Summer Slowdown at the Portage

I went rather late to the Portage yesterday morning. I chalked it up to being tired after swimming late Friday night and not happy getting up in the dark. I have been to the Portage a few more times that I haven’t written about yet, but I didn’t take too many pictures yesterday so this is about the size of a blog post I can handle at the moment.

Sometime this past week, after picking up my new prescription glasses, it occurred to me that the viewfinder on my camera might be dirty. I have had a snap-on cover over the LCD display since 2013, and I don’t think I ever removed it to clean it! There was dust and dirt and who knows what else, and while it doesn’t exactly cover the viewfinder, it snaps onto it to align with the LCD display. So after ordering another cover in case I messed up trying to remove and clean, I cleaned the cover, the LCD display and the viewfinder, replaced the cover and solved the main reason why I haven’t been able to focus the camera. One of those “Duh, is it plugged in?” moments…

There weren’t many birds to see yesterday, and for the most part those that I did see were very far away. But now that I am able to focus…sometimes it’s easier to see them with the camera than my binoculars. Two distant male American Goldfinches below…

There were several male Baltimore Orioles about but they didn’t sit still for long.

I was surprised to find what looks like a juvenile Blue Grosbeak in my photographs. I was listening to chip notes that sounded very metallic like a cardinal’s but wasn’t exactly sure who I was following with my lens in the photos below, due to the backlighting making it difficult to see. Blue Grosbeaks are not common at the Portage.

Just when I was about to give up on Robins, I did find the flock as I was heading out of the woods. I caught this one on its way to join a few others in the bare tree branches below. And way in the upper left is an Eastern Kingbird which otherwise would never have made it to the list. So it pays sometimes to take pictures of distant backlit birds.

Pretty well-disguised, I had to look at this photograph more than a few times before I could find the bird in it, which appears to be a young Gray Catbird. I heard several along the trail, but did not see the ones I heard.

My best close encounter was this juvenile male House Finch.

I have been looking for these Damselflies on the back trail that leads out to the train tracks and runs parallel to the river. This one was nice enough to stop and pose for me.

Blue Dancer Damselfly

More pollinators…

This young-looking House Wren was quite far away…

Even farther away was a flock of birds that, until I could blow them up on my laptop later, I couldn’t identify. They turned out to be Cedar Waxwings.

My favorite shelf fungus…

I have become more interested in the plant life that seems to be forever changing at the Portage as more and more invasive species are removed. Having said that, there’s still a potpourri of natives and non-natives. The distant fruits on the left appear to be Pokeweed. The pink flowers in the upper righthand corner are persicaria longiseta which I have been pulling out of my yard for years, as it is non-native (it seems to have a million common names, among them, Oriental Lady’s Thumb). The white flowers are White Snakeroot which I have also been pulling out of my yard before they ever got to bloom. It’s native but weedy.

We’re in a moderate drought again, with periodic promises of rain that so far have not amounted to much.

The Des Plaines is low again.

One more photo of the Silver Spotted Skipper which, in this cropping, at least, makes me appreciate Giant Ragweed a bit more.

Silver Spotted Skipper

I have seven more days of work. It seems hard to believe.

I didn’t go out this morning because I wanted to be home for the “live” videotaped broadcast of Unity Temple’s last virtual service. My friend Linda Rios and I contributed with our musical offering recorded about a month ago, after several false starts and some procrastination. We played Schubert’s Sonatine in D Major for the Prelude and two other shorter pieces: Hommage a J.S. Bach by Hans Andre-Stamm for the anthem and Wait There by Yiruma for the postlude. We will be going back to live services which to be streamed online, but without the congregation as originally planned. The choir also had its first rehearsal outdoors in another church’s garden, complete with chairs set up, a keyboard for the accompanist, new music to learn and a cicada chorus which never stopped singing. We are going to continue to rehearse in this format until we run out of daylight, I guess. See what happens…

I know I am always making promises but I will be back with more from previous Portage visits – before fall migration clamors for my remaining disk space.

Midsummer Portage Potpourri

My last visit to the Portage was on a cloudy Saturday morning. My attention was drawn to creatures other than birds and flora since there were not a lot of birds visible. In fact this was the first time I don’t recall seeing an Indigo Bunting well and I barely heard a few singing.

When I first checked the beebalm there was a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird but I was unable to capture him clearly and he took off. I then noticed a Clear-winged Sphynx Moth and managed to get a few pictures of it instead.

European Starling taking a break.
American Robin showing off his catch.

I turned my attention to grasses that are new or more noticeable. In order of appearance, Squirrel- Tail Grass, Canada Wild Rye and Bottlebrush Grass.

It always looks like a peaceful time for the Red-winged Blackbirds as they tend to their offspring and hang out in the marsh.

This House Wren was pretty far away but he was very vocal and somewhat visible.

I barely managed to capture this Green Heron flying high above the Portage.

Scenes of green.

Butterfly of the morning was an Eastern Comma.

I am stumped by this pretty little white flower with the magenta center and lobed leaves – and welcome identification if you recognize it. I have never seen it before this year. I will also continue to look for it on the Illinois wildflower webpage. Invariably anything I see at the Portage has a 10% chance of showing up in my yard eventually.

Tall Bellflower seems to crop up here and there.

The last creature I tried to capture on my way out was a deer – I just barely managed the last photograph as it left and I was too close to fit it entirely in the frame.

Not sure where I’m going or when this weekend, as I constantly check the weather and my email to see if I have other obligations. But I intend to be back soon, as long as the lazy, hazy days of summer continue, anyway.

McGinnis Magic

There wasn’t an awful lot going on at McGinnis on my last visit, but the sight of two Sandhill Cranes foraging in the lawn right off the parking lot automatically made it a special day.

I guess McGinnis is always good for a Great Blue Heron or two. But I’m surprised I haven’t seen any Great Egrets lately.

It’s really dry..

Not a lot of swallows that day but I managed to capture this Tree Swallow.

Not sure I have seen these Irises here before. Nice.

This Song Sparrow was almost completely hidden. We compromised.

Common Grackles are here and there.

Perhaps the second nicest surprise was to see a first-year male Orchard Oriole right before I left.

The lack of light didn’t offer much contrast with these raptors flying overhead.

While I was kind of hoping to see a colt or two with the Sandhills, which I never have here, I did see two Canada Geese in the same spot as the Sandhills were earlier – and they were carefully watching one lone gosling.

Providing additional interest, a Red-Winged Blackbird trying to make sense of a piece of ice cream cone.

I am always impressed by a Robin taking a pose.

I haven’t been able to think about much besides work lately. That – and the burrowing rats in my yard. I just removed all the feeders except for the hummingbird and oriole feeders – for 10 days. The city has provided an exterminator to discourage the rats, and I can only hope for elimination as up until the pandemic, they were never around. But adding insult to injury is the drought. I take it personally, I don’t know why – but the thought of weather like Phoenix, Arizona has never been attractive to me. Nothing against anyone who loves hot, dry weather. It has its place. But not here.

Thanks for letting me rant. I do have more cheerful posts in store and what should be a fun event I will share with you in the next few weeks.

Looking Back to Spring Forward

I started writing this post to coincide with setting the clocks forward, and now it’s taken me over another week to get back to it. But when considering all the photographs were taken a year and a month ago – on April 19th, 2020, to be exact – and I never got a chance to finish processing them until now, it’s taken even longer! I hope it’s kind of a sneak preview of what to expect in the coming days and weeks as spring unfolds at the Portage.

One of my first encounters was a pair of Downy Woodpeckers exhibiting their exuberant version of courtship behavior. At first I thought they were arguing! I have never witnessed this before so I’m glad I was able to capture it. If you click on the right panel and keep going you can see the sequence.

It appears I had way too many photographs from this excursion which might explain why I never managed to post them. Still it’s nice to revisit them, like the female Northern Cardinal below.

Below, often the first warbler to visit, a Myrtle Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

Surprised to find this photograph in the mix – likely my first sighting of an Eastern Bluebird last year.

An Eastern Phoebe, dreaming of flying insects, perhaps.

Another Downy Woodpecker.

Song Sparrows…

Red-winged Blackbirds…

I don’t think there’s enough water on site anymore to attract herons, but there is plenty nearby so I should still see them flying over on occasion.

A Northern Flicker showing just a little of its golden shafts.

There were two Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers on this tree and one flew away.

A Black-capped Chickadee showing off.

A singular turtle…

An assortment of early fungus, moss and flora.

A singing American Robin

Here’s a Golden-Crowned Kinglet – unfortunately the lighting didn’t do its colors justice.

This Brown-headed Cowbird was foraging on the ground.

Canada Geese and the clouds…

Robins often seem like they want to engage in a conversation.

A Wood Duck drake in a tree. I remember trying to get this shot after I saw him land, with a lot of branches between us.

Mallards…

Blue-winged Teal…