Yesterday I returned to the pond for the first time in a couple of weeks. In a stroke of luck, I timed my arrival to coincide with the presence of a single Caspian Tern, a bird I’d never seen before. Although I don’t always, this time I had my binoculars and Peterson’s with me. The time it took the tern to catch something to eat—about four or five dives, with some circling in between—was just long enough for me to positively identify it. Once it had the fish, it circled to eat it and then left, flying higher until I couldn’t see which direction it was heading.
It had barely gone when I noticed something odd swimming around out in the middle of the pond. At first I thought it was a small duck, but the trusty binoculars revealed it to be the head of a mammal. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t an otter—the head was too large and square for what I remembered of otters from my many early-childhood visits to Shedd. It seemed unlikely that it was a beaver, and peering at photos once I got home led to the conclusion that it was a muskrat. I don’t know if it’ll stick around; I hadn’t seen it before this weekend.
In addition to those two unusual sightings, I saw several regular favorites: red-winged blackbirds (both male and female), ducks, song sparrows, and a downy woodpecker. I also saw the pair of Canada geese that I saw on my most recent prior visit, and it looks like they’re nesting (one was in the same spot on the island as last time; the other was keeping a pretty close eye on the muskrat). I look forward to seeing the goslings later in the year.
Ever since the years when Trumpet of the Swan was one of my favorite books, I’ve hoped to be able to see birds actually hatching. I’ve never wanted to get too close to their nests, though. Maybe this year—with the nest visible, but not accessible—the timing will be right and I’ll get lucky.