Happy May Day!

The dark and gloomy skies of April continue into May, I am sorry to report, but at least it wasn’t raining this morning, and the thunder and lightning we had overnight was done for now, so I went to Estabrook to see who the winds might have blown in.

Most of the regular crowd was up and hard at work already, and here’s a rare, at least for me, glimpse of both robins at the nest for a moment. Mom’s been keeping a pretty tight lid on the thing, which isn’t surprising given the weather we’ve been having, but I have no idea how many eggs she might have in there now.

At the pond, a couple of goslings were out and about when I arrived, …

but they quickly retired to the warmth of Mom’s embrace.

They weren’t the only ones sleeping in this morning, either. Here’s at least one raccoon we’ve seen a few times before, …

and here’s another in a cavity that I have not seen occupied until now.

Not everyone was a sleepy-head, however, and here’s a wood duck hen perched over the river, perhaps looking for a nesting cavity that has room for just one more egg.

This mourning dove, also perched by the river, has been snoozing so long that it needed a stretch when I went by.

Lastly, as I neared the south end on my way back home, I caught a glimpse of a black-and-white bird as it tucked into a cedar tree, and I was just able to make out a little bit of its back with my binoculars, so I took the picture I could, and started inching closer in hopes of a better view.

I could not believe my luck when it let me approach, although very slowly, and even came back out of the cedar tree a bit to help me out. Thanks, Buddy. Best of all, it turned out to be a gorgeous rose-breasted grosbeak, our first for the season. Woo Hoo!

That there were two of them, was dark chocolate frosting on the cake with whipped cream and a cherry on top!

May is sure starting off better than it first looked, eh?

Maybe a break from the crowds.

I see that it is already raining as I write this, but I was able to sneak into Estabrook before it started, and I managed to see a few things. One of the masked bandits was peeking out of a tree trunk, perhaps to see if the park was still crawling with birders hoping to catch a glimpse of the fabled prairie warbler.

At the pond, the six goslings were trying to get in out of the cold. Meanwhile, two new pairs of geese have joined the party, and Dad was doing his best to keep them from getting too close.

There were also a pair of blue-winged teals on the water, and here’s the drake.

I didn’t see an owl by the pond this morning, but the great horned owl at the river was out in the open again, which is always a treat.

By the falls, this great blue heron appears to be getting a little shut-eye. Maybe it had a rough night.

Finally, it appears that we have another new arrival, this tiny “least flycatcher” (Empidonax minimus), just arrived from the Yucatan Peninsula, and there abouts. Welcome to Estabrook, little cutie!

It appeared to be busy catching flies, but its motion was much more like that of the eastern phoebe, quick dashes into the air before returning nearly to the same place, than that of the kinglets, who seem to prefer their flies on a twig.

The forecast is for this rain to clear out before tomorrow morning, so keep your fingers crossed!

A surprise visitor…

The heavy overcast continues, but the air keeps getting a little warmer, the wind wasn’t too strong, and the forecast showers did not develop, so it was not too bad in Estabrook Park this morning.

My first big treat was spotting this beaver hauling a branch upriver in the same spot where we saw one doing the same with a clump of dried grass last week. I sure hope that means it has mouths to feed at home.

Here’s a wider look so you can see the size of the branch it has.

At the pond, the owl was gone, and I didn’t see the goslings at first, so I made do with this sharp-looking common yellowthroat.

I did eventually find the goslings, and here are all six taking a swim with Mom and Dad.

Back at the river, I did see our regular great horned owl back in its hiding place, the belted kingfishers were busy (and noisy), and here’s one giving me a look.

Farther north, I spotted another black-and-white warbler foraging at the water’s edge.

And here’s the prairie warbler (Setophaga discolor) that everyone is so excited about lately. Seriously, I must have bumped into 6 people this morning who had all come to Estabrook just to see it. It is quite a bit north of its usual range, so I guess this is a rare chance to see one without driving to Kentucky.

Farther south, I spotted another family of geese, but with only one gosling. It appears to be a tough spring for Canada geese, at least compared to last year.

Finally, Lisa noticed a great blue heron glide by, so I was able to get a much nicer picture than earlier when it was on the other side of the river, and the sky was darker.

It is supposed to be raining all day tomorrow, and I’m supposed to be on campus for a special event anyway, so I’m not sure if I’ll have something for you until Sunday. I’ll be sure to let you know if anything changes.

Goslings!

I was disappointed that we didn’t have any of the forecast gaps in the cloud cover this morning, but I was preparing to head out anyway, and then the rain started. Ugh. So, I held off, went to school, and finally got into Estabrook in the late morning after I got home. The cloud cover was still thick, but at least it wasn’t leaking anymore.

The excitement began when I reached the pond and was greeted by this amazing spectacle: six spanking-new goslings bobbing around on the water with their mom.

Before I could get anymore gosling pictures, however, I had to go check out the ruckus some crows were making in the trees on the east side of the pond. Here’s one of the crows.

And look who’s up there with it! Holy Smokes! A great horned owl!

I couldn’t tell if that’s the same great horned owl we see at the river, but I didn’t want to add to the stress the crows were causing, so I went back to the pond to see if I could get more gosling pictures, and I sat on the bench just in time to catch this pair of blue-winged teals sailing by.

I didn’t have to wait long, however, until Mom, Dad, and six little goslings popped right up onto the lawn with me, and it appears that everyone was ready for a nap.

They weren’t the only sleepy-heads, either. Here are a couple of raccoons.

And here’s a squirrel or two.

I eventually headed back down to the river, and I could not believe my luck today to find our usual great horned owl out in the open for a change.

And, yes, I did consider the possibility that they could be the same owl, just in two locations, but on my way back south, the river owl was in that same spot, and when I visited the pond again, the first owl was still in the same tree! I think the chances that if flew down to the river to greet me, waited for me to come by a second time, and then flew back to the pond before I got back there myself are vanishingly small, don’t you?

Anyway, the swallows we saw yesterday were up from their nap by the time I got to the north end, and they were busy hunting bugs out over the water. It was way too dark for my camera to get good action shots today, but I couldn’t help but try, and here’s the barn swallow, with its “rusty” face, “tawny” underparts, and fancy, white-striped tail, plucking something off the surface of the water.

Here’s the tree swallow, with its bright white chin and underparts but no tail stripe, doing the same.

As I crouched down at the water’s edge so the swallows wouldn’t stick to the far shore, look at the pretty spotted sandpiper who landed right in front of me, gave me a quick look, and proceeded to go about its business anyway. It wasn’t too long before a second sandpiper showed up, made some kind of display with its wings, and they both took off for the far shore. Maybe that’s how sandpipers say “wanna go someplace quieter?”

Finally, unlike the false alarm from a couple of weeks ago, I believe this is really a Swainson’s thrush with its distinctive “buffy eyering”, instead of the “whitish eyering” of hermit thrushes. It could be on its way to British Columbia, for all we know, after tanking up at the Estabrook buffet.

Lastly, thanks for all the well wishes for my upcoming adventure! I’ll definitely keep you updated once I get there.

Oh, what a morning!

It was cold, just below freezing at dawn, and not as sunny as forecast, but the critters in Estabrook did not disappoint this morning!

By the time I was heading inland toward the pond, the sky had brightened enough for pictures, and as I was searching for a bird, I heard a rustling above and behind me. It took me a moment to find the source, but when I did, I was treated to this amazing scene.

I did not realize what I was seeing right away, and by the time I did, they had already gone their separate ways. Here’s the Mrs.

Racoon

Meanwhile, at the pond, I caught a glimpse of our first gosling of the season. Woo Hoo! By the time I grabbed my camera, Mom had already tucked it under her wing, and all that was left to see was this empty eggshell. I bet we’ll see them out on the water tomorrow morning.

Also at the pond, but not on film, sadly, were the first pair of Caspian terns I’ve seen! I got a good look at their distinctive black face with my binoculars, but by the time I grabbed my camera, they had moved on already. Darn. I’ve gotta just mount that thing to my face.

By the pond and elsewhere throughout the park, the blue-gray gnatcatchers were plentiful, and here a male, with his Groucho Marx eyebrows.

And here’s a female without. They both preferred not to look my way.

At the north end, I encountered another special treat, and this time I have the pics! I glimpsed some swallows hunting over the river, and figured they were the tree swallows that we’ve seen before. As I walked up the path however, I happened to glance out over the water and could not believe my eyes.

Best of all, there were three (3!) different species of swallows in that little flock. Here’s the one tree swallow with its bright white throat. The images are all a little fuzzy because I had to shoot through the dense thicket you can see above. I’m amazed they came out as clear as they did.

Here’s the one barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) with its “rusty” “throat and forehead”, which I’ve never seen in Estabrook before, probably because we don’t have any barns.

And here’s one of the northern rough-winged swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) with its brown back and chest that “fades to white,” and that I didn’t even know existed until this morning! Ha!

Finally, as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one morning, on my way home, a pair of robins and a pair of chickadees all shouting at once caught my attention. I tried to see what they were all shouting about, and look who I found trying to sleep through it all.

A gray morph eastern screech-owl in a hole so small I would have never thought to look in. I wonder if it knows the red morph we saw for a few days last week.

Lastly, at the far north end, the  Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) are blossoming!

Speaking of Dutchman’s breeches, I’ll be wearing them soon, at least if I buy any pants while I’m there, because I’ve accepted a one-year post-doc at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands to “develop and execute an engineering research project for the ‘Bicycle of the Future’.” I ship out at the end of May, once the UWM semester wraps up, which means I won’t get to visit Estabrook Park every day, but beyond that, I don’t know. I’ll bring my camera, of course, and perhaps I’ll be able to show you some pictures of Dutch wildlife. I hear they have some.

2 Short 2 Sweet

It was cloudy, cool, and breezy this morning, and I didn’t have a lot of time before class, but it wasn’t raining, so I took a quick look to see who was around in Estabrook. Most of the recent regulars were up and about, and there were even some exciting new arrivals.

Along the river, I spotted this gray catbird beside the trail, and thankfully had a nice empty chip in my camera with plenty of room to capture this image. I had glimpsed a catbird yesterday, but this is our first image of one for the season. I can’t wait for them to start singing again.

By the pond, I spotted one, at first, and then two yellow warblers foraging on the lawn, and they were willing to get close to each other for this shot, but they wouldn’t let me get any closer to them.

Back at the river, I was thrilled to capture some images at long last of a stunning male American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla). I’ve glimpsed them briefly before, and captured a few images of females last fall, but this is the first time I’ve had a good look at a male in all his finery.

Finally, I stopped by the robin’s nest along the river, and she wasn’t home at the moment, but she finally has an egg, so here’s our first robin’s egg of the season! Woo Hoo! We could start to see hatching in about two weeks.

Lastly, long-time reader, Erica, sent in a link to a fascinating article about how wood duck hens often lay some, or even all, of their eggs in the nests of other wood duck hens. Ha! Maybe that pair of wood duck hens on the pond last summer had a deeper bond that we realized. Here’s an old picture of them preening each other.

That’s it for today, I’m afraid, another short one, but the forecast for tomorrow is cold but sunny and still, so I have a hope of getting some nice pictures to show you.

Short but sweet.

It was a fine morning in Estabrook Park. Not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too dry, and, not too windy. The bugs were up, and so the birds were happy.

One of the first birds I saw was an old friend, but new for the season, this tiny blue-gray gnatcatcher.

The pond was pretty quiet this morning, but I did catch this handsome quartet of blue-winged teals taking a break after breakfast.

Back beside the river, I was happy to find one more winter wren, before they’ve all moved on.

Closer to the water, I finally captured a nice image of one of the spotted sandpipers I’ve been seeing for a while.

On my way back south, I found another quartet of ducks, but this time they were wood ducks all nicely lined up on this branch at eyelevel.

Best of all, there was nice light, and they were oddly tolerant of my presence. A couple of weeks ago, merely walking 50 feet below them would have been enough to chase them away.

And that’s when the memory card in my camera filled up. Oops! I thought I had plenty of room, but I must not have been keeping close enough track. The good news is that I should have another one before tomorrow morning, when the weather is forecast to be just as nice.

The forecast was inaccurate, for once…

The radar looked worse this morning than Friday morning, but I didn’t want to miss another day, so I went out anyway. Happily, after a couple of short showers early on, the radar forecast turned out to be way off, and it didn’t rain again until after I got home. Ha!

When I arrived at the pond, I found a green heron again, but this might be a different individual from the one we saw yesterday because it has much less yellow between its eye and its beak. Great! The more, the merrier!

I also spotted another palm warbler and my first common yellowthroat of the season, but failed to get pictures of either one, so I headed down to the river. On my way, I spotted another red squirrel from the bridge north of the beer garden.

At the river, as I was checking on the great horned owl, who was “in” this morning, but too deep for a good picture, I saw our first island deer of the season right below it.

At the north end, a green heron perched for a moment at the top of one of the trees on the island, but I don’t know if it was a third individual or one of the previous two, a pair of belted kingfishers were very excited to see each other, and a pair of sandpipers took off for the far shore before I could get a picture.

On my way back south, I finally managed to capture an image, this time of a great blue heron back to fishing at the falls.

Farther south, at the “bottom” below the southern playground, I spotted our first northern waterthrush of the season, who looks a lot like the Louisiana waterthrush we saw a couple of weeks ago.

As I was trying to get a better picture of the waterthrush, there was a big splash at the water’s edge, and this young, male, red-winged blackbird shot up to perch on this branch, preen a bit, and make his call. My guess is that a big catfish made a try for him, and he had to dry off and collect is nerves. Either way, I did not realize that these young ones would be adding to the cacophony. Perhaps he just wanted to let everyone know he was okay and he meant to do that.

So, besides the common yellowthroat picture I didn’t get, and northern waterthrush picture that it’s best you don’t zoom in on, I did manage to get a few presentable images of our first black-and-white warbler of the season, which Charlotte actually spotted first. They winter in Mexico, Central America, or South America, so I bet it was famished after that long flight.

Finally, the bloodroots have blossomed beside the Oak Leaf Trail, perhaps due to the warm weather just yesterday. Yay!

Lastly, we counted nearly 50 white-throated sparrows this morning, hopping around on the grass as if they had just rained down from the sky, which is probably pretty close to what actually happened. Until today, they were rare enough that I was excited to get the picture I had just yesterday, but now they are everywhere, so if you’ve always wanted to see one, this is your big chance!

A morning twice as nice…

Perhaps to make up for yesterday, this morning turned out to be even nicer than forecast. The skies were clear, the temps were mild, and the wind seemed even calm at times.

I was able to get a nice early start and was treated by the sight of this palm warbler, just in from the Gulf of Mexico, and if not my first for the season, then certainly the first I’ve managed to capture on film for the season. The picture is pretty grainy because it was still so dark, but I’ll take what I can get, and it is certainly good enough for a positive ID.

Just north of the palm warbler, I could hear a high-pitched but clear call close by that I didn’t recognize, so I asked Merlin®, who confidently picked “brown creeper”, and sure enough, I spotted our little singer not 10 feet away. We’ve seen plenty of them already this spring, but I don’t recall hearing one sing before, so that was fun.

Just before I turned east to swing by the pond, I checked in on our nesting robin, and she was home at the moment, so I couldn’t get an egg-count today. Maybe tomorrow.

I was surprised and thrilled to have the pond to myself for a few minutes, and these wood ducks came over to see if I had any snacks for them. “Not today, sweeties, but it’s a beautiful Saturday morning, and I bet some old guys with snacks will arrive pretty soon.”

Even better, right on the lawn I spotted a white-throated sparrow, a field sparrow, and this yellow-rumped warbler already lit up by the warm morning sun.

The resident red-breasted merganser was there again, and took advantage of the perfect conditions to show off a bit.

If that wasn’t enough, a belted kingfisher came by looking for his breakfast.

By then other folks were starting to arrive, so I headed back over to the river and bumped into my spotter, Lisa, who pointed out this female kingfisher who had already caught her breakfast. She was a long way off, so the picture’s not great, but she was thrashing her catch pretty good to subdue it before she gulped it down. By the little legs I can just make out on it, I’d guess it’s a crayfish. Mm, mm, good!

I didn’t get any better pictures at the river, so I risked the crowds and hiked back over to the pond. There I finally got a picture of one of the white-throated sparrows I’d been hearing singing their ode to Canada and maybe even the one who had been on the lawn earlier.

Finally, as I was about to head on home, someone mentioned that a green heron had been spotted, and Mike was willing to point out to me where it was hiding in the brush at the water’s edge. Happily, it came out into the sun after a while, and so I hustled around to the east side to get the sun at my back. I really didn’t want to spook it and miss the shot, so I remembered my lessons from earlier this spring and prostrated myself on the path to inch close enough to capture this image. “Welcome back, you emerald beauty!”

By then, the park was full of river cleanup volunteers, sure glad to see’em, marathon runners, good for them, and cow-bell ringing fans, so I didn’t expect to see much more wildlife and got the heck out of Dodge.

Rained Out!

The radar made it look like I wouldn’t have much time in the park this morning before the rain came, plus it was pretty dark, so I stayed home and hoped for a break in the weather later today. Well, it appears that a break is not in the cards and so I’ve missed my window. Darn. We’ll have to reach into the vault for something to tide us over.

Here’s a cute sequence of yellow-rumped warbler images from yesterday that didn’t make the cut. He’s deep in some brush and preening with his head on a swivel to also keep an eye on the sky.

Here’s one more turtle picture from yesterday, and this one is a red-eared slider.

Here’s another look at the blue-winged teal drake on the pond back on Saturday, April 16, 2022

After I showed you the picture of a beaver hauling dried grass upstream on Tuesday, I read that kits are born from April to July and that “parents routinely clean out the young’s ‘bedding’, pushing out the decaying plants and bringing in new material.” It sure would be great if that’s what this picture means. Here’s another image from Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Paul Smith had a nice article in yesterday’s Journal Sentinel about “tracking birds during migrations,” and one example he cites is the Swainson’s thrush we saw last fall that could be from Ontario or, just as likely, could have flown all the way from western British Columbia. Here’s an image from last fall, and let’s hope we see them again on their return trip.

The current forecast is for the rain to be gone by tomorrow morning, so cross your fingers!