.

And speaking of white tails, look who I saw almost at the south end: a young buck with an awkward, asymmetrical, teenagery-looking set of antlers. I was quite surprised when it opted to wade across the river instead of just strolling down the riverbank, but I later saw a fisherman further south, and the two of us might have been more than the buck wanted to deal with.

It made it across just fine, I am happy to report, and shook itself dry just as dogs do.

After that, it seemed in no rush, checked out the grass, gave us a look, and ambled up the bank ahead of it.

The forecast is for more light winds tomorrow morning and a chance for some sun, so I have a hope there will be more pretty sights for us to see. Keep your fingers crossed!