Frisky Friday!

As the anonymous volunteers at the Pedia of Wik so eloquently put it:

Mating in dragonflies is a complex, precisely choreographed process. 

They continue, breathlessly:

 This distinctive posture is called the “heart”.

Probably, don’t try this at home, kids.

In any case, those are Mr. and Mrs. skimming bluet damselfly or Enallagma geminatum, as the ancient Latins liked to say. If you’ve ever wondered to yourself “just how many types of dragonflies and damselflies even are there in Wisconsin?”, head on over to the Wisconsin Dragonfly Society and wonder no more!

Meanwhile, that’s not the only action at the pond. It appears that we have crayfish, and somebody had a tasty one for lunch yesterday.

It looks raw and pretty fresh, so I’m thinking the kids that visit to catch frogs or go fishing didn’t eat it, and I bet the snapping turtle would eat it but not bother bringing it up on shore nor leave any parts behind. So my best guess is that the muskrat did it with his incisors right there on the northeast lawn. I sure hope he had some poivron, onion, and celery to go with!

Man, is there anything not living and breeding in this pond?

Oh, and before I forget, many thanks to the generous benefactor who left me the 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah banknote in the parking lot! Anne’s already planning to spend it on our second honeymoon.

Things are really starting to warm up…

Hmmm. Where to even start? Lets’ go with the new guys.

That’s right, the dragonflies were all over the pond yesterday afternoon in the nice bright sun. On the left is a male dot-tailed whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta) and on the right is a male twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella). Hey! I don’t make these names up. I’m just the messenger here. The skimmer really liked that particular dried up old stalk sticking out over the water, and he returned to it over and over again after flying sorties over the pond. If I didn’t get a good picture out of that, it’d be time to quit.

Those aren’t even the only new faces in town.

On the left is a tadpole, of course, and there were dozens, if not hundreds, of them in the shallow water just off shore. It was quite a sight to watch them scatter as soon as they spotted me. On the left looks for all the world to be a bird dropping, by design, but it is actually the chrysalis of the red-spotted purple (a butterfly). The caterpillars are supposed to look no better, but the butterflies sure do finish on a high note, eh?

Lastly, the mammals must have all just come back from the hairdresser because they all seemed to be in a posing mood.

They are, from left to right, a white-tailed deer in the brush near the top of the bluff, an eastern cottontail near the east side of the pond, and our new little buddy, the muskrat, at the breakfast buffet on the lawn sloping down to the west side of the pond.

Man, if this keeps up, I’m gonna need some more film.

In the meantime, nice big versions of these pictures, and others that didn’t quite fit into the narrative are on the new pictures page and/or on flickr, where you can even zoom in to enjoy every last glorious pixel.

Egg laying time in Estabrook

Oh sure, the birds have been laying eggs like crazy for months, no doubt. We’ve seen the goslings, after all, and I’ve even found three discarded shells on the ground already. Oh, and don’t forget about the spittle bugs. This morning, however, I was happy to be reminded that birds and bugs are not the only critters laying eggs in the park.

That’s a painted turtle on the steep west shore of the island putting those big, spade-shaped hind feet of hers to good use, as far as I can tell. I guess they’ve been up to more than just sunning themselves on a log.

Meanwhile, the muskrat seems to have taken exception either to all the attention I was paying to the turtle or to the lousy picture I posted last week and decided to swim not five feet in front of me so I could take a better one.

Ain’t her or she just the cutest things you’ve ever seen?

Finally, the plant kingdom spring pageant continues unabated.

That appears to be the blossom of Cornus alternifolia, also called the green osier, alternate-leaved dogwood, or pagoda dogwood. The leaves sure look like dogwood.

Well, well, well. Look who just arrived!

That’s right, the King Billies are finally here, after their amazing journey all the way from the mountains of central Mexico (or maybe parts of Florida).

I also just spotted one out my dining room window as I type this, so the odds are that there are more than one, and if you look, you might see one, too. To those of you with pollinator gardens, thank you!

They’ve arrived just in the nick of time, too, because all the birds this morning be like this.

Jeesh, they’re making my job hard lately, but I did get to see a couple of baltimore orioles chasing off a crow, which was fun and fascinating, at least for me.

I’ve also got some nice flower pictures, but I think I’ll keep those in my back pocket in case the birds continue to be uncooperative tomorrow and no new miracle of nature flies in to save me at the last second.

Slow start to June

It is a cool, overcast morning with not much going on, and I didn’t capture a single image of the animal kingdom. There was one mallard on the pond, and we’ve already seen all the other birds I saw or heard; robins, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, wrens, cardinals, catbirds, etc.

Instead, I did manage to find a few new wildflowers in bloom.

From left to right, we have the common daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), the bladder campion (Silene latifolia), and the tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris), as far as I can tell.

Without looking, who can guess:

Welp, that’s all I’ve got for today. Better luck tomorrow, eh?

Peaceful Sunday

The sun was bright, the sky was blue, and the air was crisp and cool. This morning it seemed that the critters and I had the park just about to ourselves, which was pretty darn nice.

The mammals were out in force, for a change, with three deer and rabbits seemingly everywhere I went. Way more than I’ve ever seen in a single outing before. Maybe they were as excited about the weather and the otherwise empty park as I was.

I’ve also seen baby rabbits recently, and they were still too shy for my shutter, but I have a hope, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the birds were not to be outdone. Our new best friend, Lil’ Red-Eye, the Vireo, was struttin’ his stuff, the wrens were in the house, and even the waxwings were out and about, despite the dearth of cedar trees.

The show-stopper, however, belongs to the plant kingdom today because the yellow flag iris, which was just a bud yesterday morning, was on full display this morning at the northeast corner of the pond.

The pond itself was pretty quiet. I saw no signs of muskrats, turtles, frogs, toads, herons (blue, white, or green), geese, mergansers, grebes, or teals. Just a few wood ducks, one mallard that popped in for a visit, and the usual complement of red-winged blackbirds and grackles.

Finally, the biggest surprise of the morning was the grocery bag with a box of brownie mix and two boxes of yellow cake mix. I kid you not. That’s on top of the bag of oranges I found yesterday, and the 3 cans of green and 4 cans of organic refried beans with green chilis from weeks ago, which Anne and I have already enjoyed. When I add in the quarters, dimes, and a single 2-euro coin I’ve found so far, this job is really starting to pay off.

If you’d like to contribute to this veritable gravy train I’m riding now, I’ve already set up the direct deposit, so all you need to do is go ahead and click on that “like” button at the bottom of the page. But don’t go crazy, or anything, only click if you actually like it.

Back to Birds

First is a bird new to me, this handsome Eastern Kingbird, who was busily hunting for breakfast bugs over the soccer fields from this commanding perch in a little fruit tree.

He was happy to pose, but wouldn’t let me get any closer, so the picture is a little blurry, I am sorry to say. I wish I could crop it more, but I don’t dare.

Next is this little Red-eyed Vireo from yesterday, who was much more willing to put on a whole song and dance for me this morning. I mean, he’s no catbird, but that’s not bad, right? Especially when you consider the choreography. He could really stick the landings.

Finally, a tiny house wren, which you may remember from back on May 24. Ever since I spotted him, I’ve been pretty sure I hear him every morning in or near the big oak tree at the south end of the pond, but I’ve never been able to spot him again. Finally, this morning, there were at least two of them to distract each other from noticing me, and best of all, they chased each other through this bird house right under that oak tree. Oh yeah! House Wren. I have got to learn to open my eyes!

Lastly, I spotted this fascinating little natural phenomenon, as I searched in vain for the daisy Anne and I spotted along the oakleaf trail on our way home from the DQ on Hampton last evening.

That’s right, the spittle bugs are starting to lay their eggs. Things are about to get hoppin’ in Estabrook.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today.

Vireos and Seamonsters

I was over by the river looking up at an oriole, which are everywhere now, and this little guy caught my eye with his bright white belly when he landed on a nearby branch. He proceeded to groom himself and air out in the sun as I proceeded to take picture after picture. Unfortunately, his head was obscured by a twig, and try as I might, I just couldn’t move enough to fix that. Suddenly, he looked down, spotted me, and took off, but by sheer blind luck, I just happened to press the shutter release in the nick of time.

That, my friends, is a Red-eyed Vireo, as far as I can tell. Some of the other pictures I took better show his light olive-colored wings and back.

After that, I headed back by the pond to see if there was anybody I had missed. Suddenly, there was a ruckus at the north end, and I wondered if it was our old buddy, the muskrat from earlier in the week. I didn’t want to scare it off, so I don’t dare get any closer and just took as many pictures as I could from where I stood. It was only when I got home that I could make out the giant claws of the snapping turtle long rumored to lurk in these waters. I don’t know what it was wrasslin‘ with, but it soon resubmerged and the pond got very quiet again.

Yikes! Keep you hands and feet in the vehicle at all times. Right?

These thrilling images, and a few others, are all on line at

All kinds of new flora and fauna

Let’s start with the pretty pictures, eh? In that case, first up must be the eastern red columbine, or Canadian columbine, if you prefer. The Latins called it Aquilegia canadensis.

These are supposed to be pollinated by hummingbirds, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled. I did finally capture an image of such a pollinator by the pond this morning with just enough detail to confirm that it is indeed a hummingbird, but not much else. That’s the trouble with these cloudy mornings.

Instead, this slightly smaller flyer was kind enough to pose for a nice picture at ground level by the pond.

That’s a damselfly, I believe, but I’m not sure which one. It turns out there are a lot to choose from, but they all look more colorful than our little buddy. The full-on dragonflies are beginning to glide over the pond, as well, but none have been willing to collaborate with me yet.

Meanwhile, plenty of other pretty little flowers are opening up, including Virginia waterleaf, Eastern daisy fleabane, and Little false Solomon’s seal, which I was only able to identify with the help of the excellent Wildflowers of Lake Park booklet by Lake Park Friends.  Oh! And before I forget, I must confess that I misidentified Dame’s rocket, which has 4 petals, as Phlox, which clearly has 5. That’s an amateur mistake right there, and thanks again to Lake Park Friends for setting me straight.

Lastly, I caught this rare glimpse of the ever-elusive warbler hunter.

Man! Can you imagine the pictures she must be able to get with that camera? It probably cost as much as my car.

The Mayapples have Arrived!

And just in the nick of time, too. Well, not the fruit, yet, just the flower, but I was beginning to despair that they would never open.

How I never noticed these beauties before is beyond me. I can’t wait to try that fruit, right? Note this warning, however, from the Pedia of Wik:

All the parts of the plant are poisonous, including the green fruit, but once the fruit has turned yellow, it can be safely eaten in small amounts with the seeds removed.

Meanwhile, it appears that all the white Trillium are turning pink. Apparently, this is a thing that was already known. Well, now I know, too.

Not much photogenic activity this morning from the animal kingdom. With all the plants blossoming like crazy; fruit trees, honeysuckle, phlox, and now the mayapple; maybe the critters are taking a breather. I expect the skeeters will be out in force soon, though.

I was wondering if all those amphibians we saw would be eating any of the mosquitos when they come, but apparently not so much. On the other hand, our ol’ buddy, the red-eared slider is so good at it that they have been used for mosquito control. Ha!

Today is just full of surprises, and you might find more at