City Visitors, or Where the Birds Are

Black-and-White Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Black-and-White Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Apologies to all my followers for not posting sooner (and all those I follow for not showing up), but I have been busy with work and trying to spend every free moment paying attention to birds indoors and out, so by the time I get around to reviewing photos I fall asleep. So there have been about 10 potential blog posts running out of my head over the last two weeks before I could hang onto them.

American Redstart, 155 N. Wacker Drive

American Redstart, 155 N. Wacker Drive

So before I fell asleep again last night as it was past my bed time, I decided to simply share with you some of my favorite subjects over the past week from a couple city parks and green spaces. Except for the Least Flycatcher, I have limited this post to warbler species.

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

The first day I found the Black-Throated Green Warbler at Union Station, there was also a Black-Throated Blue Warbler singing and a Baltimore Oriole singing as well. Actually it was the Baltimore Oriole’s song that drew my attention to the now-fenced-in-for-no-obvious-reason garden area. The fact that the garden area was inaccessible to me and the smokers who like to sit on the benches probably made it more attractive to the bugs and the birds who were eating them. I did not get a great picture of the Black-Throated Blue, but was glad to see him. The Oriole was coy but uncooperative.

Common Yellowthroat, Lake Shore East Park

Male Common Yellowthroat, Lake Shore East Park

Lake Shore East Park has been my most constant afternoon destination, and there were a couple good days, but it doesn’t seem as birdy as last year or the year before. The weather has been a factor all spring too, with alternating warm fronts and cold fronts confusing everything. We are presently about thirty degrees cooler than we were on Monday. Monday was hot.

Least Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Least Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Least Flycatchers were fairly common for a couple days. Catbirds have been regular sightings in every nook and cranny.

Gray Catbird, Lake Shore East Park

Gray Catbird, Lake Shore East Park

Male American Redstarts come in two plumages. The first-year males still look a bit like the females, only orangey instead of a paler yellow. The after-first-year males are black and orange-red.

American Redstart

American Redstart

American Redstart, first-year male

American Redstart, first-year male

Hardly a day has gone by that I have not seen or heard a Northern Waterthrush. I usually see them on the lawn, so it was nice to catch one resting on a branch.

Northern Waterthrush, Lake Shore East Park

Northern Waterthrush, Lake Shore East Park

Ovenbirds are still around, too.

Ovenbird, Lake Shore East Park

Ovenbird, Millennium Park

Spring would not be spring without male Magnolia Warblers.

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Redstarts are everywhere now. The adult males seem to like to show off.

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Below is a first-year male, looking eager to start his first breeding season.

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I hope to get another post or two in order over the Memorial Day weekend (thunderstorms are predicted for Memorial Day). As always I think I will be able to conquer my entire to-do list because I have an extra day. So far Saturday’s weather looks best, so that will be a birding day. Passerine migration is nearly over, but I need proof.

A Tanager Coloring Book

Blue-Necked Tanager

Blue-Necked Tanager

The idea occurred to me when I was going through these photographs and the field guides that if you had a coloring book with page after page of tanagers to fill in, you could never come up with all of nature’s possible combinations.

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Bay-Headed Tanager

We were very fortunate to be staying at the Chestnut-Capped Piha Reserve, where the feeders attracted a variety of tanagers. These are generally the photos taken with bananas in them.

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Golden Tanager

Crimson-Backed Tanager 04-3-15-6369

Crimson-Backed Tanager

Silver-Throated Tanager

Silver-Throated Tanager

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Black-Capped Tanager

Speckled Tanager 04-03-15-6912

Speckled Tanager

Some of the tanagers were familiar, like the ubiquitous Blue-Gray Tanager, the Bay-Headed Tanager and the Speckled Tanager.

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Blue-Gray Tanager

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Blue-Capped Tanager

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Hooded Mountain Tanager

I had also seen Palm Tanager before. It’s seems strange, though, to see a neotropical migrant species like the Summer Tanager on its wintering grounds.

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Palm Tanager

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Summer Tanager

I wish I had a better picture of the Beryl-Spangled Tanager, it’s so unusual. But then almost all of the tanagers are unusual.

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Beryl-Spangled Tanager

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Blue-Gray Tanager

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Black-Capped Tanager

Scrub Tanager 04-3-15-6347

Scrub Tanager

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Hooded Tanager

Feel free to click on any of the pictures to get a larger view. This time I’m going to let the pictures do the talking. I am pretty worn out from work. Cold rainy weather afforded me an excuse to postpone the migrant hunt until tomorrow but we seem to have had a fallout of warblers with last night’s storm, and I want to try catching up with it.

Too Many Distractions

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Belted Kingfisher – Chicago Portage

I keep trying to get through all the pictures from Colombia and identify everybody who’s recognizable, but life keeps getting in the way…further complicated by signs of spring. Like the Belted Kingfisher above. He seems to have made the stripped-down Chicago Portage his summer home. I have seen him two weekends in a row.

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Red-Winged Blackbird, McGinnis Slough

These pictures were all taken last weekend. I went to McGinnis Slough and the Chicago Portage on Sunday because the weather was reasonable. We’ve been otherwise chilled by northerly wind blasts all week, even going down to freezing one night, I forget which, I only remember having to dump the ice out of the bird baths because I had already unplugged them.

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Great Blue Herons at McGinnis

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Gadwall

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Gadwall

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Gadwall – check out the one that’s dabbling – if this is the only part of the bird I see next time I’ll know it’s a Gadwall!

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Great Blue Heron

Not a lot to photograph at the Slough, most everyone was too far away in the water, but it was nice to hear Soras calling, and to count eleven Great Blue Herons and a lot of Gadwall.

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Caspian Tern

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Also nice to see a Caspian Tern. But perhaps the biggest surprise was a deer making its way across the smaller part of the slough, which I guess gives an idea of how not very deep it is. Below the deer is a Double-Crested Cormorant drying out after a dive.

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DCCO 4-26-15-9448Something else I don’t know if I’ve ever seen well before – the “ring” on a Ring-Necked Duck’s neck. Click on the picture to see what I mean.

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Not a lot different happening at the Portage yet… I could have had a substantial turtle count.

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Wood Duck

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Turtles, Chicago Portage

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Dabbling Mallards

Brown Creepers are always a surprise for some reason.

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And this Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher was cooperative as long as he felt hidden behind the twigs, which he certainly was.

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BGGN 4-26-15-9672 BGGN 4-26-15-9686 BGGN 4-26-15-9694Caught the Kingfisher taking a break.

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Female Red-Winged Blackbirds are starting to arrive, but I don’t have a picture of one from last weekend, so I’m just including this guy-bird again.

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As far as the Life List Project goes (this proved to be a Major Distraction!), I still have a few more checklists to locate, but at the moment the count is 1,942. I’m trying to count only birds I have seen, so a lot of those Tinamous, Tapaculos and Rails aren’t making it onto my list. But there are also a few species that are not on the app, as hard as I have tried to find them under other common names, so I don’t know if that’s because they’ve been reclassified or split or lumped or what, but in general having the list will probably come in handy on my next far-flung trip and maybe even motivate me to pay more attention. Who knows, if I had time to go through all my pictures from all my trips again I might find even more species… I guess I save that distraction for when I can’t travel anymore. :-)

Eclectic Mix

Black-Capped Donacobius

Black-Capped Donacobius

I keep coming up with lots of valid excuses for not finishing anything. I seem to have everything half-started and that of course includes the project of going through the pictures from Colombia… But I am including a few pictures here although I am nowhere near done cropping and identifying everyone.

Yellow-Green Vireo

Yellow-Green Vireo

I have succumbed to the addictive distraction of the new BirdsEye app on my phone, which I downloaded before I went to Colombia along with the collection of Colombian bird songs. I added the monthly world-birder subscription (why not?) which automatically tells me where a bird was reported if I have an Internet connection. Another feature of the app is that it allows me to enter my life list without asking all the annoying questions like what day, what time, where were you precisely when you saw this bird…while at the same time syncing with whatever has been entered in ebird…so at last count I was somewhere around 1,236 with 5 or 6 countries to go… I still don’t consider myself a lister but I am just getting curious about the tally.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler, wintering in Colombia, now thinking about Boreal Forest breeding grounds

You will eventually hear more about the home birds, but Blue the Last Budgie died of ripe old age last week and Dudlee Ann the Diamond Dove did not stop talking to me or perhaps to his memory, so I promised to get her a new budgie (not wanting to cross the line and try to find her a mate of her own species…!) and since Saturday we have been getting used to Jer (short for Jeremy or Jerry, we haven’t decided yet what’s going to stick) and he to us. He is a lovely green and yellow youngster. I wanted to go with traditional color even as the PetSmart attendant tried to push a pure white or yet another blue budgie on me.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

While we’re on distraction, how about that weather, huh? Warm one week and cold, raining and windy the next (presently). If I were migrating I wouldn’t be venturing north at the moment.

As you may be able to tell, we ran into some familiar species like the Neotropical migrant warblers above, in addition to those not so familiar.

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

I promise there will be more tanagers when I get them all organized. These just snuck in with the Yellow-Green Vireo when I forgot to change the name as I processed the photos (either before or after I fell asleep?).

I leave you with two more photos of the Black-Capped Donacobius which seemed so thrilled to see us they posed for a lot of pictures, making it that much harder for me to choose!

Black-Capped Donacobius 04-2-15-5511 Black-Capped Donacobius 04-2-15-5505

Extreme Hummingbirds…!

Long-Tailed Sylph

Long-Tailed Sylph, Reserva Rio Blanco

I’m sorry it’s taking me so long to get back in the swing of blogging… I’m nowhere near halfway going through the pictures from my trip to Colombia. But I thought a few incredible hummingbirds might offset the disclaimer… To top it off, I’m ignoring chronological order.

Tourmaline Sunangel

Tourmaline Sunangel, Reserva Rio Blanco (adult male)

Whatever the reason these birds have evolved into such flashy specialists, you have to wonder if there really is any way to explain such intense beauty. I prefer to just chalk it up to the “Wow” factor.

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Sword-Billed Hummingbird, Termales del Ruiz

I’ve seen a Sword-Billed Hummingbird before, likely in Peru, but not as well as at the feeders behind the restaurant/spa at Termales del Ruiz. While the hot springs were tempting, the hummingbird feeders were even more so.

Buff-Tailed Coronet

Buff-Tailed Coronet, Reserva Rio Blanco

Buff-Tailed Coronets were everywhere at our first hummingbird heaven, the feeders at Rio Blanco, and yet they are beautiful even after you’ve seen so many of them. They also tended to pose nicely, perhaps because they considered themselves to be less conspicuous (safety in numbers).

Buffy Helmetcrest

Buffy Helmetcrest, Paramo, Los Nevados

The Buffy Helmetcrest was a Paramo target bird that proved easy to find the moment we got out of the vehicle that took us up to its preferred heights.

I don’t have much more to say at this point, except that perhaps Sunday I will manage to get through enough pictures to make more sense of the trip, seeing as how our weather forecast is for rain which makes yard work and birding less likely. So for the moment, I leave you with a few more pictures of these great birds.

Sword-Billed Hummingbird

Long-Tailed Sylph 03-31-15-3159Buffy Helmetcrest 04-1-15-3666

El Condor Pasa

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Andean Condor

I am just barely back from Colombia, so this will be a short post focused on One Bird, the Andean Condor, the sight of which perhaps trumped them all. (This bird does not respond to a recording. It appears at will.) And just our luck, when we were up in the Páramo at Los Nevados National Park, approximately 13,000-14,000 feet? – we saw this magnificent raptor very well.

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Los Nevados

Andean Condor 04-01-15-3882Andean Condor 04-01-15-3885Andean Condor 04-01-15-3870The color leaves much to be desired, but this is not a particularly colorful bird so I am just happy to have captured the spirit of its flight. Click on the pictures if you want a closer look.

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Some vegetation at Los Nevados

Andean Condor 04-01-15-3879 Andean Condor 04-01-15-3842I have nine days of memories, of wonderful birds, great companions and the friendly Colombian people. For the moment, I leave you with a picture of a couple on their motorcycle with their dogs in tow. Check out those nifty helmets!

Dogs 04-04-15-7390To be continued! Thanks to all for your interest and support. :-)

A Pack Rat Starts Packing

RBGU 3-20-15-6969I’ve had three months to think about my trip but of course reality never hits until I’m down to the wire. Procrastination is an ongoing and important process, however. As I try to clean and find things for the trip, which forces me to organize on one level, I run into the dilemma of where to put other postponed projects such as starting a life list in Excel or ebird, on another level.

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My former neighbor spent the entire day Saturday routing out my kitchen sink…which pretty much took care of my whole day too, but I shredded papers until the machine would shred no more, and kept an eye on the birds who endured the noise, the house shaking, the comings and goings to the hardware store. Dudlee my Diamond Dove insisted on staying on her nest in the kitchen right above all the havoc. We’re not done with this project yet: when I get back we will get the catch basin cleaned out, something that likely has never been done since 1925. Apparently this is a common dilemma. A light bulb went off in my head when Abe described the process of removal of crud from the catch basin. It explained the evil stuff someone dumped behind my property a couple years ago in large plastic bags. I had “No Dumping” signs up for a while after that…Thankfully, the garbage haulers took it away. What do they do with this evil stuff? I’m not sure I want to know.

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I still have to locate my sunglasses which I haven’t worn for at least 2 years, and I know I have several water bottle slings somewhere.

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Then there’s all the extra stuff to remember to do like call the 800 numbers on the back of the credit cards, leave contact information with everybody, make sure the alarm company knows who to call if there’s an anomaly, set a timer on the stereo so the birds have music to fly by…

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Packing itself is a major engineering feat. I have never had to pack so much in so little space, but I’m liking the challenge. There are some practical perks here. I won’t need anything fancy to wear for one special event, and although I am used to having the laptop with me it won’t be making this trip, but since I already got used to reviewing my pictures on the camera for three weeks in East Africa I should be able to get by for one week in Colombia. Not having to worry about the laptop is perhaps a blessing in disguise.

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The cell phone will keep me connected, at times. And when it doesn’t, there is bliss in the realization that I am in the moment somewhere else on the planet and cannot be reached until I get back to the lodge, perhaps. A true vacation.

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In case you’ve been wondering what any of this has to do with pictures of a Ring-Billed Gull with a peanut, I suggest the connection is no more than mutual exercises in futility. He stayed preoccupied with this peanut, since I also had crows in attendance who were enjoying them, for at least 10 minutes. His friend was unimpressed by it. Gulls can’t eat peanuts, but this one wanted to try. Alas, even after I shelled one for him he didn’t know what to do with it.

I hope to be back with one more post from my sporadic visits to the lakefront the past week, before I disappear for a couple weeks (trip time plus the aftermath). If I don’t manage one more post, thanks to all of you who have made it with me this far! :-)

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