American Redstart Returns

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American Redstart (male, 2nd year or older) at 155 N. Wacker

I heard a bird in my yard the other morning that didn’t sound like any of the regulars. Rather, it reminded me of the American Redstart I heard at 155 N. Wacker about a week ago – all along thinking there was a Common Yellowthroat hiding somewhere, until I realized it was the Redstart singing.

The bird downtown was pretty insistent – I think he was trying to get me to pay attention to him. The next day when I stopped by the little park at 155 N. Wacker, he was gone. So he was probably telling me to get a photo before he left, which I did.

Below, some badly lit shots of another adult male…

American Redstarts have a reputation for being hard to identify by song because they have so many different songs, or different dialects, and I have never really paid that much attention to their singing because they’re usually easy to identify with one flash of the tail.

AMRE 5-18-17-9221But after hearing the bird in my yard, which unfortunately I did not see and because I had to go to work I couldn’t hang out long enough to look for it, I wondered if perhaps Redstarts might pass around a  new “hit song” every spring – sort of like the Humpback Whales that come up with new songs they spread around, or like European Starlings that decide their new “hit” is to imitate a Killdeer, for instance, which was a phenomenon I observed a few years ago.

Below, some first-year males in transition. It’s interesting to see how the black and orange coloring is slowly coming in.

So I guess now I will be paying more attention to this bird’s vocalizations. It’s a reminder that I really should buckle down and learn to recognize more warbler songs anyway since half the time I am struggling to see them and don’t get a view worth noting otherwise.

Below is a female American Redstart. A bit duller in color than the first-year males.

Lots more birds to think about lurk in pictures I have taken through this peripatetic migration season. I will be back with more after the Memorial Day weekend.

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Millennium Magnolia

MAWA 5-17-17-8929Another brief post devoted to one bird, the Magnolia Warbler, which I finally saw well on Thursday morning. I got up at 3:40 AM to catch an early train downtown so I could bird the parks for nearly a couple hours, just to test my perception that there were fewer migrants than previous years.

My perception is correct, I think, based on several factors. The populations of neotropical migrants are already in a downward spiral, and the effects of habitat loss and climate change are tipping the scales. Habitat for stopovers during migration is just as critical as breeding and wintering habitat. Locally, the abrupt changes on the downtown lakefront due to “improvements” have not helped to support migrants. Although I think eventually the pockets of recently planted natural landscaping will offer more respite, it takes years for plants to establish themselves and for the birds to know they can rely on them. Birds tend to return to places that have proven good for them before. When those places disappear, birds have to go somewhere else.

So from the reports I was getting while stuck in the office, the party invitations had already gone out and most of the migrant action was at Montrose Point, also known as the Magic Hedge, which is understandable and predictable, but frustrating when you know you can’t get there to see it.

This bird was among a few other species in the south sculpture garden at Millennium Park, where only a few years ago the planted pines would light up with brightly colored warblers resembling a Christmas tree (I give all credit for that sentiment to my friend David Johnson). For a moment I could almost trick myself into thinking it was happening again.

MAWA 5-18-17-8911Magnolia Warblers, affectionately nicknamed “Maggies,” are usually quite conspicuous and I have always found the males happy to engage with the camera. So I was able to get a few halfway decent shots of this backlit but beautiful guy who was otherwise zooming in and out of the pine needles seeking insects.

I got a break today from the migrant search as the weather has dictated moderation. Our temperatures plummeted yesterday about 35 degrees and the forecast for today is intermittent rain with thunderstorms likely. With any luck I’ll be able to work in the yard a bit in between downpours. But it was nice to “sleep in” for a change on a Saturday, – until my indoor crowd woke me up at 6:00, a full half hour or so after sunrise when they began to greet the day vocally. Someday I have to be awake enough to record the indoor dawn chorus…

Brief Blackburnian Blitz

 

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I readily admit to obsession and distraction. Warblers are here. While there has been no definitive all-at-once-get-it-now-or-never rhythm to this spring’s warbler migration, the fits and starts due to divergent weather patterns have made it all the more challenging to find and photograph these elusive creatures.

This is just a quick post devoted to a couple Blackburnian Warblers seen over the weekend. The one in the oak tree directly above was at Jarvis Bird Sanctuary along the lakefront, and the other in what is likely a cottonwood tree, at the Chicago Portage. More of the Portage bird below, showing off striking black and white plumage. This bird was really distant so I apologize for the quality of the photos.

Many more birds to come, just needed to take a breath before diving back in.

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Bullfrog Break

Bullfrog 4-15-17-0899Bullfrog 4-15-17-0886A few weeks ago I took my car to the dealer for its annual checkup and then went to McGinnis Slough to see how spring was progressing. As I walked through the path next to the marshy area the grass started to move, and I determined there had to be frogs hopping into the water out of sight. After stopping  and waiting for a while, I was able to finally see some Bullfrogs and photograph them. They were capable of moving so quickly, I’m glad a few sat still for me.

Not a lot of birds present yet, but the Song Sparrows were abundant.

This female Red-Winged Blackbird was an indication that some breeding birds are ready to get down to business.

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Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Always nice to see a male Wood Duck even as he started swimming away from me.

Still seeing Ruby-Crowned Kinglets even three weeks after I took these pictures. I suspect the cold winds still pushing down from the north is keeping them from progressing to their breeding grounds. Have not been able to get one to reveal its Ruby Crown.

The male Belted Kingfisher below was busy.

We’re a lot leafier now, but the trees were just beginning to show some green for the robin below.

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American Robin

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There were likely more American Coots like the one at left, but I didn’t see a lot of them even skulking around in the marsh.

 

 

 

As I was panning on the Red-Tailed Hawk below it flew into the sun and even though it was somewhat cloudy that was not something I was planning to do, but I like the way it turned out.

RT Hawk in the Sun 4-15-17-0838One more Bullfrog shot. Who knew they could be so pretty?

Bullfrogs 4-15-17-0904And as promised a few more from the Science March.

Hope to be back soon with a report from the indoor crowd, the Spring Bird Count, more from Panama, Migration Central…wherever the wind blows me next (it’s unseasonably chilly and windy today).

A Little Panama, a Little Protest

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Great Jacamar

I stayed home last night instead of going swimming because I just didn’t feel like going out in the weather again. It was chilly, rainy and windy all day and after a busy weekend it felt like a stay-at-home-with-the-birds night, providing me enough mental energy for combing through the Panama Pictures.

It wasn’t always easy to find the birds…when I was taking the pictures, or going through the pictures later. Like this Bay Wren below.

Or this American Pygmy Kingfisher.

Some were a bit more obliging, like the White-Whiskered Puffbirds below. Male on the left, female on the right.

Or the Scarlet-Rumped Cacique that took forever to finally turn around and show me the field mark it was named for. I’m rather enamored of its blue-ringed eyes.

Just as I almost got the White-Tailed Trogon in focus, it left.

Woodcreepers are unique, and the Black-Striped Woodcreeper below is particularly so.

This Rufous Mourner didn’t appear very mournful to me; I think it must be named after its song.

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Rufous Mourner

Below is a somewhat distant Masked Tityra.

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Masked Tityra

Another beautiful skulker below, a Chestnut-Backed Antbird. When I see an antbird I always feel like a Peeping Tom.

Mealy Parrots are fairly common in Central and South America, but I find them beautiful and wish they had a more attractive name.

Below, one of many Mantled Howler Monkeys that were hard to fit into a picture.

Mantled Howler Monkey 3-14-17-2280I know, I promised you Protest, so here we go with a series of some shots from the Science March in Chicago on April 22nd.

I think I’ll spread the Science March photos out over a few posts – likely marches will be ongoing all spring/summer/dare I say all year? and we’ll stay in the mood.

There’s a spring bird count to do on Saturday morning, choir on Sunday, and if it ever stops raining, the garden beckons. Stay tuned for more from Panama, spring migration, etc. Thanks for your visit!

Back to Panama, Day 1 continued

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Orange-Chinned Parakeet

More birds from the first full day of a short but colorful trip. It’s always a delight to see parrots and parakeets, after you’ve managed to distinguish them from the leaves of the trees into which they blend so well. Orange-Chinned Parakeets were our most common psittacine species.

The picture below is as close as I got to the tiny spec of “orange chin” this bird is named for. I’ve come to the conclusion you can only “see” it in the field guide illustrations.

Orange Chin of the Orange-Chinned Parakeet 3-13-17-1564Below is a Yellow-Tailed Oriole. I saw a lot of different Orioles all at once years ago in Belize and got terribly confused. Luckily this was the only Oriole we had to worry about except for the Baltimore Oriole which we shall see shortly in spring migration in the United States, with many staying to breed throughout the summer.

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Yellow-Tailed Oriole

Later in the day we visited some wetlands and caught glimpses of the juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron on the left and its parents on the right.

Also present in the wet areas were Northern Jacanas like the one below.

I think I have never seen a Greater Ani before, only Groove-Billed and Smooth-Billed. I was surprised to see the scalloped blue edges on its feathers.

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Greater Ani

We had some raptors too. The Gray-Lined Hawk below is a new species for me. What a gorgeous creature.

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Gray-Lined Hawk

I’ve seen Zone-Tailed Hawks before, but never really gotten such a detailed view of their feather patterns underneath.

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Zone-Tailed Hawk

The Black Vulture below is feather-challenged but still elegant in flight. Black Vultures outnumbered every other kind so you will be seeing more pictures of them.

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Black Vulture

I couldn’t resist throwing in a few more pictures of a Plain-Colored Tanager. I’m sure he was pleased I paid so much attention to him.

This Black-Headed Saltator isn’t living up to its name. If it weren’t for the overall shape of the bird and the white eyebrow I would still be trying to figure out who it was.

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Black-Headed Saltator

We saw a lot of Yellow Warblers, and there have been a few reported to have made their way to the Midwest in the U.S. already.

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Yellow Warbler

This is not my greatest picture of a Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird but I like the branch it’s on.

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Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird

Red-Lored Parrots were seen a few times too. This bird seems to be feeding on something here. Looks crunchy, what fun.

There was a Three-Toed Sloth in a tree close to the tower we stayed in. It blended in well but luckily was exposed enough for a photograph.

Three-Toed Sloth 3-13-17-1424It’s been a busy week, with the March for Science last Saturday, then Choir Sunday at Unity Temple, work, upcoming rehearsal and participation in the Spring Music Festival at Unity Temple-United Lutheran which my friend Linda and I attended last year but this year we are performing Schubert’s Sonatina for Flute and Piano. I managed to get in a swim last night but the rest of the week is clamoring for attention. I’ll be back with more birds from Panama as soon as I can.

Happy Spring!

Montrose and My CF Card Snafu

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I hadn’t been to Montrose Point – the Magic Hedge – for years, so I thought it was a good idea when my friend Susan suggested we meet there on my one free Sunday morning this month, which turned out to be Palm Sunday on the calendar, for those of you who relate to that. It was a fine day, and not overly crowded with friendly birders or photographers, which can happen later in the season with warbler migration.

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Winter Wren

I was pleased to discover that the paths are now more clearly marked and the natural areas roped off, which likely makes the birds feel more secure.

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Tree Swallow

Unfortunately I only have maybe half the pictures I took, because I neglected to make sure they had all transferred off the camera that takes compact flash (“CF”) cards as well as SD cards.

While I was in Panama I discovered that I could no longer transfer pictures off a CF card reader to the laptop, so I had to wait until I got home to find the patch cord that came with the Mark III 5D and transfer them directly from the camera. Something has apparently changed in the software and I wonder if the plan is to render CF cards obsolete.

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Swamp Sparrow

All that said, while I was transferring my Montrose pictures, the laptop appeared to be finished ingesting them and I disconnected the camera and wiped the card clean. Only when I went to process did I realize I was missing the last hour or so of photos that I took.

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Common Grackle

I was mourning this loss for days because I had some great shots and they were gone forever. But I also knew the loss would be minimized the sooner I took more pictures, and told myself it was a learning experience. (“What’s your favorite song?” “Uh, I guess the one I just wrote.”)

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Brown-Headed Cowbirds and one female Red-Winged Blackbird

I will never reformat a CF card, or an SD card, for that matter, again before I check to make sure I have transferred everything off of it. (Repeat after me…)

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American Robin

After some deliberation it appears all the thrushes we saw were Hermit Thrushes, below.

One generous individual pointed out to us the female Coyote below, who otherwise faded into her surroundings.

Coyote 4-9-17-0568I won’t elaborate on what is missing from these pictures after we saw the coyote… I’ll be back soon with more from Panama, just needed to put this to rest.

P.S. Three more days until the March For Science!