Big Birds!

It was cool and blustery again this morning, but the sun came out for a bit, and that helped a lot. Plus, I went straight down to the river to get out of some of that wind, and it turns out that I wasn’t the only one.

Our resident osprey had already caught its breakfast when I came by, and it was now high up in a giant cottonwood getting to work on it. Of course, it spotted me, as you can plainly see, but decided I wasn’t enough of a threat to bother dragging that fish to another tree.

By the time I had gotten about as far north as the pond, the sun felt nice and warm, so I took a chance and headed over to see if anyone was around, and here’s a goldfinch looking like it is still trying to warm up.

Here’s a female downy woodpecker working up a sweat on a little tree trunk between the path and the pond and completely ignoring me.

And here’s a grey squirrel adding a little fruit to its diet from a bush out over the water.

Back along the river, here’s a male downy woodpecker working just as hard as the female by the pond, but quite a bit farther up a tree. Thank goodness for that blue sky.

As I approached the base of stairway 5, just across from the southern tip of the southern island, long-time reader and expert spotter, Lisa, came hustling down the path to tell me about her latest find: a pair of great horned owls in a big maple tree right on the island.

They were about 6 feet apart on the same branch and slightly obscured by the leaves still clinging to the tree. This island is where we’ve seen owls before, one even took a bath just about right below this spot, but I’ve never seen two of them together in Estabrook before. Thank you, Lisa!

The forecast is for snow tomorrow morning, so that could be interesting, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Slim Pickin’s!

The thick cloud cover kept things pretty dark, and the strong wind had most critters laying low this morning. Some, however, were hardy enough or hungry enough to brave the weather anyway, and here they are.

A trio of deer, perhaps a doe and two of her youngsters almost all grown up, were grazing under the crabapple trees by the southern parking lot when I arrived, and this one was the least perturbed by me. Perhaps it is the same one as on Monday, and now knows the drill.

This grey squirrel looked to be in the middle of some grooming operation as I walked by but opted to wrap that up when I stopped and tried to take its picture.

I saw a robin, a cardinal, a chickadee, a kingfisher, and a few mallards, but there was no morning sun for anyone to warm themselves up in, so nobody was inadvertently posing for us.

The osprey, on the other hand, doesn’t need a warm sun to pose for us and looks magnificent even against a grey sky, so here you go. I sure am going to miss this one when it moves on.

The forecast for tomorrow includes at least some sun, so let’s hope it shines a ray or two on Estabrook Park for us.

Second, and maybe third, looks.

Here’s one more look at that magnificent buck from yesterday. I guess if you’re stickler for symmetry, this guy would lose some points for that 5th little tine on his right rack, but luckily for him, we’re not sticklers, and neither is that doe he was with, we can hope. We’re all just thrilled to see him in Estabrook, right?

Here’s one more look at that adorable red squirrel that my dad likes so much.

Here’s one more look at that osprey that Tamar pointed out for us on Sunday.

Here’s a first for this year. Some flowers are still blooming this late in the season, if you can believe it, and these appear to be common toadflax, yellow toadflax, or butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris) growing out of the limestone blocks lining stairway number 7 from the river up to the skate park. I suspect it helps that the spot is protected from the wind and gets plenty of afternoon sun that the blocks can soak up and radiate for a while after dark.

I’ve been seeing these blossoms for much of the summer, especially growing out of the wall at the base of stairway number 6, up to the beer garden, but they really stand out now for being about the last fresh blossoms in the park.

Finally, some mushrooms are still sprouting, and this one, like many others this fall, is growing out of a gap in the bark of a box elder (Acer negundo) aka boxelder maple, Manitoba maple or ash-leaved maple, which is growing in the nice stand of trees lining the path that follows the stream from the pond down to the river. I suspect the stand of trees provides enough protection to keep these from freezing, for now.

Lastly, here’s hoping I can replenish our photo stock during tomorrow morning’s outing.

The warm spell is over

Overnight lows were still above freezing, but the clear skies provided us with a nice thick coating of frost again this morning, which made a pretty backdrop for our opening scene.

Yup another doe and her buck, an 8-pointer this time, were checking out the soccer fields early this morning. I never had a good shot of them close together, maybe they were having one of those mornings, but here’s a close-up of each of them.

How’s that for a handsome couple, eh?

Here’s a closer look at that frost, too, bejeweling an oak leaf.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot to report after that. The sky clouded up, the pond was empty, and the only birds I saw on the river were mallards and this lone kingfisher in one of her favorite spots out over the water beside the northern island.

The last bright spot of the morning was this female cardinal foraging on the forest floor as I made my way south along the river.

I can totally get the limited appeal, but I’m looking forward to the river icing over so that more birds come to take advantage of the open water preserved by our falls and the rapids below them.

Rehash Tuesday!

Got no time for the park today, sadly, but recent visits have been so great that I’ve got some pictures left over.

Here the doe at the south end checking out the beach volleyball court. She may have left some Park Raisinets™, and I can’t say for sure, but I’d be skeptical of any candy I found in that sand, especially if it was unwrapped.

Here’s her companion dutifully crossing the parkway at the crosswalk, like a good boy.

Here’s another look at the muskrat filling up for winter.

Here’s the red squirrel that couldn’t seem to decide how dangerous I was. Man, it must have really wanted that nut back.

Here’s another shot of the beaver cruising down the river in some golden morning light reflected off the far shore.

And finally, here’s a shot of the osprey flying off with the little fish it caught. Sorry about the blur.

Slow Monday…

It was a nice enough morning in the park, but pretty low key. Maybe the critters all heard about the Packer game yesterday afternoon, and even the mild weather wasn’t enough to perk them back up yet.

This doe, nevertheless, was still hungry and found a jackpot on the ground beneath a crabapple tree at the south end.

There seemed to be a new flock of geese or two on the river, and here’s a gaggle, along with a mallard or two, just above the falls.

Word must be spreading amongst the downy woodpeckers that I’m harmless because here’s a female giving me a glance before she commenced ignoring me just as the male did yesterday.

I did see one kingfisher at the pond and again at the river, but they were as elusive as ever. I’m pretty sure I glimpsed the osprey in its usual spot again, but by the time I aimed my camera in its direction it was gone already. One blue heron cruised by over the middle of the river, but I never saw it settle down. Instead, all I have is this male cardinal making sure I stayed on shore as he feasted on some sumac seeds on the island in the pond.

The band plays on!

It was an extraordinary morning in Estabrook Park, and not just for the spectacular weather, but also for the amazing variety of critters out and about. Perhaps last week reminded them that winter is on its way, and they are taking advantage of one more nice warm day to get ready.

First up is this hungry muskrat busy grabbing some plant from onshore and carrying it to the water to chew on it. I watched it make at least three trips, and it reminded me of a similar scene further upstream last spring.

I barely got on the move again, when a walnut rolling down the hill caught my attention, and it was soon followed by this adorable little red squirrel, who perhaps dropped it and now appears to be wondering if I’m gonna eat that. Nope, it’s all yours, little buddy.

I had barely gotten past the abandoned bridge abutment when my trifecta came in with this beaver swimming down the middle of the river.

How’s that for a way to start my day, eh? But wait, there’s more! Now for some birds.

Here’s a male downy woodpecker who swooped onto a thin tree hardly 6 feet from me, looked me up and down, and went right back to foraging.

There are still plenty of autumn colors to be found, and this quartet of mallards steamed through a pretty reflection of some.

As I finally approached the north end, I spotted this blue heron fishing off the east bank up ahead.

I did also see one kingfisher, one goose, a few killdeer, and a lot more mallards, but nothing I could get a good picture of, so I headed back to the pond to see if my luck would continue there.

This dashing cardinal did her part.

And this grey squirrel snuck down to the water to give us this scene of it taking a sip.

As I was about to head home, long-time reader Tamar and her man happened by, and they reported seeing a big raptor by the Congress Street underpass, so I hustled over there in time to find our osprey fishing yet again.

Here it is keeping tabs on me.

Here it is back to looking for fish in the river below and showing us the pretty off-white feathers on the back of its head that Tamar had noticed.

And here it is just before it swooped down to the river and out of sight. Let’s hope it caught something big enough to keep it around for a while longer.

You gotta love it when you think that must be the last encore, and the band comes out to play a masterpiece like this, right? I can’t wait to see what they’ve got for us tomorrow!

Park Report, Late Edition.

I know it’s late, and I’m sorry about that. A buddy asked for my help installing a kitchen sink today, and that’s a life pleasure I just couldn’t let get away.

I did, however, get to the park early this morning and here are the highlights.

First, the buck from yesterday must have wanted a better picture and brought his doe friend with him to the soccer fields.

Second, it appears that the kingfisher chased by the hawk yesterday has lived to fish another day. Lisa also reports seeing that chase scene, and she said she heard it again only a few minutes afterwards.

Finally, our osprey is still around, and/or another has taken its place, and you can see it here about to tak its fish to a more-secluded place to dine.

I expect to be able to post tomorrow at a more reasonable hour, but with the end of daylight saving time, I don’t yet know what hour that will be.

More of the November new normal…

It was a beautiful morning in Estabrook, warmer than last time, but still cool enough, with the crystal-clear skies overnight, to frost the grass. My outing got off to an exciting start when this buck darted across the parkway and then kindly paused in the brush for me to catch up.

I didn’t see a soul at the pond, so continued straight to the river, where a few mallards were taking advantage of the lack of fishermen at the falls for a change.

In fact, mallards were the only birds I could find on the water today. No geese, mergansers, or other odd ducks. As I searched, however, this hawk, a young Cooper’s hawk I think, looked as though it made a try for one of the mallards. At least they reacted that way, but the hawk had no luck and perched on this branch to consider its next move.

As I made my way back south along the riverbank for a closer look and a better picture, it took off again and ended up chasing a kingfisher down river, but I was not able to see how that turned out.

Instead, I found this little puff-ball of a white-throated sparrow with breakfast still on its beak.

From there, I took one more swing by the pond, and this time the little birds, at least, were up and about. Here’s a female cardinal keeping an eye on me.

Here’s a goldfinch feasting on what look like seeds from a speckled alder (Alnus incana).

Here’s a young-looking robin striking a dramatic pose.

Finally, here’s a cedar waxwing taking a break from picking berries on the island. We’re in their year-round range, so maybe we’ll get to see more of them over the winter.

The forecast for tomorrow morning is just as nice as today and even a bit warmer, so let’s all hope we see some fun sights before I have to start getting up an hour earlier.

More mentions of yesterday’s ice…

We had another cold morning today, but I had to go to school, so here’s more of the story from yesterday morning.

The cold snap helped loosen many of the leaves that had still been clinging to their branches, and they were raining down all over the place. There was a little stream of bright yellow leaves from a maple tree on the southern island steadily flowing down the middle of the river surface. In other spots, they gave the impression of one of those snow flurries we sometimes get with huge flakes falling slowly.

Here’s one of the few mallards enjoying the open water on the pond while it lasts.

The little junco I showed you yesterday wasn’t sure which pose it liked best and tried several. Here’s a nice profile shot.

The river deer did check out the northern island briefly but must have found it wanting because they soon wandered back to the eastern shore. Here they are checking to see if I’m still watching them, and yes, yes I am.

Here’s the hawk just before it glided across the river to a tree on that same island. I must have gotten too close and/or it must have felt warm enough. Let’s hope for the latter, eh?

Here’s another look at one of the killdeer on some freshly fallen leaves instead of fresh ice.

Here’s one of the rusty blackbirds doing that thing where they pick up leaves to see who’s hiding under them. I hope they don’t mind frozen food.

Finally, here’s that blue heron again on the same branch as when I went by on my way north. I must have successfully kept sufficient distance and/or it was still just too damn cold to move. I’m hoping for the former!

The forecast is for above-freezing temps and bright sun tomorrow morning, so I’m looking forward to seeing some pretty sights. Wish me luck!