This past Sunday I met my friend Lesa at Miller Meadow, which is yet another stretch of Cook County Forest Preserve bordering the Des Plaines River. Miller Meadow has a little wooded area interspersed with marshy habitat. There are also planted lawns and picnic tables, a model airplane field and the like. The trails are not suitable for bike-riding or jogging, but we did have a few dog walkers.
We hoped we would see some sparrows, but instead of sparrows all over the ground and in the low vegetation, there were Palm Warblers. Everywhere. By the time we were done we estimated at least 100, but I backed down to 80 and still had to justify the number to ebird.
The remainder of the Palm Warbler photographs here and the one at the very top of the post were taken later, though, at the Chicago Portage. All the photographs were taken with a new camera and lens. I’ve been reading about this outfit for months on Bob Zeller’s blog and I finally decided it was time to make the move.
Last week at work I succumbed to the temptation and invested in the new gear to take to Costa Rica. I usually wind up buying new camera equipment either right after a trip, as in “gosh I wish I’d had that,” or before a trip, which is where I am now. The Canon EOS 70D seemed like less of a priority until I decided that it’s time for my 7D to go to Canon for repairs, so I have been taking the 70D with me to work the last few days. On Sunday I broke in a new Tamron 150-600mm lens, using the 70D body because it’s lighter in weight, and I’m not getting any stronger. At first, getting used to swinging around a 600mm lens is almost daunting. But I remember feeling much the same way after I got my 100-400mm Canon L lens years ago, and I got used to it, so I’m sure this is just a matter of practice, practice, practice. I also feel safer. No one had better mess with me when I’m packing this gear.
But it is Fall Migration season and you never know what to expect with birds on the move. We saw a Broad-Winged Hawk, which was rare enough to be a write-in on the ebird list and it later appeared on the alert system. I don’t know why a hawk would be rare anywhere this time of year but maybe it’s a little early for Broad-Wingeds to move. Just guessing. I am not an accomplished hawk watcher.
It’s hard for me to remember how far away the birds were, I was so busy just trying to focus on them. I seemed to get a better hang of it with the little birds.
Just as we were leaving Miller Meadow around 10:30 or so, the sun was finally coming out and warming up the place, encouraging the birds to come out as well, so I decided to check out the Portage and practice more with the new lens. Of course the light became a challenge with all the deep shadows, but I am encouraged with what I was able to manage with the new setup.
Hanging off the foot bridge on the south side of the creek, I was able to get close to American Goldfinches and Yellow-Rumped Warblers indulging in the duck weed.
Of course the Palm Warblers could not resist the Portage either, and I counted about 50 individuals there.
I was surprised to see a Great Egret in the creek. I might not have attempted these photographs at all with the 100-400mm lens, but I managed at least usable images from a distance. However unforgiving the direct sunlight with an all-white bird as a subject…
So the Palm Warblers picked up the slack this week at the Portage, where last weekend every other bird was an American Robin. I counted no more than 10 Robins this weekend. The large flock has moved on.
I was a bit surprised to see a Scarlet Tanager. I had one a few weeks ago at the Portage. I wonder if this is another response to the change in habitat the tree-cutting and clearing has created.
I hope to be back soon with photos from the Loop where there has been some interesting bird activity over the past couple weeks. And my crows are begging for some attention too so I should probably try to get you caught up with them.
Wow! Quite a nice collection of images, Judy. It looks like you are enjoying your new lens. I love mine, however I have a little difficulty hand-holding it unless I can kneel down and lock it against me, or sometimes I just lean up agin’ a tree. 🙂 Actually, I have obtained a mono-pod and it is working great when walking around. Thanks so much for the shout-out, Lisa. 🙂
This is weird. I couldn’t see your first comment on the website but I have it in my email. We’re having internet issues today. Mike and Steve, the two photographers I ran into at the Portage, were monopod-ing it. That’s funny, I intended to put them in my post last night late when I was starting to get this together but I guess that part went right into my dreams.
I have a trekpod buried in my closet which theoretically works as a monopod, but I am so used to having the camera slung around my shoulder and the binoculars around my neck and the backpack and…I will have to experiment with everything!
Oh, I forgot. I caught your little pun about reading the palm (warbler). 🙂
Thanks, Bob. As you can see, you inspired my entire post! 🙂
I agree with Bob…what a variety of birds..love the Palm Warbler..My viewing of one..
Thank you so much, Syl! 🙂
So my dear Lisa, you’re joining the “big guns” club with the Tamron 150-600mm! Congratulations! It does make a difference for bird shooting. If not ask Bob, he’s a celebrity now! 🙂 Nice pictures!
Thanks, HJ! Hey, the lens is great for making friends with other photographers. Like people meeting walking their dogs, right? I could swear I’d seen Mike and Steve before at the Portage but this time we actually talked to each other and they wanted to know how I felt about the lens. It feels like a big gun but that’s where the whole idea of shooting pictures instead of actually shooting birds…came from. I was surprised I didn’t get any more than the usual “don’t point that thing at me” from the avians. 🙂
I am filled with admiration at the strength that you must have to use such a big lens so well. You took some very good pictures with it. I have tried a monopod but it seemed even more wobbly than hand held unless I could brace it against something.
I don’t think I’m particularly strong, I just don’t know any better. (Those 50-lb. bags of bird seed are getting to be more than I can handle.) But I am basically too lazy to get good at fussing with a tripod. I just want to go out and walk and try to get a few pictures. The camera body weighs about half of the one I normally use so that helped. And the lens itself lost weight when I removed the tripod mount attached to it. It’s almost not the weight so much as getting used to the ungainliness of it. Fully extended, it’s monstrous,
A 50 lb bag of bird seed would put me in hospital! We need a picture of you at work with the big lens.
I could never ride 20 miles on a bicycle…😀
I don’t believe that. Give yourself four weeks to practise and it will come easily.
Great pictures, especially the Northern Flicker in flight. And you’re going to Costa Rica? I am extremely jealous!
Thanks, Jason! As for Costa Rica, it’s a week of helping with bird-banding and the rest of the time going absolutely insane trying to take in all the flora and fauna. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to get to Costa Rica if I hadn’t joined up with Operation Rubythroat but it appears Bill can always use volunteers and if you think you’d be interested shoot me an email. No experience required.