They’re Here

I saw some birds this week – in between practicing for the Spring Music Festival which will occur tonight. We had a rehearsal/run through last night and I survived. At least people like the song, so I guess that’s a good indication of something.

We canceled our scheduled walk at Columbus Park this morning because the weather was potentially threatening with the possibility of thunderstorms. We will more than likely have that kind of weather later tonight as we warm up to 70 degrees. But the overnight lows are still predicted to be in the 40’s for the coming week, which delays the yard cleanup even further.

These photos are from Monday at the Chicago Portage. I warn you, there are Way Too Many of them. The warm wave from the two days before brought migrants into the area. It was cooler on Monday so a lot of birds were foraging for food on the ground, like this Pine Warbler sampling seeds on the asphalt path.

Believe it or not these photos are of two separate individuals. I couldn’t capture them close enough to each other for a group photo.

The one Pine Warbler in the trees at first was not recognizable to me, but it turned out to be a Pine, albeit a drab one. The photo of the undertail helped me identify it.

A few more of this bird. Either way, it blends right in with the wood.

Palm Warblers have been all over the place in great numbers. it has gotten so that after taking all these pictures I haven’t bothered much with any of them the rest of the week.

I barely managed a few fuzzy photographs of the Black-and-White Warbler below.

it was delightful to see the return of a Yellow Warbler. One or two always stays the summer at the Portage so I expect to see this species again.

Warblers were not the only thing going on. There were lots of Chipping Sparrows, albeit most of them on the ugly asphalt.

There were a few group photo opportunities.

Palm Warbler and Chipping Sparrows
Chipping Sparrow and Field Sparrow

There were one or two Field Sparrows and then quite a number of White-throated Sparrows through the break in the fence.

Field Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

I saw my first Baltimore Oriole of the year. My feeder will go up tomorrow. As you can see he wasn’t moving much.

Vocally and actively, the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are back. The lack of light emphasized the the Gray half of their name.

Here’s what the sky looked like that morning.

I had a cooperative White-breasted Nuthatch doing his thing.

Male Northern Cardinals are a little easier to photograph these days as they advertise their territories.

But the lack of light kept everything pretty cool-looking.

In her elusive stage, I managed half of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

My volunteer American Robin. They are all over the Portage now.

The Yellow-rumped Warblers were the first to show up, but now their numbers are diminishing.

The return of water this year is making the place attractive to waterfowl again.

Blue-winged Teal and Canada Geese

It would have been nice to see the rest of the bird below, but I think after going back and forth between Hermit Thrush and Swainson’s Thrush, it’s the latter.

Northern Flickers are determined to not be seen and this one wasn’t any different.

The Great Egret stopped by to see if conditions were conducive to fishing. I can only assume the sight of me changed its mind. But it was back the next day, on the bank of the stream.

I can only imagine what these Mourning Doves were up to. If that’s the male on the right, his neck feathers are iridescent…

I think these are flowers of a Box-elder Maple Tree. I found them attractive.

So thanks to the canceled bird walk and my nap, I was able to finish this offering. If you made it all the way to the end of this post you are a rock star! I must go back to my chores and prepare for this evening’s performance. I hope to be back again sooner after all this. Thanks for checking in and Happy Spring!

Slowly Emerging from Winter’s Grip

We are still cold. The forecast hovers between rain with a little snow mixed in and sunny respites here and there – the last sunny morning was Friday, and we will have one more day of sunshine tomorrow. I will be indoors singing in the choir, but it will be good to have the sunshine streaming through the clerestory windows of Unity Temple: the forecast is for rain and snow every day in the week ahead.

I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. Last year we had a drought. We seem to be making up for it this year. In any event, contrary to my musings in my last post, the American Tree Sparrows have not yet left the Portage, and there are still a few Dark-eyed Juncos around too. There wasn’t much happening with perching birds yesterday so I took note of a few other things.

A dusting of snow from the night before
Blue sky
A little bit of green
Flooded bottomlands by the Des Plaines

I was encouraged to see and hear an Eastern Phoebe, albeit at quite a distance.

There are Americans Robins everywhere, but they were generally too busy for photographs. I often find one walking ahead of me, sometimes looking back waiting for me to make the next move.

The Brown-headed Cowbirds are back, and beginning their courtship rituals. Below, some photos of the standard configuration – two males and one female with her back to both of them.

There were Red-winged Blackbirds everywhere but they were often too busy to capture. It is nice to see the females getting ready to settle in.

Since there were still numerous American Tree Sparrows, I took a lot of photos. Just to make sure I won’t forget what they look like.

Song Sparrows were not as easy to capture but they will be around all summer, when I will try as ever to get a picture of one singing.

Then there’s the stuff that seems to be greening before everything else and drawing my attention to the thorns amongst the leaves. It looks like some sort of wild gooseberry but I haven’t nailed it down yet. Update: my faithful follower Ann has identified this as Ribes hirtellum, Wild Gooseberry. Thank you, Ann!

Now I’m going back to March 15, which by contrast was a cloudy day, but offered some nice photo opportunities.

Sometimes I just get lucky with these White-breasted Nuthatch guys. This time became a nuthatch overload.

Also memorable that day was seeing a male Wood Duck in the water.

And then, flying away…

A male Red-winged Blackbird offered a series of images.

I also captured a female in flight.

A pair of Song Sparrows perched for me.

And I had an elusive Black-capped Chickadee. They have been keeping a low profile lately but I expect to see them a lot as soon as the bugs and warblers arrive.

I can’t resist being stared down by a Dark-eyed Junco.

American Tree Sparrows were fewer in number than they have been in the last week.

One more American Robin on the ground.

With the forecast for rain and snow this week, I don’t know how often I will get out. Of course things can change. I just don’t want to repeat an exercise I went through one day last week when I went out the front door and came back in three times before I finally decided to take my chances. So I will likely be back with some older photos before I banish them to storage. I hope your days are getting greener.

Deep Freeze

I wasn’t going out today. At least not for a walk. I got out of bed later than usual. The birds were waiting to be fed as the bright sunshine poured through the east windows. By the time I got done feeding everyone I had convinced myself the sun was shining and there was no reason not to go for a walk, so I put on extra layers and drove over to the Portage where I was the only car in the lot.

Plenty of people had been there yesterday after the snow. Yesterday wasn’t such a bad day by comparison but I was preoccupied with the snow and stayed home. This morning we were in the single digits. But the sun was shining and there was no wind to speak of. So I walked – and I’m glad I did. My mind and body seem to need this.

Below, footprints in the snow that preceded my visit. But still better than the ice from my last visit four days earlier.

There were not a lot of birds on either day, but I was delighted to see an albeit rather distant American Kestrel land on top of a tree this morning just as I approached the first bridge. I took several photographs like the one below and then managed to capture its departure.

The first bridge

I always take photos of the landscape just to see how it changes with the seasons… There seemed to be a lot of deer tracks across the frozen stream. And then there was a family of deer.

I was fortunate enough to visit with a greeter Black-capped Chickadee for a moment.

On the earlier visit with the little camera I managed to get the images below of Northern Cardinals and an American Tree Sparrow. I saw none of these species today.

Front and back of the statue – today with snow, on the 21st without.

American Robins from my first visit and today. You can see how much colder it was today by how fluffed up the Robin below is.

I also managed to get a few photos of White-throated Sparrows both visits. The closest ones were with the little camera – better weather and a less-intimidating lens, perhaps.

I noticed the wasp nest had a nice snow cap.

There was a Red-tailed Hawk on my way out, but it refused to stay put in its perch locations long enough to photograph and I didn’t capture it well enough in flight to reproduce here.

When I got home, I decided to walk around the back with the camera to see if I could sneak a few shots of my yard birds. They know me best for when they can expect me to fill the feeders. The rest of the time they tend not to tolerate my presence outside much. They are so exposed right now. It will be easier to hang with them when the trees start filling out with leaves.

The American Goldfinches are my steadiest customers up until about 3;00 in the afternoon. I fill up the new thistle feeders every day so more of them can feed at the same time. Every morning there are at least 30 to 40 of them. This is the first winter in a couple years that I haven’t had Pine Siskins visiting the thistle feeders as well.

American Goldfinch

House Sparrows…an exiting House Finch and American Goldfinch…and some Goldfinches on the thistle feeders. Those feeders were full this morning before I left.

I won’t know if I’m going for a walk tomorrow until I venture out into the yard. Dangerous wind chills are in the forecast. But if the sun is shining as brightly as it did today, it may still seem tolerable. I like to walk at Riverside which is a shorter trek lately anyway, and it’s on my way to the pool. Either way, I likely won’t be going out until something like 9:30. Swimming will be cold enough. I noticed Monday night that the pool has more pockets of colder than warmer water. Keeps me moving!

Christmas Week at the Portage – Part I

This series of photos is from December 23. I went back on the 26th and will share those photos in a separate post. The weather has since turned a bit more wintry. I decided not to go out today due to early cloud cover and mostly mud – I am getting a bit tired of cleaning the treads of my boots. But I also have so much to do at home that I kept putting off “until I retire” or “until winter” and since I am in both those places, I need to get going on the 20-years-of-accumulated-stuff project.

The sky was dramatic at first but brightened up ever so slightly. There are new piles of chopped wood here and there along the trails. I can only imagine the volunteers were taking care of fallen or about-to-fall trees.

At first this White-breasted Nuthatch was hard to uncover but he came out and made himself known eventually.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been more abundant than I remember, but it could just be that for the sake of getting out more, I have become more attuned to their comings and goings. I was delighted to find the flight sequence in my photos, which I put into the carousel below.

A favorite ground-foraging place these days is the trail, and when I’m lucky and the only person on the trail, I can usually stop and watch the birds for some time.

Song Sparrow and female Northern Cardinal