Meanwhile Back at the Portage

Fox Sparrow, Chicago Portage

Fox Sparrow, Chicago Portage

I am nearly finished going through all the Costa Rica photographs, I think, but in between it seemed like time to check in with the local birds over the holiday. The weather was still warm and pleasant last Sunday, so I visited the Chicago Portage. I was the only human for the first forty minutes or so. I had no expectations, which is my general approach to the Portage – that way I can always be pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be a nice visit, with Fox Sparrows predominant of the 19 total species I encountered.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Dark-Eyed Juncos were present, and they have been in my backyard regularly since the beginning of November. I don’t know if I’ve seen American Tree Sparrows at the Portage before but they were certainly well-represented. And White-Throated Sparrows, a little harder to see here than they are in the city but I got at least one to cooperate.

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Junco

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

On the way out, I couldn’t help but notice the growth below.

Shelf Fungus

Shelf Fungus?

Downy Woodpeckers are always present at the Portage. Sometimes they are easy to see, other times not, but somehow the camera managed to capture this one in flight.

DOWP Portage 11-30-14-8583

Female Downy Woodpecker

Perhaps my biggest surprise was to discover pictures of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker feeding on dried berries, entangled enough to show off its red belly. I honestly don’t remember taking these pictures but I must have. Unless now the camera has completely taken over my brain (beware the warnings about artificial intelligence).

RBWP Portage 11-30-14-8467

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

RBWP Portage 11-30-14-8488

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, in a more likely pose

The Portage itself is always in a state of flux and it looks like this now.

Portage 11-30-14-8275

Also on the way out, about when I thought I would never see a chickadee, this Black-Capped Chickadee and a few of his buddies were foraging in dried stalks that complement their coloring perfectly.

BCCH Portage 11-30-14-8714

Black-Capped Chickadee with a worm

BCCH Portage 11-30-14-8732

Another view of the Portage and its low water levels. No birds in the water at all. There was one Canada Goose on the lawn by the parking lot and five flew over but nobody came down to hang out in the creek.

Portage 11-30-14-8288

One last photo of the Fox Sparrow who is at the top of the page. Fox Sparrows come in different races across the country (Sibley identifies four subspecies and says they’re sometimes considered separate species). The one we get here is the “red” Taiga race and this guy certainly fits the description. I just checked the Cornell website and they mention 18 subspecies within 3 or 4 groups. They are not always so easy to see, so I suppose you could spend a lot of time and effort trying to track down different types of Fox Sparrows across the continent.

FOSP Portage 11-30-14-8693

More to come from Costa Rica, and eventually a report from the home front.

6 thoughts on “Meanwhile Back at the Portage

  1. I for one haven’t seen a Fox Sparrow ever! I sometimes shoot the location where the bird sat and later when I see the photo the bird is there! It’s just force of habit. I just know there’s a bird sitting there but I can’t see it but the camera can. Nice pictures Lisa. 🙂

    • Oh I have to tell the Fox Sparrows to visit you next time I see them! As for shooting and finding the bird later I do it a lot but maybe even more so just trying to hold the camera with the big lens. Thanks, HJ! 🙂

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