Looking Back to Late August – Part I

It’s another cold, cloudy day with snow in the forecast. The birds have not been flocking to the feeders this morning so much as I expect they are anticipating weather. The thaw was brief and if the ice at the bottom of my back porch stairs is any indication, it’s likely still quite icy at the Portage, so I sat through today’s half-planned walk, sifted through some late summer photographs and will go swimming later.

Late August at the Portage was full of immature birds and a few early fall migrants. These photos are from August 28. Below are two American Redstarts. The paler one could very well be a first-year male, or a female. I tend to forget that some American Redstarts breed in Illinois, they don’t all go farther north, because I have only seen them in migration. But then it’s logical to see them before the other warblers start making their way south. In any event I look forward to seeing them again in the spring.

Juvenile American Robins like the one at the top of the post come in spotty plumage,

American Robin and a Chimney Swift

August is the time of year for spider webs like the one below.

The deer were a lot younger…

and the Portage was lush and green everywhere…

The Yellow Coneflowers were in full bloom, and the Blue Dancer Damselfly was not in a very photogenic location.

I must have gone to the backyard after I got home to see if I could capture any of the birds there. So I managed a shy female Northern Cardinal, a Mourning Dove and what appears to be a Hairy Woodpecker.

But most frustrating of all was trying to capture a Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting a feeder from too far away. I look forward to more opportunities this year. It might be a little easier to see them now that I’ve had the trees trimmed, but it also might be a little more difficult to hang the feeders!

I will have to decide in the spring how much of this Tall Ironweed I can handle before it takes over the entire backyard.

I have one more post of photos from late August and then there’s still a lot of fall warbler pictures that I took in September – when I had just begun testing the retirement waters with my toe. The days are getting longer…

Christmas Week at the Portage, Part II

I will be short on narration with this post – the day after Christmas at the Portage was somewhat more of the same as two days before. There were a couple species of birds I did not see on the previous visit. The Fox Sparrow below, for instance, unfortunately did not give me a better view but it had been weeks since I’d seen one so it was nice to see anyway.

And then months perhaps since I saw my last Kinglet – there was a Golden-crowned Kinglet, not captured very well at all, below.

This was the first time I saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker at the bottom of a tree.

Somewhat obscured but not bothered by my attention to it, a White-throated Sparrow.

More Red-bellied Woodpecker shots through the trees…

I haven’t run into large flocks of House Finches lately but there were a few around.

Always nice to see a Brown Creeper.

American Goldfinches seem to be matching the golden-hued Portage lately.

Some common birds trying to escape attention…

European Starlings in a gnarly oak
An American Robin behind bars

This female Northern Cardinal blends right in.

Often moving quickly in flocks, Dark-eyed Juncos aren’t as easy to capture as they ought to be.

It’s still nice to see Northern Cardinals and Black-capped Chickadees. I see them more often than not.

I will be back with a little New Year’s Eve visit this morning that was short on birds but good to do anyway seeing as how we are under a winter storm watch that starts early tomorrow morning. Predictions are for a lot of snow, and I have no intention of driving anywhere in it. Maybe I can capture some of the birds in the yard in between snow shoveling shifts.

Best wishes and hopes to all for 2022. I will be celebrating by taking down all my 2021 calendars…

Mirrorless Outings

Even before I dropped the Canon zoom lens, I was starting to feel like at times it might be more comfortable to go out with the mirrorless camera I purchased a few years ago and had stopped using when I was no longer going downtown to the office. Also I had never really figured out how to get the mirrorless to focus on a bird, so it was a good time to start practicing. These photos are from December 1 and 3, at the Riverside Lawn Trail. I have just figured out that the wooded area across the foot bridge that the county reclaimed which has eventually become part of the forest preserves is called Riverside Lawn.

In spite of the lack of light, I managed to get some fairly decent pictures with this camera. Some well spaced-out starlings were actually all in focus individually. It has a very efficient zoom that managed to get quite clear pictures of the Red-tailed Hawk below from across the river. Invariably I have been seeing a Red-tailed Hawk around 10:00 AM both here and at the Portage.

It must have been windy that morning.

Standing on the first bridge, I noticed a flock of American Robins and the European Starlings hanging out in the shallows and bathing. The camera did a good job capturing the action.

Below is a Hairy Woodpecker, which made four woodpecker species on the 3rd – I did not manage to get a picture of the Northern Flicker. A male Downy Woodpecker is in the second gallery, on the same pole.

And a female Downy Woodpecker.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I don’t always see Mourning Doves. But on December 3rd, I was standing just hanging out with the mixed flock and a total of eight Mourning Doves eventually showed up.

There are always a lot of Northern Cardinals, and I was lucky enough to figure out the focus on a few of them after many tries.

A Fox Squirrel and a Gray Squirrel.

For as many Dark-eyed Juncos as I normally have seen – up to 30 or more – they are incredibly difficult to capture more often than not. On the ground, they blend right in.

I can always count on Mallards and sometimes Canada Geese.

More dreary views, and the Rock Pigeons that seem to congregate on top of the Riverside Town Hall or the Hofmann Tower.

When it focuses, this camera is great for some really crisp images, so I look forward to using it more often, especially in low light situations. I hope I can get better at focusing all my equipment since I think my ability to determine whether I have the manual focus sharp is diminishing. In this case I gladly welcome artificial intelligence. A wasp nest caught my eye, and I have frequently seen the fungus at the bottom of one tree, which looks like it has been eaten.

I’ll be back shortly with my last visit using my old 100-400mm lens. It’s already proving to be an interesting winter.

Early November at the Portage

I am sure I have heard a Tufted Titmouse at the Portage on occasion, but I have never seen one until, just as I was about to finish my walk on November 2nd, this one appeared. I had been hanging out with a Black-capped Chickadee and the titmouse insisted on having its picture taken instead.

Black-capped Chickadee

More photos of the Tufted Titmouse are below. In all there are way too any photographs in this post. I am trying to empty them off my hard drive so I can keep up with the present. And there are still pictures of the fall warblers from two months ago. Well. You get the picture.

Birds are moving in flocks now, which generally means you can go for a long time without seeing anything move and then encounter several individuals at once. Below is a flock of Cedar Waxwings.

The 1st was a bit sunnier than the second. Northern Cardinals are easier to see now than they were all summer. Even the females allow themselves to be photographed…as long as they are somewhat hidden and backlit.

Although there are lots of White-throated Sparrows, I don’t often see one well enough to get a picture. This one was a challenge.

Another White-throated Sparrow

One sparrow that has been showing up a lot since I took these first photos below is the Fox Sparrow. They are considerably larger than other sparrows and tend to just sit, so even though this one was behind branches, I could still capture it.

Black-capped Chickadee… and an American Goldfinch

House Finches blend right in to the browns and grays of fall.

Below is a Red-tailed Hawk.

I’ve been delighted to see White-breasted Nuthatches after hearing but rarely seeing them all summer.

Nearly every day I have seen a Brown Creeper.

Here’s about how far away the Brown Creeper was.

American Robins are in flocks too, but every once in a while I spot an individual.

Apologies for Downy Woodpecker overload – it is the start of Visible Woodpecker Season… I love to observe their behavior.

There is a barely-visible House Finch in the two photos below – just to get a feel for how well camouflaged birds can be this time of year.

More Northern Cardinals…

More Downy Woodpecker overload…