And just like that…

All our wishing must have worked because it was even warmer and stiller in Estabrook Park this morning than yesterday. Not only were the bugs out in swarms and the birds out in droves, but there was a chorus of toads singing at the riverbank for nearly the length of the park, and it was amazing for about three hours. Then, as if someone flipped a switch, it felt like a big bubble of warm, moist air boiled upwards, and a blast of cool, lake air blew in from the east. That’s just one of the treats of living beside Lake Michigan.

Anyway, before the weather changed, it was often difficult to keep track of all the different birds in one tree, and I’m sure I missed many of them, but here’s one that didn’t get away, a male ruby-throated hummingbird.

I know its “ruby” throat looks mighty dark, and I looked up the black-chinned hummingbird, but their range doesn’t extend east of the Rockies, so it must be just a trick of the light. In fact, the fine folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology suggest that “in some lights the throat of the adult male can appear black,” and we had “some” light this morning. In any case, here it is sipping nectar from tree blossoms, which I did not know they would do.

Next I spotted this female rose-breasted grosbeak, perhaps looking for those two dashing males we saw at the start of May.

I stopped by the pond, and the goslings were still fine, but I didn’t see anyone new, so I headed to the river where I found a solo blue-winged teal drake.

We’ve been lucky with teal sightings this spring, so the bigger surprise was spotting this toad in the river and taking a short break from singing.

On my way back south, I found make-out point with dozens of toads in the water jockeying for position.

Back up on the bluff and just before the cool wind blew in from the lake, I spotted this darling female chestnut-sided warbler. Her slim appearance, compared to this plump-looking male by the pond from last year, should give you some idea of how warm it was this morning.

Just across the path from Mrs Chestnut, I also spotted this striking, white-crowned sparrow.

Back in the treetops, here’s a Canada warbler, whom I first thought was a female magnolia warbler, but this is not the first time I’ve made that mistake. Ha! Someday I’ll learn, right?

Finally, after the weather changed, but before everyone fled, here’s a yellow-bellied flycatcher, whom I thought was another least flycatcher until I got home and took a look at its nice yellow belly in this picture.

In addition to all the birds and toads, this warm weather has also brought out a bunch of new blossoms, and here’s some white Trillium.

Here’s some yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum), a distinct species from the slightly-smaller white trout lily (Erythronium albidum) that opened a week or two ago.

And finally, the Virginia bluebells are open.

Phew! I’d better charge up my camera battery real good after this morning, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

More Birds!

Ahhhh, the wind has subsided at last, the little flying bugs were thick in the air, and it seemed as though a whole basketful of birds was dumped on Estabrook overnight. The treetops were alive with warblers.

The very first new arrival I spotted this morning was this very-shy indigo bunting, who only gave me two tries and then was gone like a flash.

This next picture is even worse, but I believe it shows our very first golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera). You can at least see his golden wing patches, his jet-black throat, and his white belly. That’s one more for the record books.

At the pond, a green heron was back and hard at work.

And the great horned owl was out in the open again by the river this morning. Just as I brought my camera to my eye, but before I could squeeze off a shot, I saw it yawn, turn its head, and close its eyes. I’ll take that as the compliment it was meant to be.

Lastly, I found our first mourning dove nest.

And that’s it for this morning, I’m afraid. I didn’t have a lot of time, and probably won’t get back to the park until tomorrow. In the meantime, however, I have a couple of images from our visit to Anne’s Mom and Dad’s place out in the country on Sunday.

Here’s a great egret, which we get to see in Estabrook just once in a blue moon.

Best of all, this one appears to have caught two fish at once!

Finally, I was surprised to find a hooded merganser, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the start of April.

Keep your fingers crossed that the nice weather and bug supply last into tomorrow so the birds stick around, and I get another chance to see who the wind blew in.

The wind is still whippin’

We have been “enjoying” a wind out of the south, as advertised, and it does appear that some birds have hitched a ride on it, so we do have some new arrivals, but let’s start with the goslings.

At first, I didn’t see all six goslings at the pond this morning, and my heart sank, but I was soon relieved to find that I simply wasn’t looking hard enough. Once they came out into the open, all original six appeared to be hale, hearty, and hungry, and here are the five willing to squish together for a picture.

Meanwhile, across the river I spotted what appears to be a blended family, which we’ve seen before, with at least 12 goslings that I could count, and some are obviously smaller than others. Just look at those two right in the middle. The one on the left is nearly half the size as the one on the right.

Oh, and while I was at the river, I was thrilled to find our great horned owl awake and not quite as tucked away as usual. Yay!

Okay, on to the new arrivals, and first up is this great crested flycatcher with its creamy yellow belly, whitish neck, and brown head. There were two of them, and they’ve just arrived from the southern half of the Gulf of Mexico or even farther south.

Next, at the south end, I had a nice extended photo shoot with this beauty, a blue-headed vireo, who didn’t have to travel quite as far as the flycatchers.

As if that wasn’t enough, wait till you get a load of this guy! He’s our first male scarlet tanager for the season, and he’s come the farthest of the three, all the way from western South America. I read that “twice a year, [they] fly across the Gulf of Mexico,” and “usually at night!” Yikes!

Best of all, at least for me, I’ve saved the most amazing for last. We’ve seen all three of the birds above at least once before in Estabrook, but I’ve been searching for this next bird since I first learned two years ago that red-bellied woodpeckers are not these, despite their obvious, bright-red heads. At long last, here is the first red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) that I’ve ever seen in Estabrook Park and maybe even anywhere.

Ta da! It was across the river and quite shy, so I consider myself lucky just to get these meager pictures.

Not a bad way to start a Monday morning, eh?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Here’s a nice little bouquet of hepticia, aka liverleaf or liverwort, just opening up beside the parkway across from the guardrail, for all the moms out there.

More orioles are arriving, and here’s one of a trio I spotted overhead as I could hear a fourth singing across the river.

The tree swallows are still searching for nesting cavities.

While this male, northern flicker continues excavating his.

He sure gets in farther than he did yesterday.

And this female, red-bellied woodpecker works on hers.

At the pond, things remain mostly the same, but without the night-heron. It was still pretty cool when I visited, so the goslings were tucked under Mom’s wings, and I left them alone. Instead, the wood ducks were up and about, and this pair came up on the lawn to see if I had brought them anything.

The fun surprise at the pond was spotting this handsome, white-crowned sparrow. We’ve been seeing a lot of the white-throated sparrows recently, with similar black and white stripes on their heads, but the white-crowned sparrows don’t have a white throat or little yellow patches over the eyes.

Back at the river, the great horned owl was out and enjoying a morning nap.

Finally, at the far south end, I came across a quartet of deer, and here’s two that appear to be a mature doe and yearling who might be starting to sport his “buttons”.

The wind was blowing pretty good out of the south, and I didn’t see a single kinglet, for a change, so maybe they hitched a ride north, and we’ll see a new cast of characters tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.

A change in the weather for the better!

It truly was a beautiful morning in Estabrook Park. The temps were mild and rising, the wind was light, and the sky was crystal blue. The mammals, who have been so active recently, appeared to be taking the weekend off, but the birds were as busy as ever.

On my way north along the river, I was happy to see this tree swallow checking out some nesting cavities on our side of the river.

I had watched this northern flicker excavating one in the same location on Thursday.

Just a bit further north, I came across both of the river geese families that I know about. First the family with just one gosling.

And then the family with five goslings.

Then I hiked over to the pond and found the black-crowned night heron that has become the latest “it bird” in Estabrook. I wonder if it’s one of the birds we saw along the river a few weeks ago and back for pond fish this time.

I also found this blue-gray gnatcatcher and managed to capture an image with both of his magnificent brows.

The geese and goslings on the pond were doing just fine and already attracting a crowd, so I headed back to the river and found yet another wood duck up in a tree.

And as I was trying to get a wood duck picture, this aptly-named song sparrow launched into its song right behind me.

Finally, at the north end, I did not see the prairie warbler today, but I did see this equally beautiful yellow warbler instead.

On my way back south, I saw plenty more birds, but didn’t manage to capture any more post-worthy images. Instead, I’ll leave you with this white trout lily blossom (Erythronium albidum). They’re starting to open throughout the park now.

Making do with the skies we’ve got.

The forecast showers never materialized this morning, so I had a nice, if cool and dark, visit to Estabrook Park. The big news is that Baltimore orioles, or at least this one triumphant male, announcing his presence from the treetops along the river (specifically the longer song that starts at 1:00, right after the blue jay), have finally arrived from their “wintering grounds in Florida, the Caribbean, Central America, [or] the northern tip of South America.” Yay!

The six goslings on the pond are still doing fine, but didn’t make a nicer picture today than this one from yesterday.

On my way back to the river, I came across this palm warbler who seemed content to just sit and enjoy the morning for a while. That’s the easiest warbler picture I’ve ever taken.

Back at the river, I was thrilled to find our resident great horned owl taking its nap out in the open for a change.

The five river goslings we first saw yesterday were still doing fine this morning, along with their mom and dad. Oddly, they are attracting quite a crowd of other geese, whom Dad valiantly keeps at bay.

At the north end, we had another visitor, a merlin this time, and it had no patience with me at all.

Meanwhile, a couple more mammals must have heard about yesterday and wanted in on the act. The first is this beautiful red squirrel.

And this raccoon didn’t exactly clamor to be photographed, but I couldn’t resist those fuzzy ears and kept real quiet to let it sleep.

Lastly, this doe seemed to be wondering where all the young bucks have gone. They were right here just yesterday.

I see nothing but clear skies in the forecast for tomorrow, so keep your fingers crossed that we get some pictures with pretty blue backgrounds for a change.

You will not believe the afternoon I had

Let’s start with the easy stuff. The six goslings on the pond are doing just fine, and here they are on a cruise with Mom and Dad, now that the weather has improved a bit.

Although there may be some tension brewing between the siblings, but what else is new, right moms?

Meanwhile, on the river, a new batch of goslings appears to be fresh out of the nest. Woo Hoo!

Back on shore, the infamous prairie warbler is still kicking around and drawing a crowd. I pointed out stairway three to a woman who heard from a guy at the pond that he had just seen it there. I don’t know if she ever found it, but when I got back from counting swallows and sandpipers on the river, I found it about 50 yards south of the stairway. It let me try to follow it around with my camera for a while as it jumped from branch to branch in the treetops, and then it must have gotten tired of that game so it came down closer to the ground and began to sing a song instead. Thanks, little buddy!

Just south of the prairie warbler, I came across this little cutie, and that “uniform bright cinnamon brown above” and faint spots that fade out mid-chest means I can finally be sure it’s not a hermit thrush or a Swainson’s thrush, and we’ve got ourselves an honest-to-goodness veery (Catharus fuscescens) at last, just returned all the way from “central and southern Brazil.” Welcome back, Sweetie!

Farther south and back out on the water, a pair of blue-winged teals were rustling up some afternoon victuals, and when they spotted me, the drake lingered for a second while the hen snuck out of sight. That’s some mighty-fine strategery, right there.

Then the mammals, who we usually only get to see once a week or so, really kicked it into high gear. They started off small, and here’s an eastern chipmunk who acted as if I surely couldn’t see it now.

Then they started to grow, and here’s an eastern cottontail who knew that I knew that it knew I was there, but it was taking a “wait and see” approach before scampering into the brush.

Next, I was stunned to find a coyote out in the middle of the day, but there was something on the ground up there that it did not want to abandon.

But before I could go see what the coyote was so attracted to, I came across this beauty just starting to grow his antlers and appearing absolutely fascinated to learn what I might be. It cautiously approached me more than once, even coming completely out of the brush for a closer look, and each time I deployed my best “sit down and don’t move a muscle” tactic.

But wait, there’s more. Here’s his buddy, or maybe his brother, who has just a little more antler already, but wasn’t quite so bold.

And if you can even believe it, there were three of them, and the third one was the shyest of all. That’s as close as he dared come.

By now, after all these years, I’ve already had the pleasure of a pretty close facsimile to each one of these experiences before, from time to time, but to have them all occur on a single afternoon? Be still my heart! I sure am going to miss these visits while I’m gone.

Let the sun shine in!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw dawn breaking on a cloudless sky this morning. Woo Hoo! I wolfed down my breakfast and hustled out the door as soon as I could.

It was great to see the goslings out enjoying the weather for a change.

The wood ducks seemed to be enjoying it too, and they were venturing farther from the water than I recall seeing before. Here’s a pair high on the east lawn.

I counted an even dozen wood ducks altogether, and here’s eight of them across the paved path east of the pond. The guy in the back appears to be yucking it up, but isn’t that often the case?

I went back to the west lawn to get more gosling pictures and knelt down by the water with the sun at my back.

Then the little tykes slowly foraged right up to me. I barely breathed, let alone moved, and Mom and Dad just let the scene unfold. Even this squirrel seemed transfixed by the moment. I thought of trying to capture some video on my phone, but opted to just enjoy it.

I eventually tore myself away and hiked over to the river to see what else there was to see, and there was plenty. Here’s a blue-winged teal drake.

A gadwall hen, whom I don’t believe I’ve seen since last spring, though we did have that handsome drake on the river over winter.

And at the far north end, I thought I saw the prairie warbler again. I even told some poor guy, who drove all the way out from Madison to see it, that I had just seen it, but when I got home and looked at the pictures, it wasn’t a prairie warbler at all. Psych! Instead, it appears to be a black-throated green warbler, as best as I can tell, although the yellow chest below the black throat gives me pause, and we’ll see what the experts on ebird have to say about that soon enough.

On my way back south, I found another spotted sandpiper piping the muddy riverbank, but with nice sunlight this time.

Lastly, I spotted this deer quietly munching on some fresh sprouts. That’s gotta taste good after a winter of sticks and bark, eh?

Maybe we will get some spring weather to enjoy after all.

Better than expected…

We got a good soaking this morning, but as noon approached it appeared that there was going to be a gap in the rain, so I hustled home from school, and on my way, I spotted a big flock of cedar waxwings, maybe 3 dozen birds, beside the Oak Leaf Trail. I put on my park clothes, grabbed my camera and binoculars, and headed right back out again to see if I could spot them from afar, but they had followed me to the north side of Capitol Drive, so I was able to get this nice close-up of this shy one instead. What a nice way to start an outing, eh?

On my way north through the park, I found this eastern towhee deep in a thicket, and just as I had given up hope of getting a picture of more than just his backside, he turned to give us a look. Thanks, little Buddy!

Common yellowthroats were plentiful today, and this one by the river let me take this nice portrait.

This spotted sandpiper was working the waterline almost directly below the yellowthroat.

And as if that wasn’t enough, this marsh wren began to sing from a pile of brush between me and the river. Sheesh, guys, pace yourselves! I’ve got room on the chip in my camera for pictures of all of you.

The biggest surprise of the afternoon, however, was finding this prairie warbler at the north end. You may recall me telling you that one had created quite a hubbub last week, but I had thought it had finally moved on. Well, either it never left, it came back, or we’ve got another one.

At first, it was pretty high overhead, and all I could see was the black stripes on a yellow bird, so I couldn’t even tell for sure that it wasn’t “just” a magnolia warbler. Then the little feller did me a solid and came down to eye level so I could get a better look. I couldn’t believe my luck.

Finally, as I made my way back south in hopes of beating the rain, I came across a great blue heron fishing on our side of the river for a change.

That’s not a bad outing, considering the weather, even if I do say so myself. Not bad at all.

Will these grey days ever end?

Despite being on a new page of the calendar, the cool, dark, and damp weather persists, and the goslings on the pond have gotta be wondering, “I pecked my way out of a nice cozy eggshell for this?”

We had a surprise retro visit on the river from this ever-dapper, red-breasted merganser drake. In the very next picture, he set those fine feathers right down in that mud at his feet, but I’ll spare you that visual trauma.

At the crest of the bluff, this male northern flicker appears to have been digging in the mud himself before taking a break to let everyone know he’s there.

South of the falls, this spotted sandpiper paused just for an instant to give me a look and then went right back to searching for morsels at the water’s edge.

At the far south end, this hermit thrush took a moment to survey the area from this low perch before getting back to foraging in the lawn. In the background, you can make out green leaves starting to appear on the brush and purple violets in the grass.

I was very excited to see an ovenbird for the very first time this morning, with its little black and orange cap, but that little stinker evaded my camera like the dickens. That’ll give me something to work on, but in the meanwhile, I got enough nice pictures of the rose-breasted grosbeak yesterday, that I can show you a new one today.

The forecast for tomorrow is for rain starting before dawn and continuing into the afternoon, so who knows what we’ll get, but maybe we’ll get a break.