First Crow Post of 2023

Last weekend I was determined not to let another cloudy day deter me from having some fun, so on Sunday morning I drove downtown to visit the American Crows on the Chicago lakefront – armed with peanuts in the shell and a fresh batch of Crows Favorite Cookies I had baked the day before.

Since Crows always know ahead of time what is bound to happen, it didn’t take long for my followers to find me. But when I first rode the elevator up to street level from the underground parking garage, the sky was not inviting.

Yet within a moment or two I saw two Crows flying overhead. I crossed Columbus Drive and entered that section of Grant Park just north of Buckingham Fountain that does not have its own name, as far as I can tell. But it has a statue and a garden and other features that differentiate it from some of the other sections. Unfortunately those features did not invite photographs in the winter gloom.

Grant Park, north of Buckingham Fountain

I was soon joined by one Crow.

And within half a moment I had three – then four – Crows coming to see me.

It had occurred to me that photographing black birds on a gray day was not going to be fruitful, but the Crows gave me plenty of opportunities anyway.

The first Crow seemed to remember the cookies. But the others went for the peanuts initially. There was one Crow who decided to approach a piece of cookie by first jumping back from it in case it was a trap – or a bomb – and when the cookie did not attack it, the Crow bravely took the sample.

I took too many photographs of the Crows, but I haven’t visited with them for a year, so I couldn’t help myself. I just have to visit the lakefront more often this year.

A Crow observing a Gray Squirrel who went straight for the cookie

It was time to cross Jean Baptiste Dusable Lake Shore Drive and move toward the lakefront. The Crows came with me.

I should perhaps mention that the Crows were cawing in the key of B minor which matched the music playing in my head. I take for granted that they read my thoughts, but I had forgotten they also seem to be able to listen in on my ear worms.

Crows are great birds to feed, in no small part because they are fastidious in gathering their food and carrying it off to stash for later consumption. No mess!

At some point I noticed the sun was trying to come out from behind the clouds.

Once I was at the lakefront, the Crows followed me a bit but did not go beyond the Chicago Yacht Club. Unlike my visit last year, I had only about 8 Crows total this time with no others north of the yacht club at Monroe Harbor. So I brought home the extra cookies and peanuts. Cookies for me, peanuts for the squirrels.

There were not a lot of birds in and around the lake but I had a nice walk and it was just good to be on the lakefront again.

Monroe Harbor

At least I got to see a couple Red-breasted Mergansers for a change.

Sunshine, which had been absent all week, began to return by the time I was already on my way home. The next day, Monday, was The Sunny Day of the Week. Tomorrow, we are promised, sunshine returns. It will be colder than it has been, but it is January. I will likely visit the Chicago Portage.

I have more of the usual local visits to report and will be back. Looking forward to singing with the choir Sunday morning. Our three selections are all in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Portage Recently

After two days of inclement weather earlier in the week, I couldn’t stand the thought of not walking, so I put on my long underwear and all the other necessary layers to endure a very cold walk Thursday morning at the Chicago Portage. I didn’t see a lot of birds, but I was happy to catch up with the flock, such as it was, eventually. Most of the birds were quite far away and the cloud cover made it that much harder to capture their images.

The last time I was there before that was last Sunday, the 13th, when at first the sky proved more interesting than anything on the ground.

But then I saw a deer.

The sun came out and made it quite pleasant.

American Robin

House Finches have been more noticeable lately as they move around with the sparrow and cardinal groups. For the most part, any birds I am seeing lately have been part of a larger mixed flock.

I managed to capture a Fox Sparrow that day. They are larger than other sparrows and they tend to sit still for a while, making the only challenge how far away they have decided to perch.

I have been seeing American Tree Sparrows at the Portage for weeks now. I don’t think I have seen any in Riverside yet although there are likely some there. Their arrival always verifies winter. Although the bird below had its back to me I think I found the feather pattern attractive.

Of course Dark-eyed Juncos spend their winters here too.

And Black-capped Chickadees are a year-round delight.

So this was how the Portage looked on the 13th.

Some more American Tree Sparrow photos from that day. This bird was perched at quite a distance.

Below might be the same bird in the earlier photos. I just found it interesting to see how well it blended in with the foliage, especially in the middle photo below. Hard to tell where the bird begins and the brush ends.

It was much colder on Thursday, but at least there was sunshine for a while.

Here’s how the sky looked when I stepped out my front door.

But by the time I got to the Portage, the scene was much gloomier.

I see Mourning Doves more often in my backyard lately, but this one was present at the Portage on Thursday morning.

The Northern Cardinals stand out now that all the leaves are gone.

As long as there is open water, there will be Mallards. This water is pretty shallow though. I suspect it could be frozen over by now after the second day of extreme cold.

I heard a Fox Sparrow chirp – which the Merlin App confirmed – but didn’t realize I had probably seen it until I found this barely captured bird in my photos later.

Fox Sparrow

Here are a few more images from Thursday’s outing. There weren’t many. But I’m glad I went. Yesterday and today have proved too cold, blowy and somewhat snowy for my taste. Maybe I’ll reacquaint myself with the mirrorless camera as it would be a lot less to carry around and manipulate with gloved fingers.

House Finch
Gray Squirrel
American Robin

Going for a walk every morning has become an integral part of my daily routine, so I don’t intend to stay inside for long. I did go swimming yesterday and it was rejuvenating. My greatest joy every day is to play piano for the birds when they join in with such enthusiasm. I hope to manage posting a few recordings in the not-too-distant future. After all, that’s how this whole thing started.

I may spend a little time in the yard this morning. If I had been outside long enough yesterday I might have caught the sound and sight of tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes flying over. Of course they were. They always take advantage of that push from the north, and we certainly have had that. I am sorry I missed them, and I haven’t traveled far enough lately to see them up close. Oh well. Tomorrow will be sunny, if cold, but I will be in the choir and with any luck doing the line dance with others at the end of the service. I look forward to being back on the trail Monday.

Thanks to all for checking in.

End of September at the Chicago Portage – Part 2

I could have simply just done a blog post and called it Black-throated Green Warblers from the photographs I took on this day. Believe it or not this is only half of the ones I kept. But this is the best half. All photos were taken on September 29.

Yellow-rumped Warblers have been foraging in the duckweed for weeks.

I had a Blackpoll Warbler that day, and you can almost even see the field mark for which it’s named in the first photo below.

A Chipmunk was waiting for something on the first bridge.

Invariably American Robins in various molts were foraging on the front lawn, or going somewhere.

I had a glimpse of a Downy Woodpecker.

Another woodpecker, a Northern Flicker, was busy too,

And there was a third woodpecker, a Hairy Woodpecker, whose profile distinguishes it immediately.

I had one of my last juvenile Indigo Buntings – you can see a bit of blue at the tip of its tail.

Hermit Thrushes have been at the Portage all of this month. This one may have been the first I saw there this fall.

Two more Yellow-rumped Warblers – one in Boneset and the other in Goldenrod.

Below is an immature Red-winged Blackbird.

I barely captured the Chestnut-sided Warbler below, but I am glad I did.

Not to be overlooked, a Bay-breasted Warbler made an appearance.

Here are some more photographs of another Black-throated Green Warbler.

It was a pretty day at the Chicago Portage.

I am glad I am able to finish this post, such as it is, on my phone. I will be back in a few days when I can reconnect with all the photos on my laptop!

Riverside Wednesday and Today

Well, it looks like warbler migration has slowed down for the moment. I am hopeful that this is just a temporary blip on the radar, so to speak, but our “birdcast” has been uninspiring and it’s pretty quiet on the ground.

I was seeing a few warblers on Wednesday but practically none today. Indeed I had so few species today I have decided to combine both days into one post.

I was very happy to find a Chestnut-sided Warbler in my photos on Wednesday as I hadn’t seen one yet this fall.

And perhaps best of all for its confirming orange toes, a beautiful Blackpoll Warbler posed for several photographs. Indeed it could have been two different individuals or the same one, depending on the light.

A few more of the Blackpoll.

And now, for the More Confusing than Ever Fall Warbler, another Blackpoll.

After much deliberation, I have concluded this is indeed a Blackpoll Warbler

The only other warbler I was able to capture was a distant Magnolia Warbler.

I tend to think I will see Magnolia Warblers more regularly than I have this fall. Here’s one that was the only warbler I saw today. And not well, either.

There weren’t even Tennessee Warblers today, but I had them on Wednesday, however briefly.

The rest of them…

Red-eyed Vireos have been abundant the past week or two as well, and I got lucky again on Wednesday.

A scruffy-looking Red-eyed Vireo

So why did I start out with a female Northern Flicker? She was close enough to photograph well and she was preoccupied enough not to mind me clicking away.

The abundance of American Goldfinches seems to have calmed down.

This Rose-breasted Grosbeak was sitting still atop a tree.

Cedar Waxwings are moving around in flocks. Unfortunately all these individuals were quite backlit.

This is my favorite light on a Swainson’s Thrush.

An American Robin commanded attention