August at the Chicago Portage: Finale

Green Heron

Green Heron

I did not make it to the Chicago Portage this past weekend to check on the possibility of hummingbirds again. But maybe it’s still worth commenting on the remaining creatures I encountered on the 17th.

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird

Juv RWBB Portage-8-17-2014-3822

It’s that confusing time of year again. Young birds are as big as their parents, but distinguishing them is sometimes difficult, especially in poor light. Often I take a picture I know will be lousy just to blow it up later, adjust the exposure and see if I can figure out what it was I was looking at. As it is, the “sparrowy” looking birds all turned out to be Song Sparrows (except for the Red-Winged Blackbirds). There were several Indigo Buntings too but due to poor light and whatever else they hid themselves within, they did not make the cut.

Juvenile Song Sparrow

Juvenile Song Sparrow

Now that you’ve seen both the juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird and the Song Sparrow, see if you can figure out what the bird is below. You could almost make a case for either one, I think.

What's this?

What’s this?

Then there are the group photos. The birds don’t always cooperate but sometimes the challenge of how many you can fit in the frame takes over.

European Starling Tree

European Starling Tree

Cedar Waxwing Tree

Cedar Waxwing Tree – too far away, really, but good enough for numbers.

Mourning Dove Tree

Mourning Dove Tree

There was a group congregating in the water too. A family of Wood Ducks getting ready to depart.

Wood Ducks

Wood Ducks

Shorebird migration is in full force, but the Portage isn’t a hot spot. Still I had the two most likely suspects in attendance.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

Killdeer

Killdeer

I love the look of juvenile European Starlings. Until they turn mostly black, it’s possible to see they do have eyes.

Juvenile European Starling

Juvenile European Starling

Another black bird, but instead of a shiny navy blue head, this juvenile Common Grackle is a rich dark chocolate brown.

Juvenile Common Grackle

Juvenile Common Grackle

The Cedar Waxwing below strikes me as an adult, but chances are some of those in the Waxwing Tree above, if only we could see them, were youngsters.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

Down by the second bridge was a very friendly Eastern Phoebe enjoying flying off his perch for insects,

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Now comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The bugs that I cannot identify. This beetle looked to me like it would be easy to find in my Big Beetle Book (not the title) but so far I have been unable to identify it. While I don’t think I’ve discovered a new species, I am beginning to understand this confusion is often the way it is with insects. Period.

Unidentified Beetle

Unidentified Beetle

The ladybug could be the most common native species, but I’m not going out on any limb.

I know this is a Ladybug, but what kind I don't know

I know this is a Ladybug, but what kind I don’t know

More birds–and bugs — pardon me, insects — to come.

August at the Chicago Portage, Act II, Scene I: Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk Musings

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk, Chicago Portage

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk, Chicago Portage

I could spend a couple hours trying to figure out the identity of two beetles, but for the moment I am going to share a few photos of the juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk that was hanging out at the Portage last weekend. With any luck, I will stop by tomorrow morning to check on him or her and continue to look for Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds in the Jewel Weed.

White-Tailed Deer, Chicago Portage

White-Tailed Deer, Chicago Portage

Actually I did get a brief view of one Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on Sunday morning, not long after I startled some deer. As I approached the first bridge over the muck, the Ruby-Throat exploded into the air along with a House Wren who proudly posed with his prize, and it is likely the hummer was trying for the same thing. But the hummer kept going and was not available for the photographic record.

House Wren, Chicago Portage

House Wren, Chicago Portage

HOWR Portage-8-17-2014-3145After that I encountered the juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk and spent a long time with it watching it watching me and looking for possible prey. It was not successful in the prey department, at least while I was observing it. But it occurred to me later that my days of watching this hawk will soon be over if they aren’t already. When he or she gets better at hunting I won’t be encountering this bird so often on my level. So let’s enjoy the field marks while we can!

My first encounter with the hawk on this perch

My first encounter with the hawk on this perch

Juv RTHA Portage-8-17-2014-3238

Spotting something in the grass….

Juv RTHA Portage-8-17-2014-3279

Coming up empty…

Juv RTHA Portage-8-17-2014-3282Juv RTHA Portage-8-17-2014-3295Juv RTHA Portage-8-17-2014-3236

The light was awful on Sunday so I didn’t get much in the way of pictures unless I was right on top of something. A second segment will follow, with more birds and those dang beetles whether I can identify them or not. Maybe I should give up on the insects and stick to birds (I already have scores if not a hundred or more bird books for identification) before I spend any more money on insect books for identification. But for now I am still trying to make good on my investment. For those more curious about butterflies and dragonflies I have tried to identify in previous posts, I made revisions to the IDs thanks to my ever watchful friend Linda P. Thank you, Linda!

Juv RTHA Portage-8-17-2014-3223

Not a songbird but worthy of a song. Hmmm. That gives me an idea… :-)

August at the Chicago Portage, Scene 2: Lepidoptera et al.

Comma

Comma

Saturday’s outing at the Portage continued, with birds here and there, but this post will concentrate on the butterflies who stole the show as the sun climbed more directly overhead.

The main draw was the Burdock blooms, which sometimes made walking on the narrow path narrower and a bit precarious. After all, Burdock was the inspiration plant for Velcro.

Second Year Burdock, Chicago Portage

Second Year Burdock, Chicago Portage

As it turned out I encountered two distinguished gentlemen on the path who, after asking me what I was interested in, announced they were into plants. They were happy to tell me the Burdock blooms were the second stage of the biennial plant, those monstrous huge leaves being the first year. I returned the favor by identifying the juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk from my previous post and the trouble it was causing the juvenile Green Heron. They went on to identify a few other plants for me, one of which I used on my picture of the now-named Heal-All in a previous post.

Burdock has an entire culture built around it, including medicinal and culinary uses, which don’t tempt me. But to see the butterflies and other insects enjoying the flowers gave me a new appreciation for what I previously wrote off as a pesky invasive.

Question Mark

Question Mark

Question Mark

Question Mark

The butterflies were all on the north side of the creek that runs through the Portage. I usually walk all the way around the south side first by crossing the east bridge, and then cross the west bridge over the creek and turn back toward the way I came only on the other side of the creek, which is where the burdock grew thicker and more and more butterflies appeared.

Upside-down Comma - is this now an Apostrophe?

Upside-down Comma – is this now an Apostrophe?

Comma

Comma

It was nice to have the swallowtails and the purple for comparison.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail – 8/23 update – Linda P things this is probably a female Tiger Swallowtail

Red-Spotted Purple

Red-Spotted Purple – at least I got this one right this time

Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

I am not convinced of my identification for the butterfly below but have not yet found anything else it resembles.

Golden Banded Skipper, I think

Most likely Silver-Spotted Skipper, according to Linda P

There were several dragonflies, unfortunately the most cooperative sitting on the gravel which makes a lousy picture. The White-Faced Meadowhawks are abundant this year.

White-Faced Meadowhawk

White-Faced Meadowhawk

Blue-Fronted Dancer

Blue-Fronted Dancer? Too hard to tell.

Not sure who this is

Not sure who this is, could be a female White-Faced Meadowhawk – Linda says they are hard to distinguish

Perhaps most fortuitous was the Red Admiral pictured below. First it landed on my pants, then on my sleeve, and I guess it knew I wanted a picture because it moved to the camera. I was loaded down with  both cameras hanging on my shoulders and my binoculars, so the only option left was the cell phone. That’s how I got the three pictures below. The Red Admiral wasn’t going anywhere and I stood still as it kept investigating my skin with its little proboscis, until I finally started moving again and it flew away.

Red Admiral on CameraRed Admiral on FingerRed Admiral on Hand

The bees were busy too.

Bee on Burdock

Bee on Burdock

I will be back to birds for a recap of Sunday’s return visit to the Chicago Portage.

August at the Chicago Portage

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

I broke with tradition and went out Saturday morning, albeit rather late, having slept in, which was more traditional. After feeding the birds inside and out, I considered the weather forecast: while half hoping it would rain all weekend and I would be forced to take care of indoor projects that beg for attention, if Saturday morning was to be the only decent weather, I should at least visit the Portage to see if the Jewel Weed was in bloom, thereby attracting Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds.

Jewel Weed and Poke Weed, Chicago Portage

Jewel Weed and Poke Weed, Chicago Portage

Jewel Weed blossom

Jewel Weed blossom

Well, the Jewel Weed was blooming everywhere, but there were no hummingbirds in attendance. I did, however, encounter a juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk and a juvenile Green Heron, and was able to observe the hawk antagonizing the heron without success. It reminded me slightly of the juvenile Cooper’s Hawks going after crows in Grant Park. Chances are my presence inhibited the interactions between both birds, but I consider it a draw because the hawk’s presence was damping down any activity by other birds.

Juvenile Green Heron

Juvenile Green Heron

Juv GRHE-Portage 8-16-2014-2744Juv GRHE-Portage 8-16-2014-2753Juv RTHA-Portage 8-16-2014-2756

I will be back with more reports from my Portage weekend. I went back to the Portage again this morning, a couple hours earlier than yesterday’s visit. There was much more going on both days than what is represented here but this is all I have time for now.

Juv RTHA-Portage 8-16-2014-2861

Late Summer Walks

Deer Fly, McGinnis Slough

Deer Fly, McGinnis Slough

Even if there is not much in the way of birds to see or photograph – a distant Baltimore Oriole, a flock of blackbirds flying by – I am still committed to going somewhere every Sunday morning, weather permitting. It has become part of my routine. Routine is great to fall back on when I feel unfocused, overwhelmed or just plain lazy.

So last Sunday I decided to visit Lake Katherine again, and then hop over to McGinnis Slough, which wasn’t far. The forecast was for rain in the afternoon, which in reality never happened. The first bird near the parking lot was this skeptical-looking female Northern Cardinal.

Female Northern Cardinal, Lake Katherine

Female Northern Cardinal, Lake Katherine

I decided to skip the garden portion and walk around the lake. The first bird to record was likely the same Black-Crowned Night Heron I saw a couple weeks ago in the trees. Although his attempt to hide behind the grasses seemed successful to me, he wasn’t pleased with it and he took off before I could snap a picture of him in flight. When I am the cause of a bird’s flight, I don’t like to photograph it anyway, I feel too much like I’m taking advantage of the situation I created. Not to mention that usually the bird is gone long before I can get myself organized enough to capture it.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

It was a cloudy day which made it difficult to photograph anything in flight, actually. But these three helicopters sure were noisy.

Helicopters over Lake Katherine

Helicopters over Lake Katherine

Back on the ground, taking note of dragonflies, a Sphinx (“Hummingbird”) Moth and the geometry of a completely stripped thistle blossom.

Widow Skimmer, Lake Katherine

Widow Skimmer, Lake Katherine

White-Faxed Meadowhawk

White-Faced Meadowhawk

Thistle, Lake Katherine

Thistle, Lake Katherine

Sphinx Moth on Monarda, Lake Katherine

Sphinx Moth on Monarda, Lake Katherine

Juvenile Mallards as big as their parents and at this time of year, looking much the same.

Juvenile Mallard

Juvenile Mallard

Mallards by the Canoe Launch, Lake Katherine

Mallards by the Canoe Launch, Lake Katherine

There was a Great Blue Heron stalking prey, but after taking maybe 15 pictures of him crouched low, I grew tired and never did see him catch anything.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

The heron was a bit closer when I got around to the other side of the lake.

Great Blue Heron

In the middle of the lake is a small island, and in addition to two small rookery platforms which I did not photograph, there are heron sculptures which looked a lot more interesting.

Heron Sculptures

Heron Sculptures

But my attention to the island was first drawn by a bright orange bird on the other side of it. It’s a Baltimore Oriole that hasn’t left yet. Unfortunately it was too far away to photograph, but I like the branches hanging over the pond lilies anyway.

BAOR Lake Katharine 8-10-14-2447

Lots of Chimney Swifts, which are impossible to follow, but they were so close, I had to try. At least I got one flying cigar photo.

Chimney Swift

Chimney Swift

CHSW Lake Katharine 8-10-14-2515

I believe the flower below is a form of evening primrose, of which I understand there are an unbelievable number of varieties. Anyway it looks similar to what has taken over part of my yard.

Evening Primrose, Lake Katharine

Evening Primrose, Lake Katherine

By the time I got to McGinnis Slough, it was 10:30 AM or so, which is getting late by bird standards. There was not an awful lot happening. Maybe the best bird was a very close Green Heron, but with the clouds and backlighting, it doesn’t appear colorful at all.

Green Heron, McGinnis Slough

Green Heron, McGinnis Slough

GRHE McGinnis 8-10-14-2529

It’s impossible to look out on whatever water there is at McGinnis without a scope, so I did the obligatory scan and counted some Pied-Billed Grebes, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Double-Crested Cormorants, and I forget what else – I still have to input my ebird list – there wasn’t much. But there was a Deer Fly who was fascinated by the scope cover. Better the scope cover than me. I am usually swatting at these things, but this one was a model insect. My what beautiful eyes you have.

Deer Fly on the scope

Deer Fly on the scope

Deer Fly McGinnis 8-10-14-3944

On the way back to the car, a few Barn Swallows taking a preening break.

Barn Swallows, McGinnis Slough

Barn Swallows, McGinnis Slough

The American Goldfinch below is likely a juvenile male, if the faint darkness on his crown is any indication.

American Goldfinch, Lake Katharine

American Goldfinch, Lake Katherine

Summer continues, although for the moment we’re having brisk fall weather. The days are still long but they get shorter and shorter, and every other week it seems I have to make an adjustment to the length of the timers on the lights in the house, so the indoor birds can see where they’re going during people hours.

Unattached

Cooper's Hawk, Grant Park

Cooper’s Hawk, Grant Park

If I were better organized I would only upload pictures I was actually going to use in a blog post, but I am too often compiling posts on the fly and consequently I wind up making last-minute decisions of what to use and never going back to delete the unused, or “unattached” photos.

Black Vulture 4-26-14

Black Vulture 4-26-14

So this is a photo essay with no particular subject, only some previously unattached, unrelated blasts from the past.

Bewick's Wren, 4-26-14

Bewick’s Wren, 4-26-14

Northern Cardinal, Lake Shore East Park, 4-23-14

Northern Cardinal, Lake Shore East Park, 4-23-14

Lincoln's Sparrow, Songbird Meadows, 4-26-14

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Songbird Meadows, 4-26-14

White-Winged Crow, Daley Bicentennial Plaza Tennis Court

White-Winged Crow, Daley Bicentennial Plaza Tennis Court

Superb Starling

Superb Starling

Leopard 11-24-13

Leopard 11-24-13

I’ll be back in real time soon. :-)

Back in the Yard

Mining Bee Yard 7-26-14-3335

The last two Saturdays have been great mornings to work in the yard, last Saturday in particular as it was cool and cloudy, but I have slept in so that by the time I do get out, the heat and humidity begin to creep in, and the day is replete with the rest of Saturday’s routine. But I have managed to take a few more yard pictures before playing piano, swimming, grocery shopping…

The one bloom on the Swamp Milkweed was visited by a Monarch Butterfly last Saturday. I saw the Monarch again yesterday but it did not stay, only flying over the entire yard and right past me a few times, I suppose because the one milkweed blossom is spent and there was little else of interest. Next year, I promise, will be different.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed Yard 7-26-14-3228

Milkweed Yard 7-26-14-3420There were two Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in the purple coneflowers last Saturday. They wouldn’t pose together but this one was available.

Tiger Swallowtail Yard 8-2-14-2002

And yesterday I finally managed to get a Red Admiral to cooperate.

Red Admiral Yard 8-2-14-2029 Red Admiral Yard 7-26-14-3380

Young birds are now in the yard in droves. Last Saturday, they were still begging a lot.

Juvenile House Sparrow

Juvenile House Sparrow

Juv House Finches Yard 7-26-14-3197

Juvenile House Finches

Juv House Finch Yard 8-2-14-2127

Juvenile House Finch

Adult Male House Finch

Adult Male House Finch

Last Saturday I had the windows open and heard Chipping Sparrows in the yard. I could not photograph them outside, as they were right by the back door and I would have scared them away, but I managed to get a few pictures through the kitchen window.

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

I suspect there is more than one pair breeding in south Berwyn.

Chipping Sparrow Yard 8-2-14-2086

Adult Chipping Sparrow

Someone else I can only photograph through the window, as she is well attuned to the squeaks of my back doors…

Cat Yard 8-2-14-1982

I discovered this spider last weekend in a shady spot.

Garden Spider Yard 7-26-14-3302

Garden Spider

The front yard is more established this year, one year after its planting. This is the main section, the other smaller portion being on the other side of the front walk. I have seen butterflies now and again but the biggest hit lately was the Sweet Joe-Pye Weed: the bees were literally bathing in it. But this weekend it’s looking rather spent and frazzled. I watered it last night and am hoping we get some rain.

Front Yard

Front Yard

Bee in the Joe-Pye Weed

Bee in the Joe-Pye Weed

I seem to have two types of cardinal flower. The first photograph is from the ones that have been in the backyard for years, and the second from the new one in the front.

Cardinal Flower Yard 7-26-14-3438 Cardinal Flower Front Yard 7-26-14-3496

Below is a plant that mystifies me. I have no idea where it came from but it planted itself between two bricks. I don’t recall if it flowered last year but this year it has done a nice job. Even if it is an invasive, it doesn’t appear to be spreading. It’s in one shady spot under the hawthorn. If anybody knows what this is, please let me know.

I don't know what this is but it is growing between two bricks for the second year in a row

I don’t know what this is but it is growing between two bricks for the second year in a row

I thought there was something a bit different about this fox squirrel. For sure, it’s a she. The one I am used to seeing all the time has been a male. She is a bit shy, but every bit as polite as he is.

Female Fox Squirrel Yard 7-26-14-3268 Foxy Lady Squirrel Yard 7-26-14-3447

Invariably dill comes up here and there in the yard. I thought I planted some this year but it didn’t come up where I put it. Nevertheless a few plants have managed to grow and I leave them hoping they will attract female Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies to lay eggs. I was very happy to see this caterpillar yesterday. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen one of these in the yard. I’m going to plant more dill for next year too.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on dill

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on dill

I did manage to work in the yard even though it was nearly midday: it wasn’t buggy and my trees keep me cool. At any rate, it’s looking a little tamer I suppose because we haven’t had too much rain lately so the weeds actually stay pulled for a while. I think I will start photographing and cataloguing all the weeds before I yank them out next weekend, in part because I see them often enough elsewhere, and in the process of looking them up I will learn about others. I know a lot of them by sight but have forgotten some of their names. The macro lens is making a nerd out of me.

I will be back later with a few photos from my weekend excursion.