A break in the weather…

Well, maybe this is what I get for whining about how Thursday’s weather wasn’t as perfect as Wednesday’s and Tuesday’s. With all that cloud cover, it sure took its sweet time getting light this morning, so I waited until after my 9am zoom meeting before venturing into Estabrook Park.

I headed straight to the north end, as that’s where most of the action has been lately, and the mallards tipped me off that a big raptor was probably lurking around somewhere nearby. Sure enough, I found this tall, dark, beauty in a cottonwood tree over the far shore. This seems to be a popular hangout for all the young eagles.


Meanwhile, back on the east side, I wasn’t the only one keeping an eye on the distant eagle. Here’s another young Cooper’s hawk, without all the jewelry, keeping close taps on its big cousin on the far shore.


Then the rain started, so I headed home. By the time I reached the pond, it had let up a bit, so I stopped in to say hi to the geese, mallards, and wood ducks. Here’s a wood duck drake looking his best,…


and here’s a wood duck hen paying him no never mind.


Since this is a rainy day, here are some of the pictures I saved from earlier this week.

First is a very energetic and slightly blurry fox sparrow from Wednesday, with its “rich reddish brown” back and “black and yellow” bill.


Also a swamp sparrow from Wednesday with its “gray face and collar”, “rusty cap”, and “a dark line through the eye.”


Then a song sparrow from Tuesday, with “course streaks” on its chest, “russet stripes” on its crown, and “broad malar or mustache stripes.”


And finally, a low-light image of an American tree sparrow from Tuesday, with its “rusty cap and eyeline”, “gray face”, “bicolor bill”, and “unstreaked underparts.”


That’s 4 of the 9 total sparrows I’ve ever identified in Estabrook Park, all in just one week!

Double the pleasure…

It was a nice enough morning in Estabrook Park, but a little breezy, so more like a copy of a copy rather than another cast from the same mold. I didn’t see any deer today, and the mammals were represented by this shy little cutie instead.


Belted kingfishers continue to make rackets along the river, and these two were particularly energetic as they appeared to be becoming acquainted. The female is below, with a chestnut belt across her chest, and the male is above without.


The pond was crowded this morning with a full dozen wood ducks, 14 Canada geese, and a hand-full of mallards. I didn’t see anything new or particularly photogenic, so I continued on to the north end. There I was treated to this darling hermit thrush feasting on the berries of some kind of spindle tree; either European spindle (Euonymus europaeus) or burning bush (Euonymus alatus).


Meanwhile, out on the northern island, there were two (2!) young bald eagles. One was almost all dark, …


and a second one had a lot more light feathers. This one also looked like it was trying to dry out, perhaps after a dip in the river, and it was beset by crows, but seemed unperturbed. Perhaps it is the same one we saw Tuesday, but I can’t be sure.


What did get its attention, however, was when this peregrine falcon made a couple of close flybys.


Nothing came of it, however, and the eagle resumed drying out, while the falcon continued north, perhaps to sample the selection of pigeons perched on the Port Washington Road bridge.


I’ve only managed to photograph falcons in Estabrook twice before, so this was quite a treat for me.

Things that go around…

They must have kept the mold from yesterday because the weather this morning was just as nice. The critters, on the other hand, were done with their little “welcome home” display, and they were back to their usual shy and skittish selves. That’s fine with me, though, because finding them is at least half the fun.

This first critter tipped me off with its distinctive call, which I am not sure I’ve ever heard before. It sounds quite similar to the sparrow hawk in South Holland, however, so I had an inkling when I heard it. Sure enough, it was a Cooper’s hawk, and I do hope it finds who it was looking for. Plus, get a load of all the jewelry it’s sporting! We’ve seen a band on an eagle before, but Cooper here has two!


The great blue herons are huge, and they don’t have a lot of places to hide, so if they’ve come to fish, I can usually find them. Here are the two I saw today. One with the frilly neck feathers,


and one without.


Instead, the exciting sight today was a completely new bird for us. When I first spotted it hanging out on the river with a few mallards, I thought it might be a young male blue-winged teal, whom we see often enough and who sport a white vertical stripe down the front of their face..


It was small, as a teal, too, but the body feathers looked more like those of a scaup, whom we have seen, but less so than the teals.


Well, it is neither a teal, nor a scaup. Please give a warm, Estabrook-Park welcome to our first ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), a female! She is a diving duck, as she demonstrated a few times this morning, and “of all the diving duck species, the Ring-necked Duck is most likely to drop into small ponds during migration.” She is probably on her way from breeding grounds, which start in northern Wisconsin and extend all the way to Hudson Bay, to wintering grounds that start in Tennessee and extend to the Gulf of Mexico.


I can’t believe that I still get to see new critters. After all that excitement, this poor raccoon didn’t even bother getting out of bed.


And this handsome buck just took off across the soccer fields.


There were a few other little birds, but let’s save those for a rainy day.

A fine homecoming…

What an absolutely gorgeous November morning for a walk in Estabrook Park, with crystal blue skies, frost on the fallen leaves, and crisp, still air quickly warming in the bright sun. Even better, the critters came out to enjoy it with me.

As I approached the underpass that connects the Oak Leaf Trail to the path along the edge of the bluff, I spotted a pair of deer, and here’s the one willing to let me take a picture.


In the bushes beside the pond, I was thrilled to see that at least one gray catbird has not yet flown to the Gulf coast for the winter.


Meanwhile, on the water right behind the catbird, a hand-full of wood ducks was busy preening after their morning swim.


Down by the river, a goldfinch was just soaking up the sun.


Just upstream, on a branch over the river, this great blue heron was preening while it warmed.


On a tree over the northern island, a young bald eagle, perhaps hatched just this summer, was content to watch the Canada geese and mallards foraging on the river below and let me take this portrait.


A murder of crows, however, was less than thrilled about the situation and tried but failed to urge it along its way. The eagle simply seemed to ignore them, and they soon gave up and moved on.


Lastly, a belted kingfisher was kind enough to perch in front of some colorful foliage that has not yet dropped for the season.


South Holland is great and all, and I sure am lucky to have the opportunity to be there, but it sure is great to be back, too, even if only for a week.

Rare sightings…

Hi All! I was traveling this weekend and so only got out into the countryside briefly on Saturday morning, and then I haven’t had a chance to show you what I found until now. Despite a short visit, I did manage to capture a couple of interesting and pretty sights on film.

This first one is actually from work during the week. I can see the clock face on the side of the Electrical Engineering building from my office, and one day I noticed a bird flying up to it. Well, it turns out to be a popular hangout for a peregrine falcon, which you can see perched in the six o’clock position.


The building is 22 floors (90 m / 295 ft) tall, the clock face is naturally near the top, and the closest I can get is the 4th floor of the nearby 3ME building in which I work, so I’m at least 200 yards away, but here’s my best close-up. It’s at least good enough for a positive ID. Perhaps it is one of the falcons I on the Architecture building back in July.


Anyway, out to the countryside, where I enjoyed the rare treat of a green-winged teal drake standing for a portrait and even giving us our first glimpse of his namesake green wing.


As seems to be often the case, the feathers are iridescent and so the color we perceive can vary with the light available and the viewing angle, so here he is again with the feathers at a different angle and looking much more blue.


And, lest you suspect this is just some trickery with image processing, which is exactly what I immediately feared when I saw the images myself, you can see the green version on Oiseaux-Birds, and the blue version on the Pedia of Wik. Finally, for some idea of how often they show off either color at all, simply google images of “Eurasian teal”. A rare treat indeed!

Lastly, on my way home, I was surprised to find this ring-necked pheasant foraging out in broad daylight beside the River Schie.


I had no idea it was going to be “show-off” day!

Some like the muck, some don’t…

As you may have surmised, I have a couple of pictures left over from the weekend.

Here’s the little green-winged teal drake really getting into the duckweed.


And young moorhen doing the same after the sun came out on Saturday.


While this great horned grebe enjoys the nice clear water on the Schie river.


On Sunday a rose-ringed parakeet uncharacteristically perched out in the open.


And here’s one more look at that little Eurasian robin in the woods.


Holy Robins, Batman!

The tiny European robins I see here are so shy that I probably average only one sighting per month, and I show you every picture of them that I manage to take. This morning, however, something had changed. Perhaps it was the dark and gloomy weather, they really seem to shun the sun, or perhaps it’s just that time of year, but today they were bold has heck.

It actually started right in front of my apartment building, while it was still quite dark out. There was a little bird hopping around on the ground, and I needed my binoculars to get enough light on my retinas to register the red color. I hear them out there nearly every morning, but they rarely ever let me see them.

Anyway, the next encounter was out in the countryside at the top of a tree in front of a farmhouse. This little cutie let me walk right up, and then he put on a show!


Arlene, I wish you could have been there to see it with me.


I couldn’t believe my eyes and only tore myself away when the farmer’s dog started to get a little too excited.

Happily, there were plenty of other pretty sights to see this morning, and here’s a handsome European wigeon drake looking quite sharp in his breeding plumage.


Here’s a white stork still putting off that flight to Africa for the winter.


Back in the forest, this buzzard uncharacteristically let us close enough to see its pretty brown eyes.


Then, as if to prove the point, another robin came out to sing his tune, and he was nice enough to stay at eye level so his background was not just white sky.


Then it started to sprinkle, quite unlike the pretty blue sky that came out yesterday morning, and so I packed up my gear and headed home. On my way, the rain let up a bit, so I took a slight detour just to see if there was anyone else around and look who I found!

This stunner is a redwing (Turdus iliacus), just in from its breeding grounds in Scandinavia, and just like the fieldfare yesterday, a close cousin to the American robin.


Welcome to South Holland, little buddy, and I hope you had a nice flight.

Field Fare…

The morning started out dark and damp, but the temperature was mild, and the sun eventually came out, so it was not a bad start to the weekend.

Best of all, I spotted another new bird for us in a tree with small red berries at the edge of a field. This “rather large, subtly attractive thrush with blue-gray head, dark chestnut-brown back, gray rump, and variable peachy-buff wash on spotted breast” is called a fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), and as you may already be able to tell from its pose, it’s a close cousin of both the European blackbird and the American robin


The green-winged teals are still around, I counted 8 today, and this handsome little devil was finally in the mood for pictures, at least for a moment.


The white-fronted geese are also still here, and this one posed long enough for the sun to come out from behind a cloud.


Finally, the goldfinches are still raiding the alder trees.


Oh yeah…

At some point, perhaps over the summer, I read or heard the name “collard-dove”, but that’s all I had, just the name. Then, on Sunday, as I rode by a farmhouse on the way from one open field to another, I spotted a few birds that I figured were wood pigeons or even rock pigeons, but something clicked in my head. “Oh! I bet that’s what a ‘collard dove’ would look like.” And just like that, we’ve got a new bird, the Eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto)


Despite the similarity, they are not super close cousins to the mourning doves we see regularly in Estabrook Park, but only in the same subfamily Columbinae. Although they have been introduced to North America, their range appears to stop just short of the Milwaukee area, and no one on Ebird has reported spotting one in Estabrook Park, yet, so it might be a new bird for you, too.

Anyway, here’s another great spotted woodpecker, who I simply could not catch looking our way, even though the sun was lighting it up so nice and the sky was such a perfect blue. Oh well.


Finally, this speckled wood could be our last butterfly spotting of the season!


Something new, something old, and something cra-cra…

After the rain blew through yesterday morning, the sun came out, and the wind kept right on blowing. Oddly enough, I saw more little birds in the air than I think I’ve ever seen here, and maybe it was in spite of the wind instead of because of it. They got places to be!

In any case, only one opted to park where I could clearly see it, though that reed was waving in the breeze quite a bit, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I finally got a good look at it. This is a “chat” or “stonechat” in the genus Saxicola and probably the superspecies Saxicola torquatus, the common stonechats. Beyond that, my best guess, based largely on location, is that this is a European stonechat (Saxicola rubicola), although I’m a little nervous about the white neck ring extending all the way under its chin. This is the first one I’ve ever seen.


Meanwhile, the great spotted woodpeckers continue to do their thing.


And I was stunned to find a pair of dragonflies, ruddy darters, based on his slightly “waisted” abdomen and her blueish legs, still doing their thing.


Wonders never cease, eh?