Owls at the Portage

GHOW 04-08-18-9007Last year two fellows I run into occasionally at the Chicago Portage, Steve and Mike, told me they had seen a Great Horned Owl. I believe it was Mike who showed me his stunning photo of the owl sitting on a stump over the water. But I never saw the owl until two weeks ago making my return trip on the trail that runs along the south side of the stream, when I flushed it and watched it fly to perch in a tree on the other side.

Then last weekend I saw two owls perched on the same branch, looking down at me. The first owl decided to take off when I lifted the camera, but the second owl sat there and stared sleepily at me.

GHOW 04-22-18-0989So are they a pair? Most likely. I suspect the first owl is the female as it is larger. Then I wonder if they have a nest somewhere or if they’re shopping for one. Will I see baby owls? It’s more excitement than I can handle at the moment. But I do suspect that the owls’ presence will keep the other raptors I normally expect to see at the Portage away.

The Portage keeps changing. More trees coming down. I was saddened to see one of my two favorite birch trees in smaller pieces. I can’t imagine what was wrong with it.

I have seen Blue-Winged Teal the last two visits as well. I suspect they’re just visiting though and will go elsewhere to breed.

And a Canada Goose seems to have found her nesting spot in tree trunk.

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Two weekends ago, it was Golden-Crowned Kinglets…

Last weekend there were a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers, although only one captured by the camera.

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I was very happy to see a Tree Swallow last weekend.

Not so many sparrow species. Song and Fox Sparrows, still a few Juncos, and American Tree Sparrows still hanging on through the cold not-quite-spring-weather-yet.

Song Sparrow and Fox Sparrow above, Dark-Eyed Junco and American Tree Sparrow below…

Woodpeckers: Downy, Red-Bellied, Northern Flicker…

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Red-Bellied Woodpecker

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Northern Flicker

A few more captures before I go… White-Breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, preening Mallard, American Goldfinch.

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Brown-headed Cowbird

These pictures were all taken on April 8 and April 22. Unfortunately I don’t expect I’ll be getting near the Portage again until May 12 when I’m leading a small group on a bird walk as my donation to the fundraising member auction for Unity Temple. Until then, I will be traveling at a slower pace. Yesterday I had stem cell replacement therapy on my right knee. The procedure itself was not too awful, indeed I told the physician that his description of what he was about to do to me was far worse than the actual operation and I am hopeful recovery goes smoothly. I’m feeling better than last night: I woke up with very little pain, so now it’s more a matter of keeping stable using crutches for a couple more days to keep weight off the joint whenever I can. I’m looking forward to the final portion of the therapy on Tuesday which involves a simple plasma injection. If the weather is nice, which it is predicted to be, I will be spending the time in between blood draw and later injection birding North Pond and the Peggy Notebaert Museum grounds, a local birding hotspot right across the street from the medical building. I couldn’t have picked a better location to have this done!

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18 thoughts on “Owls at the Portage

  1. The operation sounds frightening so I am glad that you found it passed off well.

    You have seen a good number of birds at the Portage. It is great to have somewhere like that to go to.

    • It wasn’t so bad – no scalpels, just needles! The Portage never ceases to amaze me because it’s less-than-pristine habitat, to put i mildly. But bird memory goes back a long way before ours, so I like to think birds knew about this place long before Marquette and Joliet and they just keep coming back.

  2. You have brave birds still fighting the cold and pretending is warm. Not bad!
    My favorite is the sleepy Owl. Sweet face…
    Take care and protect that knee my friend. πŸ™‚

    • We finally warmed up today and it looks like we’re going to, well, stay warmer than we have been. I love the sleepy owl too. For the brief moment the two of them were sitting there staring at me I thought I was dreaming. Anyway thanks much – I’m feeling better and better. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Julie! I rarely see owls too, I’m not good at spotting them because they usually tend to hide and blend in with their surroundings, but these two were sitting there right by the trail looking down at me. It was as if they knew me and were expecting me. I suppose I am recognizable to a lot of birds there. As for the knee, the procedure was fascinating and I’m feeling a little bit better every day. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks. Likely you do have owls but they have perfected the camouflage rule and then of course most are active nocturnally unless disturbed, sometimes harassed by crows. Consider the fact that on bird trips the option is often to go “owling” at night with flashlights…to find known owls, and it’s still hard to see them.

  3. Good luck with the knee. Some great bird shots there – I’m envious of all the species you have, but if my skills in bird watching in the UK are a guide I’d not see as many as you. I tend to find most birds are brown spots behind a bundle of twigs, and the ones I do see are often beyond my capabilities to photograph. I frequently hear our resident kinglet – the Goldcrest, and often see them, but I’ve never photographed one in focus yet. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks. The knee seems a bit better every day. Only time will tell. As for the birds, the species list increases during migration and the summer months when breeding migrants have returned but you’d have to travel the entire continent to get close to all the species on the U.S. list – there are many, many birds I have not yet seen that reside somewhere in the states. See, I envy you your Goldcrest, as I have never seen one. I agree that photographing birds is frustrating, but I guess it’s the masochist in me that likes the challenge. It’s like getting used to anything else – I have a hard time taking pictures of people, plants, buildings, things that stay still!

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