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

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

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

Big changes afoot at the pond

The goslings were all gone this morning. There weren’t even any mature canada geese at the pond when I arrived, until 3 flew in from the west. I counted 10 strapping young goslings there yesterday morning, and here’s hoping that they all just outgrew it and hiked themselves down to the river. Bon voyage, mes amis!

Meanwhile, the red-winged blackbirds at the pond appear to be fixin’ to provide some youngins of their own. Here’s a shot through the sticks and leaves of a female building her nest out over the water. She’s pretty well camouflaged, so you have to look closely to see her. I never would have if she wasn’t also quite busy whistling while she worked.

I know we’ve all seen chipmunks before, but who can say “no” to this photo? Right?

Comme d’habitude:

More new arrivals in and out of the park

Welp, the can of worms is out of the bag now! Here’s another amazing image sent in this time by keen reader Betty Koepsel from out in Oconomowoc.

The accompanying story goes like this:”Sweet teeny newborn found in the grass about 10 feet from our vegetable garden… almost run over with a lawnmower…mom is near, but never seen…fawn gone in a couple hours.”I bet that little stinker will be back eating Betty’s vegetables in no time.
Meanwhile, back in Estabrook, the Indigo Buntings of Good Cheer, sometimes mistaken for the actual Bluebirds of Happiness, have arrived with the nice weather, and I expect this one will be playing a young Yondu in the upcoming GotG prequel.

As usual:

Reader photo of the day

I know, I know, this is supposed to be all about the flora and fauna of Estabrook Park, but we made an exception for the great horned owl and owlets, with good reason I believe, and we’re going to make a similar exception this morning for this amazing shot sent in by an avid reader.

That, my friends, is a coyote struttin’ across the parkway in front of the house of Professor Erica Young in Shorewood, WI. Well done, Professor!

Meanwhile, all I’ve got to show for getting up early on this beautiful morning is this picture of a female baltimore oriole, clearly enjoying the smooth jazz stylings of several suitors jockeying for position around the pond.

Lastly, the gosling report. The family with triplets is back on the pond, I am relieved to find, and the family with the octet is definitely down to a septet, I am very sad to say.

Some other pictures are available at

Drama at the pond

The drizzle took a break for a bit yesterday, and I stepped out to stretch my legs.

There were plenty of critters about, but nobody wanted to sit still for me until I made it to the pond, where Ol’ Blue was intent upon rustling up some lunch.

Suddenly, a second Great Blue Heron drifted in, and I thought “well this will be a great photo op,” but for reasons known only to him, he decided to land right next to the first one, and they had a quick and agitated conversation, perhaps about scaring fish away or the optimal heron density on a pond of this size, before one flew right off again. 

Actually, I don’t really know which one, or even if either one, might be the same one I donned Ol’ Blue while photographing few days ago, and I also don’t know, of course, what they actually discussed. Perhaps it’s a long standing feud between them about some sweet mate or nesting site they both wanted.

In other news, there were only 7 (seven) goslings on the pond. I walked around twice, so I’m pretty sure about that. Let us hope that the family with the triplets merely decided that they had outgrown the pond, headed back down to the river, and one of the octet tagged along. That’s how nature works, right?

Lastly, there’s a surprise for readers of today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel print edition that I cannot find online anywhere.

Rerun Monday in Estabrook!

Water is still falling out of the sky, so I’m dipping into the archives, all the way back to April 11, for a never-before-seen image.

The colors are pretty drab, but there goes a pair of wood ducks, a male hooded merganser, and a pair of blue-winged teals in some kind of multi-species smorgasbord on our little pond. Man, those were good times, eh? Anyway, the teals and mergansers have long since moved on, but the wood ducks are still around. 

There is not a single new image posted online at

I gotta admit though, the rain sure makes it a little easier for me to sit here all day grading final exams.

Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow.

Gettin’ a real soakin’ at the park

The skies are so dark, the streetlights are still on, and so there ain’t gonna be no new pictures today.

Instead, I’m sure all the critters at the pond will be thrilled to have the day off for a change.

Anyway, just to tide you over, here are a couple images from Estabrook that didn’t make the front page:

That’s sweet woodruff (aka Galium odorata or sweet-scented bedstraw),
here’s a catbird busy collecting nesting material by the pond,

and here’s a common yellowthroat also collecting nesting material, I can only presume, down by  the river.

He’s got big plans for that 2×4, I’m sure.

I’ll toss a couple more b-reel shots online at