Inertia and Bald Eagles

It’s been a week. This post has nothing to do with the Fourth – or now, the Fifth – of July except that I realize it’s the first such holiday I have not been compelled to visit Goose Lake Prairie for my annual prairie and Dickcissel fix. I will be going there perhaps in the next week or so now that I have no obligations to a workplace.

I’m going back to photos from the Chicago Portage taken on June 12 and June 18. Just last month, but it already seems like those were slightly cooler days of innocence. Before the loud music from my neighbors’ pool stereo. Before the fireworks. I’ll stop there.

Below is the first time I captured Tadziu, the indomitable Indigo Bunting, on his new perch across his bridge. Also are recordings of his song on both days.

Recording of Tadziu singing on 6/12/22 with Warbling Vireo in background
Tadziu singing on 6/18/22
Looking at Tadziu’s bridge from afar, on 6/18

I captured a Bald Eagle flying over the Portage both days after not having seen one for quite a while.

I still think Brown-headed Cowbird males are good-looking guys.

More Bald Eagle flight photos.

These are not good photographs of a Northern Flicker but perhaps they are interesting in the shadows.

Here’s another Indigo Bunting – not Tadziu – I saw on June 18.

And here’s another Northern Flicker. These photos intrigued me because in the first ones, his tail completely disappears into the tree.

I keep expecting to see flocks of Cedar Waxwings in the mulberry trees, but so far had only barely seen a couple individuals.

12-Spotted Skimmers are relatively common at the Portage.

I haven’t seen Red-bellied Woodpeckers as often as I have heard them, but was able to capture this one at a distance.

Red-winged Blackbirds are not as visible as they were right now, so in good light I try to photograph those I can.

On June 12 I saw this Indigo Bunting and then managed to record his song. You can hear how different it is from Tadziu’s.

Indigo Bunting with Baltimore Oriole answering

I was happy to see a Black-capped Chickadee for a change of pace. It was busy and quiet.

This Ruby-throated Hummingbird was far away but perched so I attempted a couple photos. I hate calling them “shots”…!

Vegetation I haven’t seen or noticed before always attracts my attention. From left to right, Motherwort, a non-native species; Red Clover, also introduced; and galium aparine, known by a plethora of colorful names including Bedstraw, Sticky Willy, Catchweed, Whippy Sticks – now naturalized in the U.S.

Below, perhaps more or less native, allium canadense or Wild Garlic, and Fox Sedge.

There was this beautiful orange fungus on the 12th. I haven’t seen it since, I will have to remember to look for it.

Two tiny insects, what looks like some sort of fly, and a beetle I am too lazy to look up and identify.

I keep photographing this bridge as long as I can still see it through the vegetation, and then a view of the stream overgrown.

Not the clearest photo of a somewhat distant White-breasted Nuthatch but I hadn’t seen one all summer and the two tree barks almost make me dizzy.

One House Wren pondering his next move…

A view of the Des Plaines River from the trail above the bottomlands…

Today is also the 11th anniversary of my blog. And my birthday. I may not be posting as often as usual (albeit I post infrequently enough as it is!) for the next few weeks as I have penciled in – no, engraved in stone – my intention to start working on the book I’ve been meaning to write for the last 20 years. I don’t intend to finish it, but it’s a good time to start: I have no immediate obligations without choir rehearsals during the summer, the weather, whether too hot or stormy, may interfere somewhat with my propensity for morning bird walks, and I don’t know, I just have a feeling that if I start writing it may take me over like the last long writing project I was involved with years ago, and that will be worth doing in and of itself. A long retreat into another corner of my mind. A brief respite from the world’s troubles. Truth in observation. Trying to make sense of it all, but acknowledging when it makes no sense.

Summertime at the Portage

I haven’t been out birding since Sunday morning and I likely will not get to do so until the middle of next week, but that’s okay, I am having a wonderful visit with Linda G., my closest friend since we met in junior high. Birds are occupied with their most important breeding activities which tend to make them hard to see anyway: we might get around to a walk but don’t count on it. But that’s okay, I have a backlog of photos from outings last week and before. These photographs are from last Thursday, June 23.

The forecast was for partly sunny, but this was plenty of sun for me. The temperature was not too hot so I think the birds were enjoying it too.

Baltimore Orioles were in the mulberries. The photograph in the upper left corner of the panel below is of a female.

I was following a bird later that was down low in the grasses and it turned out to be a female Orchard Oriole. You can see how she appears “greenish” compared to the female Baltimore Oriole in the previous panel. I am so happy to know Orchard Orioles are breeding at the Portage.

Indigo Buntings are everywhere – at least the males are still easy to spot. I haven’t seen a female that I could capture lately, but as the summer continues I should start seeing them and the juveniles. I have been seeing Tadziu on both sides of the bridge lately. Here he is perched in his original spot.

And now he also likes the very tippy-top of a tree on the other side. I confess I recorded him three times. He basically sang the same song in all three recordings but I just couldn’t help myself. I can recognize his song from a distance as I approach his territory.

So below are Tadziu’s greatest hits.

The Indigo Bunting below is an entirely different individual. He wasn’t singing for me so I couldn’t record him to compare, but he’s beautiful. I love the way the light plays with these guys.

There isn’t a lot of Squirrel-Tail Grass and I suspect it doesn’t last very long but it was looking good that day.

Below is some variety of sedge I have never seen before and cannot identify, so I welcome any suggestions. At least I think it’s a sedge.

When I got across the south bridge as I walked in, I noticed workers applying herbicides. I had seen what I think was a Forest Preserves truck in the parking lot. I asked one young woman if they were going to tackle the poison hemlock, and she said she didn’t know about that yet, but that they were discouraging Mugwort, which is in the photo below right. Apparently it’s considered an herbal remedy by some but it’s also very invasive, native to Europe and Asia. I think the strategy is to prevent it from flowering and producing seeds, which apparently can be as many as 200 seeds per plant, but it also has a rhizome root system, so stopping seed propagation is only one step in control. I didn’t dare ask what herbicide they were using, but if I see them working again I will get over my prejudices temporarily and try to be a better reporter.

I encountered a young rabbit that day.

I haven’t been able to identify this yellow flower yet but it seems to be a new one at the Portage. I will pay closer attention to the foliage on my next visit and see if I can figure out what it is. It’s so easy to be lazy…

This Chipmunk was nibbling on something.

Downy Woodpeckers are becoming a little bit more visible lately although they are still pretty quiet.

I haven’t seen a lot of European Starlings but these two youngsters were present.

House Wrens are ubiquitous but not always easy to see. I caught this one in a rare moment of silence.

Sometimes I get lucky with swallows, and this day had a few Barn Swallows swooping low over the duckweed.

American Goldfinches are also fond of the duckweed-covered stream and I think it’s a perfect background for this female.

Red-winged Blackbirds are harder to see, but this one was sitting so still I had to commemorate the occasion.

I will try to get back sooner than later but Linda will be staying with me several more days and we have a lot of catching up to do.

Riverside Walks

I hadn’t walked around Riverside for a while so I took a walk Monday while it was still comfortable to be outside. There were lots of Canada Geese and only a few Mallards but I was happy to see the hen below with her two ducklings. I admit I cropped dad out of the picture.

It was also nice to see herons on the water. There were two Great Egrets but they were quite distant, so I photographed only one. I also saw one Great Blue Heron. The water level is so low they are standing in the middle of the river.

I was reminded of the storm the week before, both by the paved walk and later on the Riverside Lawn trail where I had to negotiate three downed trees.

I love the spotty plumage on young American Robins like the one below.

The damselfly treat of the day was a Blue-fronted Dancer.

I often see Common Grackles in the rocks by the river. This is a female.

Almost two weeks earlier, on June 8, I visited Riverside and the first bird I saw was a Cliff Swallow sitting on the wire for quite a while. I don’t see this species very often.

It was a cloudy day. and it was much cooler as well. Again, a Common Grackle caught my eye, this time, a male.

It seemed unusual to see a feral Rock Pigeon on the riverbank.

Canada Geese were in the river. Nothing unusual about that.

There was this little family taking a walk.

I struggled to see and photograph Killdeer that day. They blend in well with the rocks by the former Hoffman Dam.

Here are the first photos I took, literally just pointing the camera in the direction I was hearing the Killdeer.

At some point there was a Turkey Vulture being chased by a Red-winged Blackbird. I love to see the vultures in flight, they are so graceful. A series of several photos is below.

I managed to capture a Baltimore Oriole that day. The photo opportunities have decreased since nesting season has taken over everything.

Here’s one more of the Cliff Swallow.

There were a number of Variable Dancers on the Riverside Lawn trail. They are very tiny,

Summer is official now and hot weather is baked in, so to speak. I have a busy agenda this week and heading into July with the possibility of a house guest for a couple weeks, so my posts may be a little scattered or scatterbrained, but after all it is summertime. Hope you are enjoying the longer days and staying cool enough, wherever you are.

Back to the Slough

It was a nice weekend – two cooler mornings before the anticipated heat returned. I went to the Portage on Saturday morning and decided to visit McGinnis Slough Sunday. This is a brief summary of the McGinnis encounter.

There is very little water. Maybe it’s a little more water than last summer, but some birds I could always count on are not present. I saw no evidence of Trumpeter Swans, for instance. And last year there was a pair of Sandhill Cranes, but I haven’t seen any of those either. There was only one Great Blue Heron fishing close to the log where the Wood Ducks hang out. I could barely see anything through the reeds.

Later I managed a somewhat clearer picture of the Great Blue Heron and a couple deer.

I was surprised to see more people at the preserve than I expected, but I had forgotten that it was a holiday – Father’s Day – and beautiful weather, and why not? I got there fairly early anyway and first encountered a group of Tree Swallows.

This is always an attractive place for dragonflies and I found several beautiful Blue Dashers. I am always chuckling to myself as I try to do macro photography with a 100-400mm lens.

There were a lot of Song Sparrows singing. I only photographed this one, but recorded another briefly. Then at one point I just stood and recorded all the songs of several species I was hearing.

Song Sparrow song
Song Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird singing
Marsh Wren, Red-winged Blackbird and Common Yellowthroat singing

I barely managed to capture a male Common Yellowthroat who had retreated to a perch inside a small tree.

At one point I noticed a Downy Woodpecker feeding its fledgling.

A young American Robin was looking out over the vast expanse of the slough from its perch near the path, as if to reflect upon the world now at its wingtips.

Another young American Robin caught my eye. More of a keeping cool perch.

The water alongside the trail going north

I kept hearing a Virginia Rail, but never even hoped to see it. I followed it with my ears as it moved around, at times not too far from the center lawn that juts out into the slough from the parking lot. Before I left, I sat at a picnic table there to cool off and just observe, when I caught a distant view of a Common Gallinule in my binoculars. It was nearly impossible to photograph but I tried anyway. I have never seen one of these here before. Perhaps this is an indication of the habitat changing.