Life Goes On

dove-family-11-24-16-0694Life goes on in the Diamond Dove Department, at least. Barely a week and a half ago, on Tuesday the 15th, I became aware of Dudlee and Drew’s new babies – two lovely little Diamond Dovelings. I came home from work and both parents were off the nest Dudlee had built in a mug, with my help. I assumed they had abandoned the nest yet again, as they had two or three times before, because the eggs were not hatching. But this time, instead of abandoned eggs, I saw two good-sized nestlings in their pin feathers. They must have been a week old. One was noticeably larger than the other. I read online that there is a lag of five to seven days between eggs hatching, so that explained the size difference. The pictures directly below are from the 20th, so they kids already had some feathers happening.

By Sunday, the oldest one had fledged! No wonder Dudlee kept craving small nests. She knew she wouldn’t need a lot of room to raise two chicks.

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First Fledged Dove Child

I am not used to this at all, having observed finches and budgies procreating for years, never seeing the fledglings until they were nearly as big as their parents, so I am learning a lot from these creatures. It’s a wonderful distraction from the political malaise, a gift of life in the midst of dystopia. It also makes staying at home more attractive. I wonder if the timing of the presidential election — November, with the inauguration postponed until January — was intended to make an uprising less likely, as in when it’s below freezing outside.

dove-kids-11-26-16-0707Anyway, fatherhood has been good to Drew, who had a twisted and overgrown bill that I kept trimming from time to time when I was able to catch him. His bill seems to be normal now as he is feeding his offspring. Not that I detect an awful lot of feeding going on. It seems to be much more sporadic than with the finches, who clamor for food every waking moment. Instead the Diamond Dovelings tend to sit around all day, waiting patiently for a parent to bestow some food on them. I’m not getting into this, it’s totally up to Dudlee and Drew. They must know what they’re doing because the kids are growing exponentially every day, in spite of my perception that they are being somewhat ignored.

Dudlee and Drew seem to be hell-bent on having more children, unfortunately, and I think their timing is off. Not to mention that I think I have enough doves now. But success has gone to their heads and they spend a lot of time flirting. Dudlee has asked me for her mug back several times. I keep telling her she has a family to raise already. Likely wasted effort on my part, but it’s at least nice to see them all waking up together as they were this morning all perched on the microphone cable.

dove-family-11-26-16-0708The four-day weekend had already gone to my head by Thursday, and I could envision retirement being worthwhile if only it was attainable. The relaxation of a long weekend is persuasive. I’ve done all my major cleaning, I made my first loaf of bread in almost a year, playing piano and trying to get back to writing songs with the guitar… But I’m not ready to share that yet, so below are a couple short videos of the Diamond Doves. Drew’s singing to his chicks in the second one.

Yesterday’s weather was better than today’s which was supposed to start out rather pleasant but it’s been chilly and gloomy all day. Nevertheless I went out to the Chicago Portage this morning to see lots of American Tree Sparrows (a couple pictured below) and a few other species. There was evidence of a lot of new fencing, I assume to protect plants. Save for one cyclist, I was the only human present.

House Finches hang out at the Chicago Portage too.

There were perhaps five Downy Woodpeckers. Here’s one.

I always hear more Black-Capped Chickadees than I see but this one wasn’t too skittish.

The duck weed is all gone, so there actually was water underneath it, and there were Mallards in the water.

There were almost as many Dark-Eyed Juncos as Tree Sparrows but they weren’t posing. The overcast contributed to the lack of focus.

deju-11-27-16-4821Two views of the ever-changing but somehow always familiar Chicago Portage.

The statue of Joliet and Marquette wasn’t looking too cheery either.

statue-joliet-marquette-11-27-16-5014I’ll be back. Looking forward to my remaining cataract surgery on Wednesday, hoping to finally start fixing things up sight-wise. Then I’ll have no excuse for not being focused!

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Let’s Escape to the Galapagos

vermilion-flycatcher-07-13-2016-8736There are plenty of places to see Vermilion Flycatchers and they’re probably not the first bird to come to mind when one visits the Galapagos, but did that stop me from taking way too many pictures of this one? Of course not!

My desire to escape is likely a shared sentiment, so I invite you to Day 4 of the Galapagos adventure. We spent the day at Isabela Island. In the morning we were at Volcan Sierra Negra and in the afternoon, at Punta Moreno.

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welcome-sign-volcan-sierra-negra-7-13-16-0317Some birds we had seen before, others not.

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Striated Heron

Nice look at a lone Whimbrel.

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Whimbrel

Yellow Warblers…

The cutie pie below is a Warbler Finch.

Small Ground Finches…

Woodpecker Finch…

The best opportunity for a picture of Lava Gulls was here.

Green Warbler Finch…

We got our first looks at Galapagos Giant Tortoises, for which the islands are named. Galapagos was a Spanish word for “saddle” which describes the shape of the tortoise shells.

At Sierra Negra the subspecies is guntheri.

giant-tortoise-07-13-2016-9197Below is a video of an interaction between two of these magnificent creatures, which might give you more of an idea.

We were also fortunate to get good looks at the Galapagos Hawk.

At Villamil, Punta Moreno, there was a nice colony of Greater Flamingos.

The dinner sculpture and the next day’s plans…

Three more days’ worth of photos to go. I’m off to a choir rehearsal this evening which should help distract me long enough from the incomprehensible reality to feel empowered by making a little noise.

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Return to Galapagos – Day 3

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Galapagos Green Turtle

Getting through these pictures is almost more exhausting than…being there? Than…getting to work Friday morning through the Cubs Victory Parade Crowd?

Or picking up my annual birdseed order from Chicago Audubon yesterday?

Back to the Galapagos.

Below you are looking at potentially the most exciting bird we saw on the entire trip. Why? It wasn’t on our list because it’s endangered, so we were lucky enough to be allowed to look for it. Somehow our group got permission to visit the normally off-limits part of Southern Isabela Island, known as Playa Tortuga Negra, where the Mangrove Finch still exists in declining numbers.

Also on this side of the island, a lovely Galapagos Flycatcher, interesting plants, and the ubiquitous Galapagos Mockingbird.

galapagos-mockingbird-7-12-16-7905We went back to the catamaran for an early lunch, then went snorkeling before exploring the lava rocks on the other side of the island. I tried out my underwater camera gear for the first time. I was not able to capture anything very well, but the dive was great fun. We never stayed in for very long, but I always felt like I could stay down forever.

The lava rock on the other side of Isabela, from the landing known as Punta Moreno, was a challenge to negotiate.

I’m likely not keeping all the photographs in order, but the presence of rock has a way of keeping things together. Below, Brown Pelicans on the left and a Blue-Footed Booby on the right.

We had our Galapagos Yellow Warbler for the day (below left) and a Small Ground Finch.

Below, a Striated Heron with a Sally Lightfoot Crab.

There were nesting Brown Pelicans (below), on the Playa Tortuga Negra side.

nesting-pelicans-7-12-16-8372A closer look at the Sally Lightfoot Crab and a Lava Lizard on the right. You’ll have to click on the pictures to see them better.

Two types of cactus grow in the lava rock, Lava Cactus and Candelabra Cactus. Whichever one is getting started on the left seems to prove the point.

Below, some more species endemic to the islands: the Lava Heron and Galapagos Shearwater.

The Brown Noddy on the left is not an endemic species, but the Flightless Cormorant is. Check out its very blue eye.

Where we saw the Flightless Cormorants nesting it was hard to get detail because of the intense light. So I’m glad I got to see the blue eye on the one above.

Below, the Galapagos Penguin. This was our best chance to see this delightful bird.

Marine Iguanas piled up on top of each other…

Another Galapagos species…the White-Cheeked Pintail. We saw them wherever there was fresh water. This is the only duck species on the islands.

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Galapagos Sea Lion

Again, we were pampered daily by the crew…the dinner sculpture on the left, and a sculpture of fresh towels in our cabin on the right.

Here, back home in Chicago, it is November and we are having warm, sunny weather in the 70’s. The irony leading up to the worst presidential election of my lifetime is not lost. I’m borrowing that sentiment from a sermon heard while singing in the choir this morning. Not the irony part, but life seems overloaded with irony lately.

I find I’m reminding myself to appreciate the moment as if there’s a more acute sense that I should not be taking anything for granted.

I’ll be back as soon as I can manage it. I promise.🙂

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Putzing Around the Portage

amgo-portage-10-23-16-3645amgo-portage-10-23-16-3474Yesterday morning was perfect fall weather, the sun was shining, it was cool but comfortable, and it seemed like I should walk around and get used to taking pictures looking through the camera lens with the right eye again. I have had the new prescription for a week.

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In any event I take back whatever I said last time I posted about the Chicago Portage. Perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder. I noticed when I submitted my bird list to ebird that a month had passed since my last visit. Just seeing the old place in the beginning of its fall colors felt like coming home.

A lot of issues with shadows yesterday. The angle of the sunlight and its brightness made some of the photos almost useless. Above, one of two Cooper’s Hawks, a too-bright White-Throated Sparrow and a House Finch.

The Red-Tailed Hawk above appeared momentarily after the Cooper’s Hawks left. I was glad to have arrived at bird-of-prey time.

Most numerous of all species were Mallards, although there was a group of 26 Canada Geese too.

Above, a Red-Winged Blackbird and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. As the days grow ever shorter, chances to see both species will diminish.

I was surprised to see so many House Finches, like the two above. Maybe the habitat change is taking effect.

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Song Sparrow

I caught this Song Sparrow too busy eating something to flush, and thankfully for me, he was in better light.

Black-Capped Chickadee and Dark-Eyed Junco… the Junco is proof that winter is on the way.

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Carolina Wren

I heard the Carolina Wren while I had stopped to talk to a fellow Portager, and was very glad to find it later, even if it was somewhat hidden from view. I haven’t seen or heard Carolina Wrens here for at least 2 years. But migration being what it is I shouldn’t get my hopes too high.

Even though I missed the raptors flying, I did get a helicopter. Maybe I scared it away with my lens… The photo on the right is just some marshy overgrowth.

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American Goldfinch

The Goldfinches were numerous and busy eating. I’ve been busy too planting more for them to eat this time of year in my yard, since they seem to have turned their beaks up at the niger seed. But if I can’t attract the flocks I used to with that stuff at least it’s good to see them happy at the Portage.

I’ll be back with Part 3 of the Galapagos.

Galapagos Part 2: Genovese Island

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Short-Eared (Galapagos) Owl

Life has been getting in the way a bit more lately: my apologies for the delayed post. Every time I go back to these photographs I think it will be easy, that I must have been done with them, and then I find out that is not the case. Then I was looking forward to a weekend without much planned thinking I was going to do a lot of work at the computer and it just didn’t happen.

I think WordPress takes matters into its own hands when I haven’t posted for a while and generates some kind of phenomenal amount of hits, then sends me a message our of the blue saying my blog is really popular. This has happened to me twice lately. I get the hint. Okay, back to work.

These photographs were all taken on Monday, July 11, 2016 as we visited what is called Prince Phillip’s Steps in the morning, on Genovese Island, and Darwin Bay on the other side in the afternoon. Galapagos Dove and Nazca Boobies above.

This was the only island where we could see Red-Footed Boobies.

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Some Nazca Boobies had youngsters. There seemed to be a problem trying to feed too large a fish to the fledgling.

This Swallow-Tailed Gull below seemed to be having the same problem. I suspect there may be an upset in the availability of smaller prey. But at least they weren’t trying to feed plastic.

The Swallow-Tailed Gulls are quite striking. You will likely see them again in future posts. We even got treated to a pair that was copulating.

It was a real treat to spend time with the Short-Eared (Galapagos) Owl below. Leave it to a Galapagos Mockingbird to bother him. As always, feel free to click on the pictures to get a larger view.

I think I spent the entire trip trying to get a decent photograph of a Red-Billed Tropicbird. There is likely a better flight shot down the line in a future post. In any event we got to see a lot of them on Genovese and even discovered one nesting (below).

nesting-red-billed-tropicbird-gal16b-lisa-spellman-7285Magnificent Frigatebirds also call this island home.

And we got to see what to my uneducated eye is the difference between the Magnificent and the Great Frigatebird: a blue-green sheen to the plumage of the latter.

And of course we had Darwin’s Finches! Four different species on this island. The first, below, is the Large Ground Finch.

Then, the Large Cactus Finch.

And we also had the Sharp-Beaked Ground Finch.

Also, below, the Gray Warbler-Finch.

Not to be confused with the Yellow Warbler.

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Yellow Warbler

We also saw a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron trying to sleep.

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

And I think this was the only time we got to see a Galapagos Fur Seal.

galapagos-fur-seal-7-11-16-7360Not to be confused with the ever-present Galapagos Sea Lion.

More Sally Lightfoot Crabs…

Back at the catamaran, we were treated to another fruit sculpture and received our marching orders for the next day.

I’ll try to be a better blogger and come back sooner. If nothing else, just to escape the landslide into November 8th.

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City Migrants – Fall Migration 2016

If I’d been thinking clearly I probably would have postponed the cataract removal until after fall migration, but I ventured anyway into the wilds of downtown Chicago after I convinced myself that with patience and practice I could temporarily look through the view finder on the Canon with my left eye… Anyway, I managed to find quite a few cooperative birds to photograph and have decided to share them now before I invite you back to the Galapagos. A couple more shots of the Chestnut-Sided Warbler below. Responding to my thoughts, as I’m taking pictures of him, of “what a beautiful bird you are.”

First-year male American Redstarts are always welcome.

Things didn’t seem to get really active until last week. There’s probably a whole lot more I could have done if I put my mind to it, but I’ll get my new prescription lens in a few days and with luck, all my kvetching will fade away. (Don’t hold me to it!)

Red-Winged Blackbirds breed in Millennium Park so these birds below likely hatched this year.

Below, a Canada Warbler on the left and a Wilson’s Warbler on the right, both at Lake Shore East Park a couple weeks ago. The Canada was shy.

Juvenile European Starlings in their in-between plumage, which I find fascinating. They look more like “Star”-lings to me. They’re not exactly migrants…unless they’re from another planet?

starlings-9-9-2016-lse-park-0604I wonder if the Common Grackle below could be a molting adult, without its long tail.

cogr-9-16-2016-lse-molting-1005Magnolia Warblers have been coming through for weeks.

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Not a lot of thrushes this year – sometimes they show up in large groups. A Gray-Cheeked Thrush that was at 155 N. Wacker on the left, and a Hermit Thrush on the right and below.

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Hermit Thrush

Two views of an Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Boeing garden, below.

Two Blackpoll Warblers…

Similar to the Blackpoll but a bit different this time of year, a Bay-Breasted Warbler. I think! Confusing Fall Warblers redux.

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Bay-Breasted Warbler…?

Two more Blackpolls below.

And now, signalling the tail end of warbler migration, Palm Warblers, below…

and Yellow-Rumped Warblers (Myrtle subspecies).

And the same two species in flight, Palm on the left, Yellow-Rumped (with the yellow rump showing), below. Note the similarities…and differences.

My prize discovery last week was a beautiful male Black-Throated Blue Warbler. I think we have been seeing more of this species the last couple years but it’s still not common and always special. Luckily this one liked to show off.

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Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Golden-Crowned Kinglets are coming through but hard to capture in cloudy light. Or at least that’s my excuse.

gcki-9-29-2016-lse-park-1873On the 29th I saw this presumably female Wilson’s Warbler, below, at Lake Shore East Park, and am glad I had pictures to prove it to ebird – apparently it’s late in the season to see a Wilson’s. Others reported seeing them too, in the area.

I always look forward to the return of the White-Throated Sparrows. I have seen a couple other species too and I’m hoping to take some pictures of them this week.

The Black-and-White below appears to be a female.

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Black-and-White Warbler

A late Magnolia.

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Magnolia Warbler

Red-Breasted Nuthatches are visible this year.

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Red-Breasted Nuthatch

I have a new crop of juvenile Crows that look for me. We will hang out more over the winter months when there are no more migrants.

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I had to run an errand on Friday all the way over to the river, and on the way back into the office, as I crossed the street at Wells and Madison, I heard a loud “caw-caw-caw.” I stopped and looked up but saw nothing. “Caw-caw-caw” again. I waited. People streamed by me on their way to wherever, I’m sure they did not hear the crow, and no one was curious about why I had stopped to look. Then, in the top branches of a locust tree planted in the sidewalk across the street, the crow moved. After we acknowledged each other’s presence, he was silent. I crossed the street to get a better look and he appeared to be fiddling with something dark but I can’t say what it was, a bat, shoe leather, hard to tell without binoculars. But how nice to be recognized by this super-intelligent creature. Made my day.🙂

Introduction to the Galapagos

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Blue-Footed Booby

I never thought going through pictures I took two months ago would be so therapeutic, but it turns out after being away from them and the pressure hanging over my head to get through them when life got too much in the way, it’s feeling pretty good to go back to the Galapagos through these memories. These pictures are all from Day One.

Our first morning we flew from Quito to Guayaquil and then to Baltra Island. While waiting at the dock to be transported to the catamaran sailing vessel where we would spend 9 days visiting as many of the islands as possible, it became apparent that we might be seeing sea lions and marine iguanas virtually everywhere.

My entertainment included watching Brown Noddys following a Brown Pelican (Southern) who was trying to fish.

brown-pelican-7-10-2016-6308The predominant species of crab is the Sally Lightfoot Crab which delights me by its name almost as much as its appearance. The photograph on the right has a Galapagos Striated Heron in it, an endemic also referred to as the “Lava Heron.”

Magnificent Frigatebirds were so abundant I nearly forgot to pay attention to them later in the trip so I’m glad I managed to get some photographs the first day.

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Great Blue Herons were seen on several of the islands.

great-blue-heron-7-10-2016-5201We got on and off the catamaran using a vessel I’m pretty sure was referred to as a “panga” and was designed with seating on the sides so you could throw your gear in the middle of the boat. I seem to have only this picture of the boat from a few days later, but I think the islet pictures must have been taken from it. Below the picture of the panga is a Whimbrel on the shore of an islet.

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Also on the same little islet, the first and farthest views I would have of a Galapagos Mockingbird.

Brown Noddies…

Our first island stop on the afternoon of our arrival to the catamaran was at Santa Cruz Island. The catamaran sailed from island to island, set anchor and we were transported to the island in the panga. A word about our itinerary: the islands we would visit and when were determined by the authority of the Galapagos National Park to insure that not too many people were on any island at any one time. Some islands were off-limits altogether, but there was plenty left to see.

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Black-Necked Stilt

The Black-Necked Stilt above and the White-Cheeked Pintails below are not native to the Galapagos but still very nice to see.

The Marine Iguanas were irresistible.

Below, Blue-Footed Boobies in a flight pattern and a view of the beach where we landed to explore.

The Yellow Warbler below is a subspecies found in the Galapagos. This turned out to be a very common bird and easy to photograph.

The two finches below would be seen almost every day, but these were my introductory looks at them.

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Small Ground Finch

Darwin’s Finches all evolved with different adaptations to their environment. For whatever reason these finches were named “ground” finches, I must admit that for the most part we did see them on the ground and not in trees or bushes.

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Medium Ground Finch

I have dreamed for years of getting decent looks at American Oystercatchers. They’re not rare or native to the Galapagos but it was such a delight to be able to get close enough to this pair.

Off the stern of the catamaran we often had seabirds following us. Elliott’s Storm-Petrels were the most common. The challenge was to sit and try to capture them as the boat swayed.

Back on board the Nemo III every evening for dinner, our chef prepared great food and a different fruit-and-vegetable sculpture. I may have to do a separate post featuring all of these.

dinner-sculpture-7-10-2016-0171One more look at an oystercatcher…

american-oystercatcher-7-10-2016-5424I’ll be back with so very much more, this trip was amazing. Although I can’t imagine going back and doing it all over again, in a way I wish I could. I guess that’s the reason for taking pictures. This time I’m really reliving an entire experience, not “just” the birds.

Right now I have to go clean up the tree mess in the alley. The Horse Chestnut is dying and losing its leaves early. I hope I won’t have to cut it down.