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
https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewdressel/albums/72157713703616688

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
https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewdressel/albums/72157713703616688

Muskrat love in the Pond

It is an absolutely gorgeous morning in Estabrook Park; mild, still, and sunny; with no mosquitos yet, and the road still closed for the cherry on top.

Our headliner this morning is this cute little muskrat who appeared to be busy gathering aquatic vegetation in the pond. The love implied in the title is just wishful thinking on my part, as far as I can tell yet.

The little feller I actually stumbled upon first this morning, as he was singing high up in a tree the instant I stepped onto the Oakleaf Trail, is this stunning scarlet tanager. I probably chased him with my viewfinder for 30 minutes as he hopped from branch to branch, taking about 50 pictures, and the very first one I took turned out to be the best. Ha!

Finally, a disgruntled reader wrote in to say “More like an Amphibian Assemblage” in response to my quip about Terrapin Station yesterday. Well, Marc, here are the turtles I promised you, although none of them are actually terrapins, I realize in hindsight. Please accept my humble apologies for false advertising.

Don’t forget to check for additional images at
 https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewdressel/albums/72157713703616688

Memorial Day Anurapolooza at the Pond

Perhaps the frogs and toads, all of the order Anura (literally without tail to the ancient Greeks), just wanted to wait until the official start of summer, or maybe I’ve just been bad at spotting them, but luckily for you, astute pond-life observer, Carolyn Bucior and her trusty lieutenant, George, were on the job again and alerted me to the amphibian situation this morning.

I heard him first and then almost fell over when I finally saw him not 5 feet off the shore.

That’s an outstanding specimen of American Bullfrog, and he was 1 of 3 all within a few feet of each other, perhaps in their own little chorus.

Just down the shore, there were already 7 red-eared sliders and painted turtles up on logs. It was a regular terrapin station.

And around the corner, at least 4 of these guys were all making busy with their dating apps.

That’s our ol’ buddy from the Virginia bluebells over a week ago, the American Toad. Who wouldn’t swipe right at that visual and acoustical spectacle?

In other news, the white phlox are opening alongside the pink, a Blue Jay was finally too slow to avoid getting caught in my shutter, bumblebees are hard at work on the honeysuckle, some of the trillium have a distinct pink hue, and at least one more bird has hatched out of its egg.

These images and other find digital representations are online for your viewing pleasure at https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewdressel/albums/72157713703616688

Some Estabrook mysteries solved

First up, fairly new subscriber and self-described “super sleuth”, Mark Beske reports that he has seen the canada geese and goslings at Hubbard Park, just a bit down the river from Estabrook. Anne supposes that they went there for the excellent take-out fish fry, but I noticed that the beer garden was open yesterday, so maybe that was the draw instead. We may never know for sure, but to paraphrase Chief Wiggum, “that’s some mighty fine spelunking” Mark!

I also learned yesterday, after a tip from long-time reader, Lois Wesener, that the closure of the road through the park is “for inclusion in Milwaukee County Parks and City of Milwaukee’s Active Street Program.” Yay! If you haven’t yet enjoyed the luxury of strolling up the middle of that parkway, with seemingly all the room in the world for keeping safe physical distances, now is the perfect time.

On to the critters.

The pond sure has changed with the departure of the geese. This morning I only spotted a couple three wood ducks paddling around forlornly: two males and one female. Meanwhile the red-winged blackbirds, grackles, catbirds, and baltimore orioles are making a racket and having a field day! Still no repeat sighting of that little varmint I spotted swimming towards the east shore some days ago, but I’ve got my eyes peeled.

Yesterday afternoon I did spot this little house wren in the bushes on the south shore.

I also spotted the red squirrel again and a new baby rabbit over by the bluff yesterday, but they were too quick for me to photograph. Happily for me, however, a raccoon was nice enough to leave me this nice slow calling card. Eagle-eye Anne has spotted a live one on the Oakleaf Trail recently, so maybe someday I’ll be so lucky.

Finally, the butterflies are back and this cabbage white was kind enough to linger over his unfermented dandelion wine long enough for me to capture this image.

Thanks to all of you that have followed me to this new platform. Some have actually subscribed, which is awesome, and they experienced the joy of being notified dozens of times yesterday as I slowly posted each of my old messages from April. Many are merely checking the site directly, based on the number of page views wordpress reports to me, which is also awesome. Even my mom and dad managed to make it go with their chromebook, after first double checking with me that the url was totally legit! All this traffic and just a buck three eighty will definitely get me a delicious Mocha Mexicana at Colectivo!

Arrivals and departures in Estabrook

Well, the birds start coming, and they just keep coming…

Yesterday, I was taking a second quick spin before supper and spotted something in the branches down the bluff from the path where it passes right next to the road. It wasn’t moving a lot, so I pulled out my camera to see if I could get a shot. Even with the zoom, I couldn’t tell what I was seeing through the viewfinder, but it looked sort of like a cardinal. Imagine my surprise and joy when I got home, loaded the pictures onto my computer, and could finally see this!

That right there, my friends, is my first ever cedar waxwing! Best of all, there were a couple of them, and they appeared to be performing some sort of ritual as they sat side by side on a branch and moved together, then apart, then together, then apart, etc.

I eventually made it to the pond where there were still no goslings, but there was this cute little canada warbler, who looks a little like the magnolia warbler we’ve seen before but without the white and black markings on its back.

As for this morning, I was out nice and early, and it was mild, still, and foggy. Best of all, the powers that be have closed the road through the park, for the holiday weekend I suspect, and so for the first half hour, I had the entire park to myself. It was just me and all the critters. A little slice of heaven right here in Shorewood!

The pond was empty except for one lone male wood duck. No canada geese at all, let alone any goslings. Not even mallards.

There were plenty of birds about making plenty of noise, for sure, but the heavy fog made for pretty bad lighting, so I didn’t even try for any pictures. The fog did, however, accentuate one more new arrival I haven’t seen yet this spring: spiders! There were spider webs here and there for the first time that I’ve noticed.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for this morning. I can’t wait to find out how this new platform works or doesn’t for everyone. Don’t hesitate to let me know.

As always, you can skip all my verbiage and go straight to the pictures at
https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewdressel/albums/72157713703616688