Portage Potpourri

It’s time to go back and sift through the summer’s photographs so I can start making room for the always anticipated overload of fall migration. As usual I find I have way too many photos that I had forgotten about. The ones in this short post go all the way back to June 4 and June 9 which don’t even qualify for summer yet, but the breeding birds had already been busy.

So this is a female Indigo Bunting. I love her delicate colors. And below her photo is a male, possibly my friend I have named Tadziu.

One bird I haven’t seen all summer, although they typically breed at the Chicago Portage, is the Yellow Warbler. I expect to see some in the next few weeks during fall migration. If I was seeing them so regularly in June they must have been nearby all summer.

I found this little bird’s photos and had to think for a moment what it was. I’ve concluded (with the help of other photographs online) that it can only be a very young Warbling Vireo.

For a short period of time, Gray Catbirds were making themselves available for photos until they disappeared later like nearly everybody else.

I’m beginning to realize this was an absurd idea because more recent photos are starting to accumulate quickly on my hard drive and I won’t be able to review older ones much longer.

Yes, a Chipmunk

House Wrens have been abundant all summer, but not always easy to see.

And every once in a while, an Eastern Phoebe would pose.

I am grateful for the many times I have seen Eastern Kingbirds.

Red-winged Blackbirds are due to start showing up in huge flocks before they take to their more southern destinations. They have disappeared from their breeding grounds. I suspect they have been busy educating the youngsters about self-reliance and survival.

American Robins are perhaps the most adaptable birds, thriving in and out of the human disturbance.

I was intrigued by the capture below – it looks like a very young Red-winged Blackbird.

Baltimore Orioles have been much harder to see long enough to capture lately.

I saw a Daddy Long Legs only once… and my favorite grass, the Squirrel Tail Grass, doesn’t look like this anymore, indeed, I haven’t noticed it at all lately.

Also well-adapted to us humans are American Goldfinches. They always seem so cheerful.

I don’t know what happened to the Song Sparrows at the Portage. I am not sure if any stayed to raise families.

The White-tailed Deer are making less frequent visits than they were earlier.

Another American Robin

Here are two quick and slightly blurry photos of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

I have never seen this yellow iris before…or since.

Here’s what the cottonwood seeds looked like in the beginning of June.

As if to prove my earlier point about adaptability, one American Robin built a nest on the edge of the shelter in spite of the spikes to deter such activities.

I have so much going on right now I can’t say when or with what I will return. But I figured as long as I started this post a couple days ago I may as well finish it.

We had our first choir rehearsal last night, and we are singing this Sunday. I was a bit surprised at how good it felt to stand together and sing, albeit still masked. And so we take the plunge into another year. And I will have to start getting up earlier – in the dark – as the fall bird walks start again next week.

End of July Tidbits

Here’s what was going on at the Chicago Portage the mornings of July 29 and 31. Pretty much what can be expected mid-summer. Feeding fledglings and molting. A busy time for the birds.

On July 31st there was what appeared to be a family of Eastern Kingbirds.

I didn’t manage to get them all in one photograph but there were four Eastern Kingbirds total.

I can expect to see an American Goldfinch in the duckweed this time of year, and I can never entirely resist documenting its presence.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were here and there, if not always easy to see. But then they hardly ever are. The bird in the tiled series looks to be a juvenile.

After barely seeing a Downy Woodpecker out in the open for a few months, it was nice to see this one out and about. It looks to be a young bird as well.

Tadziu the famous Indigo Bunting was busy with his feather upkeep, on a fallen log close to his bridge.

The distant Indigo Bunting below was more disheveled.

A young-looking Marsh Wren was investigating this fallen log.

A young American Robin was curious about the camera attention.

The American Robins below appeared to be sunbathing on the gravel path. I tried not to disturb them for as long as I could.

An juvenile American Robin caught in flight, below.

It’s not often that I catch a Northern Flicker still for a moment.

Below, two Red-bellied Woodpeckers. The first appears to be a juvenile.

The bottomlands near the Des Plaines were flooded both days. A little less on the 31st than the 29th.

My “first” bridge is the southernmost one, and here’s the view I’m getting these days from it.

In the photos below, first a Blue Dasher Dragonfly visible from the bridge on July 31. I saw the turtle covered in duckweed later after I set out on the path after crossing the bridge.

The Hobomok Skipper Butterfly was available for photos on July 29. You can get an idea of how small this creature is by the leaves it’s on.

It seems lately I have been seeing one female Brown-headed Cowbird on every visit. This was her best photograph.

The trees that darken the path over on the north side are such a contrast to the open areas of the preserve. Some are purportedly hundreds of years old.

Here’s another profile of the Eastern Kingbird who was featured at the top of the post.

I was in Riverside yesterday morning and I will have a post soon with what’s going on down by the river there. I had planned to go elsewhere this morning, but I am temporarily catering to the complaints of my right knee which caused me to wear the brace again and venture no farther than the grocery stores. If I can walk well enough tomorrow morning I will go out again.

Summer Passages at the Chicago Portage

Although I’ve been to the Chicago Portage more recently, I’m posting some photographs and a couple recordings from last month that hadn’t made it into posts anywhere near the days I took them. These are some views of likely suspects from visits made on July 6 and July 10. I then plan to be back with two or three subsequent installments after I process four more recent July days’ worth of photographs. Depending on what happens, I could sneak in another location here and there…

For the record, the male Indigo Buntings that were everywhere singing last month are still singing but not as much and they’re less visible than the one below, taken on July 6.

Tadziu the Indigo Bunting was available on July 10 for photographs and additions to his Greatest Hits, but the lighting was poor for the former. However, I feel obligated to share his portrait anyway.

And here are the last recordings I made of my celebrity.

Tadziu with American Robin and House Wren in the background
Tadziu with Northern Cardinal, House Wren and Warbling Vireo

American Goldfinches have been busy in the duckweed.

Perched over the water and then taking off for better prospects, a Green Heron was distantly available on July 10.

Just by chance I happened on an Eastern Towhee family. You have to look at the second photo below to see the juvenile which is somewhat obscured by the female in the first photo. I heard the male Eastern Towhee singing this past Tuesday, but did not see him. It would be nice to see the family again before the end of the summer.

It was still hard to resist photographing the Prairie Coneflower and whatever the second yellow flower is, that I see blooming upon first entering the woods from the south paved trail.

I got lucky on the 10th and managed a few photographs of a Warbling Vireo. They are still around but not as vocal as they were, so these days it’s hard to tell how many might be present.

Another species becoming more visible lately is Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.

I have barely heard or seen a White-breasted Nuthatch. This one was on the 6th.

Also on July 6th the House Wren below was flying out of my frame.

The Brown-headed Cowbirds were still all over the place too, on July 6.

The Northern Flicker below wasn’t too easy to see, but I was intrigued enough by all the colors on him, popping out from behind the leaves.

Below is an unusually visible Gray Catbird, and below it, an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

And American Robins are always up to something.

I will be back with more composite posts from the Chicago Portage. In another week or two I expect to see more birds, with the added confusion of molting and juvenile plumages.

Summer Surprises at the Chicago Portage

I began writing this post while I was sitting here with the sun pouring through the half-closed slats of the blinds, the curse of facing east in the morning, artificially cooled by the fans and air conditioning going more often than I’d like to maintain an inside temperature of 80 degrees. I paid the Chicago Portage a visit Monday and before that on Saturday, when the morning temperatures were much cooler, but decided to stay home yesterday, worked in the yard for brief periods, and gave my recuperating knee a rest. At least I have shade in the backyard. We are in the middle of a hot, dry spell again. The later-week predictions of rain have disappeared.

Oh – that beautiful male Eastern Towhee at the top of the post – I encountered him briefly right off the trail. It’s the second time I’ve seen him in the past couple weeks.

Monday as I was putting my camera and backpack in the hatch of the car, I looked up to see a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird first check the front yard, then zip over to the feeder on the porch and then over the roof toward the backyard where there are three more feeders. I haven’t seen a hummingbird for weeks, maybe months. That proved to be a good sign. When I got to the first bridge at the Portage, although very distant and the photos below are severely cropped, I did see a male Ruby-throat, perched on a dead tree over the water from where I stood.

I hoped to see a hummingbird again, perhaps in the Red Bee Balm that is in bloom, but did not.

Red Bee Balm at the Portage

After the hummingbird left, I spotted one American Goldfinch on the same tree.

Whereas on Saturday, I spotted five distant American Goldfinches trying to brighten up the gloom.

Monday was bright and sunshiny with most birds still at a distance. An American Robin and a Red-bellied Woodpecker share this frame.

The Prairie Coneflower, below left, is starting to bloom. It’s one of my favorites at the Portage. I still haven’t figured out the other yellow flower.

There are a lot of American Robins here even when you don’t see them. Below are two juveniles. The second photograph, taken in the mulberry tree, indicates the berries aren’t quite ready yet. I expect when they are ripe, flocks of Cedar Waxwings will join the Robins.

Here’s a Robin I managed to follow as it decided what to do with its catch.

There are quite a few Blue-fronted Dancer damselflies. I wish this one had chosen a better-looking place to rest.

I was intrigued by the new growth starting from a long-dead fragment of log poking out from the bottomlands through the fence.

Here’s what it looked like after the rain, back there on Sunday. I’m sure it’s all dried out now.

Sunday was not a great day to photograph Indigo Buntings but this one picked an interesting perch.

As a contrast, there was too much light on Monday.

The brightness did justice to two butterflies, a Silver-spotted Skipper and a Red Admiral.

I was surprised to see what had been an iconic dead tree by the second, or northernmost bridge, broken in half as it was a magnet for nesting Northern Flickers. I could not locate what happened to the rest of it.

The most interesting bird on Saturday was a Peregrine Falcon perched at quite a distance from where I stood across the water. When I got a bit closer to it, it fixed its gaze on me. Alas we grew bored with each other and I was looking elsewhere when it finally took off, missing a flight shot.

On Monday one Pearl Crescent became two.

I felt lucky to see an Eastern Wood-Pewee as I usually only hear him, but I didn’t manage to get him in great focus. Oh well.

Tadziu was on territory Monday.

I haven’t been able to find a Red-winged Blackbird anywhere at the Portage although I know they exist. So I had to settle Monday for a female Brown-headed Cowbird as a substitute blackbird.

A bucolic young rabbit with a couple Robins on the path.

Early Monday I encountered a very young deer.

It looks like the Elderberry is going to have ripe fruit soon too. Let the fun begin. I have just planted one of these in my backyard and I expect it won’t produce fruit for a while but I look forward to watching it grow.

A view of Tadziu’s bridge through the trees.

There is simply a lot of Tall Bellflower in bloom here.

One more of the Peregrine Falcon.

I’m not going out walking every day in this heat – more like every other day or so. There’s plenty to do around the house and in the yard. And there is that book. I had a revelation the other day while I was swimming, I think. Water has always inspired me, even doing dishes over the sink. That and sometimes while I’m playing piano for the birds. Anyway I think I fit some puzzle pieces together in my head so I am going to write a synopsis tonight and tomorrow which will give me a roadmap.

More to come. Still trying to fill up these longer days while we have them.

Cool and Cloudy at the Portage

In case you didn’t get to meet this Indigo Bunting last year, allow me to introduce Tadziu – I have given him the name that is pasted on the back of the “Bike Path” sign on which he sits in this photograph – as yesterday morning he sat and sang and posed for me. Last year I often saw him singing from the tree that hangs over the entrance to the bridge which facilitates the bike path referred to in this sign. I would also see him sitting on the bridge itself and singing, as well as on the sign. He is the most enthusiastic advocate for a territory I have ever seen.

A snippet of his song is below. I recorded it last week. I realized yesterday that although all Indigo Buntings basically sing the “same” song, it seemed I could distinguish his when he sang it. Or it may just be that I know where to expect to hear him. Either way, he always sings in my presence and we are friends.

Indigo Bunting

Here’s a few more of Tadziu being a ham.

I was very happy to see a male Orchard Oriole, however briefly. I saw another later but did not manage to photograph it. I hope this means they are nesting at the Portage. I have seen them only occasionally every year. But I have to keep reminding myself that the more I go out, likely the more I will see.

Here’s how the Chicago Portage looks now.

I expect to hear Yellow Warblers but I don’t always see them. I waited for this one to emerge because I could hear him quite clearly. If you’re hopping around in the treetops and you’re bright yellow, eventually you will be seen.