We are experiencing a brief, wet warmup. Due to the forecast, I spent most of this morning indoors. As I sat on the futon and began to assemble this post, I wondered if the precipitation outside inspired a number of my indoor birds to bathe in the pie-plate birdbath that sits atop the third finch cage. Furious after-bath feather shuffling and preening aside, the test of the emergency broadcast system on WFMT brought on the usual immediate response of the Zebra Finch Chorus as they yelled back at it collectively. Yesterday they all responded briefly to what sounded like a child’s vocalization outside. But earlier this morning when I heard the municipal alarm tests in the distance, the birds did not comment. Perhaps only certain frequencies elicit their response. One thing is certain. They never seem to find a reason to protest the noise of fireworks that drive me insane every year.
Since the first few days of 2023 have not afforded any notable sightings and I am weary of trying to focus the camera in this gloomy weather, today’s post reflects previous gloomy visits to the Chicago Portage on December 29 and a smidgen from December 13.
On the 29th, I first spotted a distant Downy Woodpecker
There’s probably no good reason to show three nearly-identical photographs of the Fox Sparrow below, which I encountered on the 29th, except that it insisted on sitting still for so long I had to comply with its request to be noticed. I had been walking the trail encountering no birds whatsoever after the Downy for at least fifteen minutes when I heard a sparrow call from the vegetation on the slope next to the trail. I wasn’t sure which species it was, but I decided to stop and respond to the best of my ability in kind with the call. Soon, this Fox Sparrow came out from where it had been hiding and sat directly in front of me. We stared at each other for a moment and then I slowly raised my lens to see if it was possible to get its photograph. Little did I know the bird would be so starved for attention from anyone that it would sit and sit and, well, you get the idea. I finally had to give up my stillness and cause it to move because it might still be perched there if I had not.
That encounter was enough for me to feel like the visit that morning had certainly been worth it. Anything after that would be icing on the cake. As it turned out, there wasn’t much.
One distant falcon flew over and at first I wrote it off as a Cooper’s Hawk but the bend and angle in the wing and the shape of the head suggested otherwise. I’ve decided it was a Merlin.
Just one gray sky background after another. I kept trying to see if this Hairy Woodpecker would finish preening and decide that he looked okay.
Were it not for this Northern Cardinal’s color I might not have seen him at all.
Here’s how various parts of the Portage looked on the 29th. Absolutely nothing happening in the water either.
Except for the melt and the water draining out under the bridge closest to Harlem Avenue.
One struggles these days to find a couple distantly perched American Goldfinches.
Another Hairy Woodpecker chose a better background. He was a lot closer too than the preening one.
And then right before I left, an adult Bald Eagle flew over the parking lot.
On the 13th the sky appeared even darker.
But things hadn’t gotten quite so cold yet and there was still duckweed – and Canada Geese – in the water. Not much else to report from that day, but it is nice to see a reminder of how much water can accumulate in the stream.
So today has been on-and-off drizzle or light rain, intense fog and even a brief – perhaps for one or two minutes – thunderstorm. Every once in a while the sky gets a bit lighter and I think it’s over only to collapse into utter gloom again. It is turning out to be a good day for cleaning. I cleaned the dining room, I’m doing a load of laundry and I’ll clean cages in the basement later.
Playing a little music for the service on January 1 was somewhat fun, with all the attendant miseries and mishaps of live performance kept to a minimum, and I think I have finally let go of it. All in all it went fine and if I wind up doing it again I’ll know the flow of things better. At the end of the day, to paraphrase a line from the interview segment of The Goat Rodeo Sessions – Chris Thile reiterated what Stuart Duncan said – it’s just music.