Day 3 of a Precious 4-Day Weekend

NOCA Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7289After a very pleasant Thanksgiving dinner with friends, by the time I’m done with the normal weekend stuff, albeit at a more relaxed pace, the huge to-do list I planned to revive looks less inviting. Maybe I’m doing nothing remarkable these four days except hanging out with the home crowd and making a serious dent in a hundred pounds of accumulated junk mail, magazines I’ll never read and sizing up my response to those end-of-year donation requests which seemed to start arriving in May.

Mallards Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7265But I have a few photos from my last visit to the Chicago Portage to share. This was two weeks ago before I spent much of last weekend preparing to sing in choirs and doing so. I have noticed one thing about singing: if I decide to vocalize and practice before I leave, all the birds join in, which means they know a thing or two about singing in unison that maybe I don’t.

Green-Winged Teal

Green-Winged Teal

Green-Winged Teal Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7223I have plans to go out tomorrow morning, as the best light and weather for the weekend are predicted, and while I never go with great expectations I hope I’m ready for surprises. If nothing else I need to keep in practice holding the monster lens. I am now looking forward to taking it with me to Nicaragua at the end of February for another episode of Operation Rubythroat.

Mallards Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7124Mallards Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7109Mallard Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7117I was happy to see the White-Breasted Nuthatch again, having missed even hearing it for quite a while, even if I didn’t get that great a picture.

WBNU Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7392Also a very cooperative but backlit Lincoln’s Sparrow.

LISP Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7131Many of the birds were too far away even for the monster lens.

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American Goldfinch taking a sip of water

And the best I could do with my first American Tree Sparrow of the season was its head.

American TRSP Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7306The Fox Sparrow below was incredibly backlit until it decided to leave.

FOSP Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7401Perhaps the trees’ reflection in the water says it all.

Chicago Portage 11-15-2015 -7364And if you’re a female Mallard on a dead log you can get away with anything.

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Meanwhile Back at the Bungalow

Drew in the Kitchen Window

Drew looking out the Kitchen Window

No matter how distracted I may become by It All, and that’s amounted to Very Distracted Lately, there is always ongoing comedy/drama/opera relief going on at home.

Of course when it’s that rare sunny afternoon I’m home and able to sneak a picture or two of the indoor crowd, invariably we haven’t cleaned yet. So what few pictures I have here are cropped as much as possible…

A while ago I decided to buy the music to the Ravel Piano Concerto in G, simply to learn the adagio so it wouldn’t make me cry every time I heard it. In any event it’s a nice piece for the birds to chime in on. Drew likes it. You can hear him singing along in the beginning of the clip below. Arturo Toscanini, a Zebra Finch, sings one of his many songs before the music starts, and there’s also a lot of bathing going on which translates into sounds of water spraying everywhere.

Dudlee on the back door curtain rod

Dudlee on the back door curtain rod

Drew and Dudlee have become friendlier and they hang out together, but she still has somewhat of a crush on Mr. Green (Jeremy Casanova Green) the Budgie who still wants to be a Zebra Finch and spends much of his time imitating Zebra Finch chatter, chasing Zebra Finch girls and sweet-talking the hens when he can corner one of them.

Getting a young budgie female for Mr. Green did not work out. In fact, sadly, Bianca disappeared over a month ago and I have not yet found her. I suspect she was not well or sufficiently feisty enough to fit in with the crowd, as she spent longer than usual (days) inside the cage she was in, too timid to come out even though the door was open after the first day or so and everyone else was going in and out. Mr. Green did finally show her the ropes but didn’t pay a lot of attention to her, and she was quite reticent. While I don’t think the other birds did anything to her, I suspect she made sure she would not be found by them or me.

I am not going to repeat the experiment. At first I thought another green budgie, or even two, might persuade Mr. Green to identify with his own species, but I have decided the older the birds get, the harder it is to change things. If Mr. Green identifies with the Zebra Finches, so be it. It’s my fault, however unintentional. I can cut Mr. Green some slack and say I’m not sure the chasing is all his idea as the Zebra Finches do quite enough of it among themselves. So we will continue as a dysfunctional family.

Mr. Green

Mr. Green

If I can ever get Arturo Toscanini to sing his full-throated repertoire like he does when I’m not recording him, I will put a recording in a future post. He has evolved from one little song into about four or five and when he strings them all together and does variations on the themes it’s quite impressive.

Zebra Finches

Zebra Finches

One more picture below of Drew in the kitchen window. His eye-ring is wider than Dudlee’s and his primary tail feathers are longer, I am sure to enable his fantastic displays. Which he does quite elaborately from time to time, trying to impress the Zebra Finch females (I guess he picked this up from Mr. Green).

Drew at the back window

Drew at the back window

The Society Finches are still with us but somewhat harder to photograph. I never dreamed they would be intimidated by Zebra Finches who are smaller than they are.

So it’s back to the drawing board for that world peace model… :-)



Back at the Slough

Pied-Billed Grebe, McGinnis Slough 10-25-15

Pied-Billed Grebe, McGinnis Slough 10-25-15

It seems strange to have been away from this page for so long, only to find time to come back after this weekend with all the sanity drained out of humanity. It almost feels like I need to start over. So I’m going with pictures from 3 weeks ago when I managed to get out to McGinnis Slough.

Gadwall at McGinnis

Gadwall at McGinnis

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The problem with the Slough is always that most of the birds are usually quite far away and you need a scope to see them.

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Great Blue Heron, McGinnis Slough

So most of these pictures were taken a bit closer in. Like this cooperative Song Sparrow.

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Song Sparrow

I didn’t realize this was a Clay-Colored Sparrow until I started going through the pictures. A nice surprise, don’t see this guy too often.

Clay-Colored SP McGinnis 10-25-15 -6069

Clay-Colored Sparrow

And this was one of the last Yellow-Rumped Warblers I saw this year. I guess in the photo below, if you’re going to see the rump you aren’t going to see much else…!

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

YRWA McGinnis 10-25-15 -6212There were about 400 American Coots at the Slough that day, and here’s one of them.

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American Coot

One more time with the Song Sparrow.

SOSP McGinnis 10-25-15 -6020I picked up my annual bird seed order from Chicago Audubon yesterday: I try to buy enough to last through the winter. Was greeted by Bobbi who was helping distribute the orders, and we got to discussing international travel (we were both with a group in Australia back in 2009). And then she told me she came back from a month in Paris only a few days ago. The world just shrunk that much faster.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween Crow 10-30-15 -6402Yesterday I paid a visit to the Crows that hang out around Lake Shore East Park. It was a beautiful afternoon, and in the spirit of Halloween, or so it seemed, the Crows put on quite a show. Oblivious to all onlookers, they followed me around like puppies.

AMCR on the ledge 10-06-15 -3440

So here’s a little Halloween greeting from my not so scary friends.

AMCR 10-05-15 -3395Happy Halloween Crow 10-30-15 -6512Happy Halloween Crow 10-30-15 -6483

Not all these pictures are from yesterday but they are recent.

AMCR on the ledge 10-06-15 -3435

It is so nice to have a small murder of crows again. I am looking forward to visiting them in the winter months which might otherwise be a bit lonely bird-wise. There were not a lot of other bird species yesterday, so I am sure the crows were also happy to have my almost-complete attention.

Crows on the Ledge 9-28-15 -2843Although there was one White-Throated Sparrow who came to check me out, to see if I had brought anything for him. That reminds me, it is probably almost time to start bringing a little seed for the smaller birds.

Happy Halloween WTSP 10-30-15 -6498

Happy Halloween Crow 10-30-15 -6404

It’s raining and not quite dark yet. The doorbell will no doubt start ringing soon. When Halloween falls on a work night I miss most of it, so I hope the weather doesn’t dampen the spirits of the trick-or-treaters too much.

Where Have All The Birds Gone?

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, scaling a building wall next to 155 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago

I could just as easily re-title this post to “Where Has All The Time Gone?” since I’m still trying to make adjustments to my ever-changing schedule. But this will be a brief tribute to some of the birds I have seen passing through downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. (There will be still more photographs from the rest of the month in a future post.)

The following warblers were present at Lake Shore East Park on September 28. This was probably the last “peak” of warbler migration along the lakefront.

AMRE 9-28-15-3081

American Redstart

BLPW 9-28-15-2934

Blackpoll Warbler

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Tennessee Warbler

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Magnolia Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warblers tend to come through and hang around a bit later, so I was not surprised to see this one the following week.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler, October 6, 2015

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

But I was surprised to find the Connecticut Warbler below poking around in the grass as I was walking through Millennium Park on my way to Lake Shore East. There wasn’t much light and the bird was under some trees so this was the best I could do with the photograph.

COWA Millennium Park 10-05-15 -3296

Connecticut Warbler, Millennium Park, October 5, 2015

I have seen only a few White-Crowned Sparrows this fall, like the one below which popped out at 100 N. Riverside Plaza.

WCSP 10-2-15 (1 of 1)

White-Crowned Sparrow, October 2, 2015

I think the White-Throated Sparrow below was also from this new location. I will have more pictures and more to say about this newly discovered green space area along the Chicago River in a future post.

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White-Throated Sparrow, October 5, 2015

There have been a lot of Brown Creepers this fall migration.

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Brown Creeper, Lake Shore East Park, October 6, 2015

And Ruby-Crowned Kinglets…

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Lake Shore East Park, October 7, 2015

For a couple weeks, almost, the most ubiquitous bird seemed to be Hermit Thrushes. I am still seeing an individual here and there.

HETH LSE Park 10-07-15 -3954

Hermit Thrush, Lake Shore East Park, October 7, 2015

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are now all gone.

YBSA LSE Park 10-06-15 -3552

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, October 6, 2015

At first I thought the bird below was yet another Hermit Thrush but on closer inspection I have decided it’s probably a Gray-Cheeked Thrush. Light can be tricky, but the heavy spotting on the breast and the darker flanks give him away almost more than his facial pattern.

HETH 9-28-15-2951

Gray-Cheeked Thrush, Lake Shore East Park, September 28, 2015

And for the longer view, here he is again sharing tree space with a shy Lincoln’s Sparrow.

GCTH and LISP LSE Park 9-28-15 -2964

So the warblers are all gone until spring. I did have a late Black-Throated Green Warbler on October 22nd which I posted on my flickr page before I realized I could now just upload it directly into ebird. It was my last “rare bird” sighting.

Below is another picture of the beautiful Blackpoll Warbler from September 28.

BPWA LSE Park 9-28-15 -3013I have more posts in mind and am just working on finding the time and mind space!

Thanks for your patience and indulgence!

Something About Gulls

Heermann's, Western and Herring Gulls 9-17-15 -2367

I’ve been gone from this page far too long. Life has gotten in the way. It’s also been a time of reflection whenever I’ve had a chance to reflect without falling asleep.

Over a week ago when I went back to the pictures from the ABA Olympic Peninsula trip, I was determined to make sense out of the gull pictures, at least, even if I still didn’t have the official lists of what we saw.

A couple days ago copious emails hit my inbox with invitations to accept ebird lists from the ABA, and I haven’t had time to review them after accepting them all.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

While I was away, my Zebra Finches managed to reproduce and I have two more. The juveniles were finally weaned last week and they are just starting to show color in their beaks.

A week ago Tuesday night I had a hunch, called up PetSmart and went out to find Dudlee Ann a male Diamond Dove, whose name is Drew. I also picked up a budgie that appears to be a female, for Jeremy Casanova Green, to distract him from chasing the Zebra Finches. The experiment seems to be working out. I hope to have an update on the indoor crowd in the coming weeks.

Poss Western Gull 9-17-15 -2172

Possible Western Gull 9-17-15

California Gull

California Gull 9-19-15

Perhaps my favorite gull pictures were those taken from the boat when we came upon large mixed flocks of them feeding in the water. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will get the feeling that you are right in the middle of this gull gregariousness.

Gulls2 9-17-15-1590Barely two days before I left for the Pacific coast, I was watching this Ring-Billed Gull fly over the Chicago River on my way to work.

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Ring-Billed Gull over the Chicago River

Ring-Billed Gull 9-14-15 -1686Ring-Billed Gull 9-14-15 -1673The gulls of the Olympic Peninsula were generally much larger than Ring-Billed.

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Western Gull 9-17-15

We saw large groups of Caspian Terns as well. In general it was gratifying to see large numbers of any species.

Caspian Terns 9-17-15-2265

Caspian Terns 9-17-15

Gulls 9-17-15-1590I am proud of myself, I managed to figure out the hybrid gull below before the official list confirmed my ID.

Hybrid Glaucous Wing-Western Gull 9-17-15 -2255

Hybrid Western-Glaucous Winged Gull 9-17-15

Gulls 9-17-15-1589

First-Cycle California Gull 9-17-15 -2188

First-Cycle California Gull 9-17-15

Maybe I have been overreacting to the shorter days, the cooler weather, or the quadruple dose flu shot…or maybe I’m just trying to fit in more than I have energy for. I keep waffling about the choir commitment even though I have missed only one rehearsal when I was away, and have sung in three choir Sundays. I keep waffling about whether I want to continue. It’s been a challenge to find time for the blog and playing my renewed guitars.

Back to the Pacific coast pictures…

Adult Non-Breeding Glaucous-Winged Gull

Adult Non-Breeding Glaucous-Winged Gull

Of course there were other birds and I have thrown in a few pictures…

Common Raven

Common Raven

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican 9-19-15-2664Brown Pelican 9-19-15-2663Marbled Murrelet is a new bird for me.

Marbled Murrelet

Marbled Murrelet

This Red-Throated Loon was distant but if you click on the picture maybe you can see just a little red on its throat.

Red-Throated Loon

Red-Throated Loon

Our last day we saw many shorebirds but they were generally quite far away. I was glad to be able to get on this flock of Western Sandpipers.

Western Sandpipers

Western Sandpipers

I have not been birding a lot but I have been lucky the last two weeks taking pictures here and there of more migrants. Migration is not over yet! I will try to be back much sooner with birds I’ve seen locally.

City Stopovers

Blackpoll Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Here are a few pictures taken at various times over the past few weeks, all in downtown Chicago…

Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

I never manage to see enough of any one species to tire of them. Although Tennessee Warblers often appear abundant, they are not always easy to capture. For comparison with a species they resemble, I have an Orange-Crowned Warbler below.

Orange-Crowned Warbler

Orange-Crowned Warbler

There seemed to be fewer birds altogether this year, but I don’t know if it is due to loss of habitat, weather patterns, being in the wrong place at the wrong time or a combination of all three.

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Northern Waterthrush

I frequently see Northern Waterthrushes on the ground, but less often perched in trees.

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

The day I saw the Kentucky Warbler, there were so few birds altogether at Lake Shore East Park I wasn’t even aware I had seen this rarity until I checked my photographs later. The bird kept ducking in and out of hydrangeas planted near the east end of the park and I was consumed with trying to stop it long enough for a picture.

American Redstart

American Redstart

First-year male American Redstarts seem to be born exhibitionists, on the other hand.

Blackpoll Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

This Blackpoll was pretty cooperative too on the day I saw it.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

And Common Yellowthroats, as difficult as they are to see on their breeding grounds…are frequent park visitors.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

A Hermit Thrush reminding me It’s The Food, Stupid.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

At 155 N. Wacker there haven’t been very many birds, but last week there was this sapsucker scaling a wall.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

And a White-Crowned Sparrow popped out last week at a new spot on the river that looks promising for future visits.

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City Frog

Planters 10-2-15 -3215City Frog 9-24-15-2716

Perhaps the strangest thing I saw this fall was a frog in the corner of one of these wrought-iron-encased planters on Randolph near Wacker. How it got there boggles the mind.

It’s time to say goodbye to the warblers until spring. But many more sparrows are likely to be showing up. I’m thankful for that because they tend to be easier to see! And at least I can always carry on a conversation with White-Throated Sparrows.

AMRE 9-28-15-3082