A slow midsummer morning in Estabrook

Now that we’re solidly in the Dog Days of Summer, things are starting to slow down in the park, and it’s gonna be a short report today. The weather was pleasant enough, I got to the pond nice and early, a mallard is back to keep the black duck company, but I didn’t see the muskrat. There was a blue heron, but no green herons. The five wood duck ducklings were keeping to their routine, but the mallard ducklings have definitely moved on.

At the river, I did spot a beaver briefly, and a blue heron was fishing by the abandoned bridge abutment, but the big surprise is that the geese seem to have cleared out. Instead of the several dozen that were there as recently as yesterday, I only spotted 3 individuals today.

I didn’t take a picture until I found this mallard hen and her two ducklings just off the boat launch at the north end.

Next is of the five wood duck ducklings lounging in their usual spot on the log in the pond.

And finally, the blue heron was still at the pond for my second visit, it was on the west side by the tall reads for a change, and the sun was making a valiant effort, so that made for a prettier picture than usual

Then the sun lost its battle with the clouds, and I couldn’t find another willing portrait subject. Better luck next time, eh?

Lots of comings and goings this morning.

If you have been wondering when and if the mosquitoes would follow the rain we’ve had lately, well, wonder no more because they sure as heck are here now. Zoinks! I had no idea how haphazard my insect repellent application had become during the drought until this morning when the little stinkers let me know of every patch of skin I missed.

Luckily for us, the bigger critters are better prepared or just don’t care and were out in their usual numbers anyway. First up is one we haven’t seen in over a month, the muskrat in the pond, and this morning it appeared to be contentedly munching on something I can’t quite see out in the water.

Yup. That’s its big ol’ black tail sticking out of the water behind it.

I didn’t see much else and thought maybe the sun might peek out later so I headed to the river, but I really couldn’t dawdle today, as I could in the past, so I found myself at the north end pretty soon, and the most interesting sight was this trio of mergansers. They were pretty far out on the water, and the light was still pretty low, so it’s not the best image, but I suspect they are female hooded mergansers just like the solo hen we saw earlier this week.

Back at the pond, a blue heron was fishing in the east bay as the wood duck hen and her ducklings lounged on their usual log.

There was a slight breeze to keep the skeeters down so I made myself comfortable on the bench and waited patiently to see if the heron would do anything interesting. After a bit, someone walked by and flushed out a green heron that I hadn’t spotted. Happily, I didn’t need to move so it ignored me and got right back to fishing. First it grabbed a frog.

Then it moved to a new spot and quickly followed up the frog with a nice little fish.

Meanwhile, the blue heron was having little success, and it appears that all the mallards checked out overnight, even the ducklings. All I could see was the solo black duck hen and the wood ducks. So it goes, eh?

Some old friends return

The nice cool temps and calm winds remain, but there wasn’t much sun this morning. A single young deer was calmly grazing on the soccer fields, and I couldn’t even get it to look my way when I called to it, so this is what we’re left with.

At the pond, it was a blue heron this time trying to balance on a wiggly stick, and when it finally had to resort to flying to keep from getting soaked, it spooked a second heron that I hadn’t seen. One of them flew off, and I decided to leave the one who stayed to fish in peace.

At the river, a young-looking beaver is really getting the hang of making me work for a shot.

At the falls, there were 4 mallard hens preening, and this one had the best spot.

Up river, I spotted another young northern flicker, and this one might not be fledged yet. There was a commotion when Mom or Dad stopped by, which is how I noticed them, but then the youngster was left on his own, and he just kept tucking in and then peeking out to see if his next serving of breakfast had arrived yet.

There were a couple of blue herons at the north end, along with plenty of geese, a few mallards, and even a sandpiper or two, but I let them all be and headed back to the pond.

As I approached, just about where I spotted the flickers yesterday, a chipmunk, of whom we haven’t seen much lately, really seemed to want to make up for lost time.

The chipmunk eventually let me pass, and I saw the wood duck ducklings up on their log in the east bay, but as I made my way around to get a nice shot, look who stopped me in my tracks.

Yay! Our turkey is back, or still hanging around, and we slowly danced around each other as I took pictures, but by the time I reached the right spot for the ducklings, they had already moved on.

Instead, the mallard hen and her ducklings had positioned themselves nicely again in what little sun we did have and so, ta da!

The sun returns and so do a few characters.

The forecast was for clear skies, for a change, and so I hit the park nice and early even though it was a bit chilly. I could see a blue heron and both sets of ducklings on the pond, but there just wasn’t enough light yet for my equipment, so I let them enjoy their breakfast in peace and headed to the river, were there was at least one beaver about and playing very coy with me.

There were also three more blue herons on the river, down from the four from the previous two mornings, so perhaps there is an ideal temperature for them: not 55°, not 68°, but 63°. Now that’s science, right there! Anyway, I think we’ve seen enough herons lately, so I let them be and headed back to the pond for some nice morning sun action.

Before I could get there, however, I came across this freshly-fledged northern flicker, looking sharp in his almost-adult feathers and acting way less shy than his folks have been lately.

Here he is getting a morning morsel from Dad, who was much more elusive.

And here he is waiting pretty patiently for the next one, which wasn’t long in coming.

Once I did arrive at the pond, the sun did not disappoint. The wood duck ducklings were lounging in the shade on the east side, but the trees and bushes behind them were alit and reflecting beautifully off the water.

And our newest arrivals, the mallard ducklings, were basking in the full golden glow across the water.

Since the sun was out and things were warming up, I stopped by the weeds beside the soccer fields to see who was around, and the place was hoppin’!

Here’s a female twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella), whom we haven’t seen since last summer, and who closely resembles the female common whitetail we just saw on the 4th.

Here’s another Halloween pennant, whom we saw for the very first time on the 3rd.

And here are a couple of shots of a monarch, of which there were several I am thrilled to report, gettin’ juiced up on a bull thistle blossom.

Finally, as I headed home, I spotted a long string of Canada geese heading south, perhaps on a training flight. I read conflicting reports on when exactly they molt their flight feathers and so cannot fly, so I can’t tell if this might be the last flight before being grounded or the first flight after being grounded, but it was a nice sight to see either way.

More cold, more birds!

Sheesh! It was even cooler and maybe darker this morning than yesterday, if you can believe it, but let’s get right to the main event. There is a new batch of ducklings on the pond, and it’s five mallards this time. They probably just hatched overnight or this morning, and would you look at those little cuties! We saw how the cooler temps brought out the birds yesterday, but this is above and beyond. They just happened to catch my eye from the little bay east of the island as I was standing on the west lawn and wrapping up my second visit. Talk about luck.

During my first visit, I also found that our black duck hen has now accumulated three mallard hens to keep her company.

And a young blue heron was scarfing down fish again.

I didn’t see the wood ducks, but I didn’t want to disturb the heron, so I moved on and look who I saw at the river while I was looking for beaver.

It was also chowing down on a fish, and I can’t say for sure if it is our pal from a few weeks ago, but the size and location are about right.

There were more fishermen than usual in the vicinity of the falls, so nothing to see there this morning, and I continued to the north end. Along the way, there was another heron on the far shore, so not very photogenic, and a group of pretty waxwings feasting on flies close enough for me to capture these images.

Between the islands, I spotted our third blue heron of the morning, an adult this time and taking a break from fishing.

And beside the northern island, here’s heron number 4 hard at work…

And then heron number 5 flew in! Jeepers!

I also saw the mallard hen with 3 ducklings we’ve seen often and a female hooded merganser who is probably the same one we saw on the pond yesterday, but they were all pretty far out, so I didn’t waste my film and headed back to the pond.

On my second visit, besides the new mallard ducklings already mentioned above, the wood ducks made a beeline toward the west lawn as soon as I sat on the bench.

Best of all, they all hopped right up on the grass.

That, of course, emboldened the black duck and mallards to join them, at which point it became a circus of pecking orders, cue Yakity Sax, and they all ended up chasing each other back into the water in short order.

Lastly, it was too cold for butterflies, but this warm-blooded little cutie called softly to me as I walked past the weeds beside the soccer fields, so here you go. Based on the “grayish face”, “reddish-brown markings”, and “thick, triangular mustache”, I’m leaning towards a song sparrow (Melospiza melodia). The mustache may also be called a “malar stripe”, which one clever blogger introduced as his bird-nerd-word of the day, and the read is as fun as the title.

A change in the weather brings out the birds

The sudden cold snap brought the birds out like crazy this morning, and I believe I saw more blue herons in the park today than I have ever seen before.

There was a youngish-looking one having some success on the pond.

Another youngish-looking one seeming to take a break on the river below the falls.

Yet another youngish-looking one fishing intently above the falls.

A fourth, in full adult regalia, grabbing a little morsel between the islands.

Yet a fifth one, appearing to be a youngster again, just off the northern island and not having much luck, but it did give a nice demo of how to navigate water that gets too deep.

I hadn’t seen the ducklings on my first pass of the pond, so I stopped in again on my way back south, and Mrs. Wood Duck’s special friend is back and sharing a tender moment. These two are starting to make me feel like paparazzi.

While searching for the ducklings, I spotted a new kid in town, and I’m leaning towards a female hooded merganser, of whom we haven’t seen a bill nor feather since May on the river.

Meanwhile, the black duck and mallard hens are still hanging out.

Ah, and here comes Mrs. Wood Duck with four of her ducklings.

While the fifth stayed behind with who appears to be yet another mallard hen.

So that’s 10 ducks of 3 species and 1 merganser on the water at once. Holy Moly.

Then the excitement really began.

Yup, a Cooper’s hawk, whom we also haven’t seen for nearly a month, flew in looking for brunch.

The ducks quickly circled their wagons, as we saw before with the owl on the river.

And with my eye off it for a second, I lost track of the hawk, but I don’t believe it had any luck on the pond this morning, and I’m gonna call that enough excitement for one day.

A slow start but a big finish…

This morning really got off to a slow start, and I’d be tempted to think that the heat had something to do with it, but who knows. I didn’t see anything on my way to the pond, and there I only saw the same regulars that we saw just yesterday, so I headed to the river, where I almost made it to the north end before I even turned my camera on. At last, the mallard hen with three ducklings led them through a pretty reflection of the trees on the island lit by the sun.

Then a youngish-looking blue heron was fishing off the southern tip of the northern island, so things were starting to look up.

Overhead, this little cutie flew in to pose for a second, and after consulting with the experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I’m gonna go with Acadian flycatcher (Empidonax virescens). Now we’re cookin’! We’re just inside the northwest corner of its range, but Donna, if you know a better fit, I’m sure you won’t hesitate to drop me a line.

As you can see, things had really started to turn around, and they just kept getting better. I had barely finish with the flycatcher, when this slightly faded beauty stopped in, our first red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) for this season, and not a second too soon, either. Woo hoo! Last year it took me several tries to finally find one this obliging.

Well, since my luck had clearly turned around, I swung back by the pond, and look who was there.

Yup, one of the green herons that have really been giving me the slip lately. It was on quite the roly-poly little log and appeared to be having a heck of a time staying upright but not so much that it couldn’t snag a little fish anyway.

But still, it was roly.

Meanwhile, the American black duck hen and her best buddy the mallard hen were enjoying their morning preen together in the sun.

I didn’t see Mrs. Wood Duck’s new special friend, so she was giving the ducklings some attention, for a change. First, there was a winding cruise through the algal mats.

And then a short visit to the west lawn.

When she decided that it was time to go, one duckling had an opinion to share.

Finally, for the cherry on top, just as I was about to call it a morning, I heard the cry of this youngster perched on the WITI TV tower and probably demanding to be fed. My guess is that it’s a fledgling from the pair of peregrine falcons in the nesting box on the UWM EMS building, and that brings our bird-of-prey count to 7!

So Estabrook Park pulled through again for us, and you’d think that after all this time, I’d have learned to have a little more faith.

Oh, and before I forget, I heard a cicada singing already before 8am, so you know it’s gonna be a hot one. Stay cool out there!

Birds of a feather…

It was a slow morning in Estabrook, after all the noise last evening, and the mammals seemed to be taking the day off. The greatest concentration of firework detritus was by the pond, so I was quite surprised to find all the usual avian denizens going about their morning routine as though nothing had happened.

The American black duck hen was still sticking like glue to her new friend the mallard hen.

And Mrs. Wood Duck was still enjoying the company of her new special friend

While the kids foraged on their own in the yard.

At the river, the water is beginning to recede a bit, after all the rain we’ve had, and the killdeer are back on the exposed rocks. There were at least 3, and this one wanted all my attention.

When I opted not to give chase, however, it got back up and just watched me while a sandpiper began foraging in the background.

Eventually, the killdeer gave up on me and just flew off.

In the meadow, the only critter up this morning is this plush looking silver-spotted skipper.

I stopped by the pond again on my way south, and a green heron evaded me, while the ducklings settled down for their early morning nap.

Meanwhile, the adults settled down on the other end of the pond.

At the soccer fields, the wren was back to singing and keeping an eye on me.

On the next birch tree over, there was a woodpecker that looks like a female downy, but with grey feathers instead of white. She even has the couple of little black squares in the white stripe down the side of her tail. Curious. I don’t think it’s some effect caused by my camera because the birch bark is nice and white.

Julie Craves, supervisor of avian research at the Rouge River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan Dearborn and research associate at the university’s Environmental Interpretive Center, explains that “woodpeckers’ white feathers are also susceptible to becoming gray and dirty from soot or other substances,” and maybe that’s what’s going on here.

Lastly, a sulfur was sipping its fill from the Canada thistle this time.

Oh, and before I forget, on our way home from our first in-person get together at Anne’s folk’s place yesterday (thanks Joanne and Don) in who knows how long, Anne spotted these two amazing creatures working a soybean field in the warm afternoon sun.

Them there are sandhill cranes, if’n you ain’t from around these parts.

Plus, I forgot to mention that I found my first park tequila yesterday. How fun is that?

Lots of friends and family on the 4th.

On my walk to the pond this morning, I had one of those magical moments when a young deer who couldn’t figure out what to make of me. I’ve learned that the spell lasts longer if I sat down, so I did.

Once it seemed that I was no threat, hunger called, and the spell was broken.

At the pond, Mrs. Wood Duck’s special friend was back, and they were having their own magic moment while the ducklings foraged hither and yon on their own.

Meanwhile, the young blue heron was back and continuing to hone its fishing skills.

Then, as if all that wasn’t enough, a mallard hen flew in, and the American black duck hen immediately paddled right over and became her new best friend.

American black duck hen (left) and mallard hen (right)

I eventually tore myself from all this amity and hiked down to the river.

I could see ripples on the water that the beaver were making, and as I tried to get closer, a red squirrel took great exception, which alerted the beaver, and they went back under cover. Oh well.

I saw no herons, muskrats, or otters on the river today, but on my way back south, I did spot a mallard hen with her three ducklings…

And a wood duck hen with her duckling.

Back by the mudflats, I got to see my first school of tiny bullheads for this summer.

Back up on the bluff, I spotted this pair of whitetail dragon flies still just getting acquainted.

Finally, in the weeds by the soccer fields, there were a few monarchs…

Yet another dragonfly, a female widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) this time, and …

A pretty little sulfur butterfly sharing a bull thistle blossom with an Agapostemon bicolored striped-sweat bee .

That’ll do it for today, and I hope you have a great 4th of July, maybe even with your friends and family!

A nice slow start to the holiday weekend…

It was forecast to get hot today, so I hit the park early, while it was still cool and dark, and I was happily surprised to run into this crew before I even reached the pond. Sure, the picture’s grainy, but it’s a miracle I managed to get an image at all. The streetlights were still on.

At the pond, a young blue heron was already fishing, and I’m pretty sure it’s got a crayfish here.

It’s nice to see the kids be successful once in a while, eh?

Meanwhile, the wood duck ducklings are becoming more independent. Here’s Mom with her friend and one duckling.

While the other four ducklings are running around on the lawn with the American black duck hen. I was lucky to even get 4 of those 5 in a single image.

Talk about “free-range” kids.

At the river, I could see the ripples made by beaver, but none came out to play today. Nor was there a heron fishing at the falls. There was, however, yet another rabbit enticing me to follow it up the trail. Okay. Let’s see what’s at the north end.

There were the usual contingent of geese and mallards on the water, and the waxwings were foraging over the water again, but the big surprise is this stunning creature.

I’m pretty confident that we have here a Halloween pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina), which I am pretty sure I have never seen before. The orange background on the wings is a little subdued, but that could be due to the lighting, the strong green behind the wings, and/or the vaguery of my camera’s color processing.

As I came back south, I stumbled upon another striking creature, which seems to be a Leconte’s haploa moth (Haploa lecontei). Well, it’s definitely a moth and probably in the Haploa genus. From there, Leconte’s appears to be the best fit. We saw one last summer, too.

But wait, there’s more, and this one I had to take with my phone, but it is still good enough to identify an aptly-named white slant-line moth (Tetracis cachexiata).

Okay, that’s enough bugs for one day.

At the soccer fields, the wren was still hopping in and out of its house.

And this little cutie with non-descript markings, which I don’t believe I’ve seen before, would hover low over the long grass for a moment and then dive down to catch something. Then it would pop back up, fly to a nearby low branch, and repeat.

The beak looks finch-like, but the colors don’t match any finch we should have. Instead, I suspect it’s a female or immature indigo bunting. I’ve been seeing a bright blue male singing at the top of the same tree but haven’t managed to capture a presentable image yet. I did get a nice picture of one back in May at the north end, however.

Okay, one last image. The Allegheny monkey flower (Mimulus ringens) is starting to bloom in various locations along the river.