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

After weeks of shallow waters, the Des Plaines River is quite full again.

There was one Great Egret available for a photograph on Wednesday.

But this morning when I got out of my car and walked south of the Hofmann Tower to see if the Great Blue Egret was holding its ground, I found seven (yes, 7) Great Egrets.

As I started my walk in Riverside, I encountered more Great Egrets.

No. 8
No. 9
Could this be No. 10?

On land, there were Mourning Doves holding their perches.

Blue Jays were noisy and visible this morning.

And a Belted Kingfisher sat perched over the river not far from the Joliet Avenue bridge when I first started out.

Looking up into the trees for birds, I found a well-attended wasp nest.

The search for birds resumes tomorrow morning in Columbus Park, where I am responsible for showing up. I am going to turn in for the night so I can get up early enough to meet whoever else shows up.

Surprises Abound at Riverside

This is another 2-visit post – from September 2nd and a week later on the 9th. There was a lot more happening on September 2nd but yesterday’s visit to Riverside produced a surprise or two, so I’m including it. The American Goldfinch at the top of the post was in my front yard when I left the house, but maybe it’s surprising too as it didn’t leave but instead allowed me to take its picture.

Just as some birding acquaintances had mentioned they weren’t seeing Red-winged Blackbirds anymore, easily 100 or more blackbirds in a mixed flock of Red-wingeds and Common Grackles descended on Riverside that morning.

Blackbirds in an oak tree

Even more surprising later was a hail of acorns falling onto me, the trail, and everywhere when I was walking the trail in Riverside Lawn. Below is a video as I tried to capture some of the craziness of birds landing and hopping in two big oak trees, causing the acorns to fall. The birds – Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles – don’t eat acorns, so I can only surmise they were having fun.

It was hard to get a decent shot of the acorns on the ground. But I managed to capture a chipmunk and its stuffed cheeks with my cell phone.

Apparently the acorns were scattered about more than it seemed

There was a small but nice selection of warblers on the 2nd. I was actually able to capture an American Redstart or two. One thing I like about the photograph below is that it shows off this bird’s rictal bristles, which I thought, like many others, had something to do with catching insects. However that assumption has been challenged and I found a brief article by Dr. Roger Lederer interesting. Still, it’s nice to see the bird’s whiskers.

I think I saw my last Golden-winged Warbler on the 2nd. Below are photos of what appears to be a female Golden-winged Warbler. Nice of her to show off her prize in the last photo.

I also saw a Wilson’s Warbler that morning close to the paved walk along the river. Wilson is one of my favorites.

Also in the Queen Anne’s Lace was a lovely Tennessee Warbler. After this fall I have become a big fan of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Wait – a few more warblers, and then back to surprises. Here’s a very nice Black-throated Green Warbler I saw that day. Another one of my all-time favorite subjects.

And a Cape May Warbler.

And a Magnolia Warbler…

And one more Tennessee Warbler.

Where were we? Mourning Doves like to pose as if they are part of a frieze.

Also on the 2nd, an Osprey made a brief appearance, the light playing with its backlit silhouette.

Congratulations for making it this far. I think we’re about halfway there. This looks like a brand new Northern Cardinal.

Swainson’s Thrushes have been easy to see now for a couple weeks.

Below is a Hairy Woodpecker. I don’t see these as often as the Downies so, hail Hairy.

Delighting to the song of an Eastern Pewee all summer but rarely seeing one, it was great to see this bird well, if briefly, on the 2nd.

And young Gray Catbirds are not shy.

The Common Grackles have been bathing and sipping water on the rocks all summer. I think I know how this feels when the pool is closed for a week – let’s get those last luxurious baths in before we have to leave.

When I went back to Riverside on the 9th, I was a little surprised to see several species other than the Common Grackles on the rocks. The water is a little shallower now.

At some point on the Riverside Lawn trail there’s a tree with these glorious Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) growing. I am not tempted but I have read they are edible.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this Magnolia Warbler yesterday is that it was the only warbler I saw well enough to photograph.

The Killdeer were still on the rocks by the former Hofmann Dam.

The biggest surprise yesterday was to see perhaps a dozen Double-crested Cormorants flying overhead in formation.

I’m sure the reason why I’m seeing more Mourning Doves lately is simply because there are more of them. I am quite fond of these birds, as it was one in particular who first alerted me to the fact that birds sing in key with music.

And the American Goldfinches are busy weaning their young. The juvenile on the left was begging for a handout but his dad held firm and eventually left him on the branch alone.

Monarch migration continues.

A pleasant surprise was to see a Belted Kingfisher well enough to photograph. I had just emerged from within the woods and had forgotten to adjust my exposure to sunnier conditions so these photos are a bit overexposed. I hear these guys a lot but don’t always see them well, so this was a treat.

I will be back with more. We have a choir party/rehearsal this afternoon and we sing tomorrow morning. I have been ripening avocados so I can use one of my serrano chiles to make guacamole for the party. It looks like we will have rain tomorrow and through Monday morning, so I will be busy indoors. We will cool off a bit too. Feeling more and more like fall.

One more of my front yard American Goldfinch

Fall Migration Continues…

It’s been a busy birding week and fall warbler migration is only getting started, but I’m already having a hard time keeping up. To add to my confusion, with the pool closed, the break in my routine is making it harder to figure out what day it is. But I have started getting up earlier to join bird walks and I will start leading Saturday walks tomorrow through the second week in October. It’s beginning to look like fall, even if it doesn’t feel like it just yet.

These photographs are from August 31st at Riverside, and I have also added the rest of the birds from August 26th at the same location.

I was happy to see a very cooperative Northern Waterthrush on Wednesday.

American Redstarts are the most numerous and well-distributed fall warbler species so far. I have seen them every day. The one immediately below looks like a first-year male.

Also fairly common are Magnolia Warblers like the one at the top of the post and below.

I discovered something about Blackpoll Warblers I never realized before. Apparently they all have orange toes – so when stumped by a decision between whether you are looking at a Blackpoll or a Bay-breasted, if you can see orange toes, that solves the problem. I was delighted to find photos showing beautiful orange toes. This is nearly impossible to see in the field, however.

I have also seen Golden-winged Warblers all week, starting on Tuesday morning at Columbus Park with Henry G.’s walk. They seem to have all come into the area at once and I have seen them everywhere I have been. I’m sneaking this photo in from Tuesday as it is the best one I have of the whole bird.

Below is another Golden-winged I just barely captured the next morning at Riverside.

Cape May Warblers seem to be numerous this season.

And not a day goes by without a Tennessee Warbler.

Below is a barely-captured Black-and-white Warbler

Thrushes are starting to appear as well. This is a Swainson’s Thrush.

Juvenile Gray Catbirds can’t get enough of the camera. They demand attention.

I don’t think this molting Northern Cardinal wanted to be seen like this but I couldn’t help myself.

In answer to the question, “Where have all the blackbirds gone?”, I have seen huge flocks all week at Riverside.

And Cedar Waxwings are on the move in flocks as well.

I have a feeling House Wrens will be gone soon but the youngsters are still around.

And Great Egrets are busy fishing. The water level has improved in the river.

I will try to come back sooner and more frequently, as the birds just keep coming. I also have some stored surprises still to share. We are starting out very warm going into the Labor Day weekend, with a promise of cooler weather after tomorrow. We could see a lot more warblers with winds from the north.

First Fall Warblers – and Green Ballerinas

I have seen some fall warblers, if sparingly, over the past week, so I have pulled the best images from birds seen at the Chicago Portage or Riverside Lawn, just to get a little warbler anticipation going here. Tomorrow morning might actually be a good day because we are experiencing a little storm activity tonight. And since I can’t swim this week – the pool is being cleaned – I will likely be walking a little farther and seeing more birds.

Right off the bat, the bird at the top of the post is a female Cape May Warbler seen at Riverside Lawn on August 24. The bird below, I am not sure but I think is a Blackburnian Warbler seen at the Chicago Portage on August 27. I didn’t get any other shots, oddly enough, to help me identify it.

It’s been a good year all around for Bay-breasted Warblers. They are coming through. And I think I’m getting used to their contact calls. This Bay-breasted Warbler was at Riverside Lawn on August 26.

I don’t remember taking the photos of these two Tennessee Warblers, oddly enough, the same day at Riverside Lawn, but it’s likely I was just too mesmerized by them.

Here’s another Bay-breasted Warbler from that day at Riverside Lawn.

And another Cape May female-type or juvenile, on August 24 at Riverside Lawn.

Yet another Cape May from the same day and location.

Not a great photo, but definitely a Bay-breasted Warbler I saw on the 24th. There have been many more warblers seen along the lakefront, but I will be out a lot this week and I expect to see more around here.

Meanwhile back in my yard, I have two female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that usually show up individually but sometimes make chases through the yard together. I have taken to calling them my Green Ballerinas.

Over the past couple weeks I have been fortunate enough to capture them…somewhat.

But what really became fascinating to me was seeing them attracted to the Tall Ironweed – of all things. I can’t figure out why, exactly – it doesn’t look like a flower a hummingbird would enjoy – but they keep revisiting it and I can’t imagine it’s for nothing.

A view of the Tall Ironweed in the backyard jungle

So I set out trying to capture one of the birds in the Tall Ironweed.

At first, where I can sit in the middle of the yard, I was close to a hummingbird at the flowers but could barely see the bird on the other side. I decided to stand by the front gate instead and see if one would come to the flowers right by the back steps. Within a moment or two of standing there with the camera, a hummingbird obliged (the second and third photos below).

I am enjoying these little birds so much more now that I have the time to engage with them. Yesterday as I was refilling the birdbaths, the two of them flew right over my head, clicking away, in greeting. The other day when it was cool enough to have the windows open, one came and sat on a branch outside the kitchen window and we discussed refilling the feeders with fresh sugar water. I believe it was later that day, early evening, when I went out to clean and refill the feeders one by one. No sooner did I bring out the freshly refilled one that hangs from the dead Staghorn Sumac tree right by the kitchen window than one of these little charmers came to check it out. I am thrilled to be of service to such a grateful customer.

Now that fall warbler migration has begun, I expect to be back soon – not to mention all those other birds that are emerging, such as juvenile birds that are barely recognizable Needless to say, I am putting the book on hold for a while. But I am learning so much these days from the birds, it’s addicting. Well, something has to fill the swimming void for a week.