Welcome to the Heron Club

Just when you think you know what to expect, everything changes, right? Expecting things to change doesn’t work in reverse, though. Don’t bother trying to figure out what I’m talking about if I’ve lost you already. It’s like trying to predict the weather, only worse. But nothing beats nice surprises.

June 10. According to my daily drivel, my knee was bothering me a lot that morning. I had planting to do, and it was getting hot. It was a Saturday, so I would have to clean the living room later. But I went for a very slow walk at the Chicago Portage anyway. Maybe the birds would make my knee pain less relevant. My walk began pleasantly enough at 8:07 AM. As on previous occasions, I suspect I see more when I am moving ever so slowly.

Cedar Waxwing
Common Grackle

A couple Northern Rough-winged Swallows were taking a break.

Always heard but not usually seen, I got lucky with a look at a Yellow Warbler.

And then I saw two herons fly over. It didn’t immediately register with me who they were.

I got a couple photos of one or the other as they approached the trees.

Then there was a doe.

And I noted the reappearance of Squirrel-tail Grass which I have never seen anywhere else.

It was a good morning for European Starlings to gather. And as they descended to forage in the dried-up duckweed (third photo below), the water looked like a scene I imagine one might find on Mars.

But as I walked on slowly, I noticed a new visitor to the Chicago Portage.

Black-crowned Night-heron

I have never seen a Black-crowned Night-heron here before. And as I slowly approached to get a better view, I realized there were two of them.

One heron watched while the other hunted and caught something.

Perhaps it was a frog or a toad. It looks a bit crustacean-like to me.

As many photos as I took, I restrained myself. The birds were completely aware of my presence but they didn’t seem to mind very much. They likely sensed I was no threat because of my knee.

When I left them to their hunt and resumed walking slowly, the starlings were now in another tree.

A Red-tailed Hawk appeared. The light was nice for photos, but after the herons … maybe only the starlings cared.

American Robins were everywhere, young, mature, everything in between and probably plenty more to come.

Indigo Buntings are also abundant and not shy about it.

Sometime after I left the herons, they took off in the direction of the Des Plaines River.

But later one was in a different spot, visible from the picnic tables someone has put down by the shore close to the inside trail.

I have not seen the pair again, but I have seen one Black-crowned Night-Heron here on a subsequent visit. My expectations are once more redefined. This location has also been quite popular lately with more than one Green Heron, a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret. I will try to post more photos soon from the Heron Club.

6 thoughts on “Welcome to the Heron Club

  1. Nice well crafted lead in to the story and great photos of the Black-crowned Night Herons. Enjoyed your intro on discovering unexpected sights along the trail. Makes us want to keep birding after migration has passed. Each walk can potentially bring us a surprise.

    • Thanks, Bob! Perhaps the slower pace of summer birding reinforces a Zen-like quality to the effort. Time stops.
      Black-crowned Night Herons have patient observation down to a fine art.

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