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.

A Visit to Goose Lake Prairie

On July 9, I went to Goose Lake Prairie for my annual summertime visit. There were not a lot of birds available for viewing, but enough of the usual suspects were present for the most part and I had a good time observing a few individuals.

Song Sparrow

It was hard to find a Dickcissel close enough to the trail until I had walked quite a ways and meandered farther. The bird in the middle photograph below is a female.

The wind sweeping over the prairie made it difficult to get clean recordings, but below is a sample of a Dickcissel song.

Dickcissel

I was stumped by this Meadowlark – and wondered if perhaps it was a Western instead of a more likely Eastern – but I remain stumped and have decided whatever it is, it is a juvenile. I took way too many photographs of it but none have clarified the identification.

I am always happy to see – and hear – Field Sparrows. Unfortunately the only recording I got was very faint and far away.

Field Sparrow

There were plenty of Song Sparrows…but I did not attempt to record any. There was always one singing somewhere.

I was a bit disappointed that the parking lot Killdeer refused to turn around.

This bedraggled looking bird must be a young Indigo Bunting.

Here are some more poses from the Indigo Bunting at the top of the post.

It was a bright, sunny, cloudless day.

There were turtles on the rock in the water by the Cragg Cabin.

A male Northern Cardinal stood out against this background.

There were a lot of Common Yellowthroats but they were quite far away when visible at all.

Common Yellowthroat

Red-winged Blackbirds were predictably present.

Somehow I got lucky with this Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

I would have liked to have at least heard a Sedge Wren, but instead there seemed to be plenty of House Wrens.

The Purple Loosestrife below stood out. Luckily there wasn’t a lot of it but still it’s considered invasive.

There was one Great Egret at the water by Cragg Cabin, but it took flight when I tried to walk by quietly.

I like the colors of this rather distant Cedar Waxwing.

I made it all the way back to the lake, as it were, but the vegetation made it impossible to see the water and when I entered the blind and looked through the dirty cloudy windows, I didn’t see anything in the water.

I will have to try visiting this place a bit more often than once a year. Tomorrow I am getting up very early to go all the way up to the other Goose Lake in McHenry County, where I think they have had more rain and it is a few degrees cooler. I hope to get a better look at the Yellow-headed Blackbirds, but whatever I see, it should be a beautiful morning. The abundance of summer continues.

Inertia and Bald Eagles

It’s been a week. This post has nothing to do with the Fourth – or now, the Fifth – of July except that I realize it’s the first such holiday I have not been compelled to visit Goose Lake Prairie for my annual prairie and Dickcissel fix. I will be going there perhaps in the next week or so now that I have no obligations to a workplace.

I’m going back to photos from the Chicago Portage taken on June 12 and June 18. Just last month, but it already seems like those were slightly cooler days of innocence. Before the loud music from my neighbors’ pool stereo. Before the fireworks. I’ll stop there.

Below is the first time I captured Tadziu, the indomitable Indigo Bunting, on his new perch across his bridge. Also are recordings of his song on both days.

Recording of Tadziu singing on 6/12/22 with Warbling Vireo in background
Tadziu singing on 6/18/22
Looking at Tadziu’s bridge from afar, on 6/18

I captured a Bald Eagle flying over the Portage both days after not having seen one for quite a while.

I still think Brown-headed Cowbird males are good-looking guys.

More Bald Eagle flight photos.

These are not good photographs of a Northern Flicker but perhaps they are interesting in the shadows.

Here’s another Indigo Bunting – not Tadziu – I saw on June 18.

And here’s another Northern Flicker. These photos intrigued me because in the first ones, his tail completely disappears into the tree.

I keep expecting to see flocks of Cedar Waxwings in the mulberry trees, but so far had only barely seen a couple individuals.

12-Spotted Skimmers are relatively common at the Portage.

I haven’t seen Red-bellied Woodpeckers as often as I have heard them, but was able to capture this one at a distance.

Red-winged Blackbirds are not as visible as they were right now, so in good light I try to photograph those I can.

On June 12 I saw this Indigo Bunting and then managed to record his song. You can hear how different it is from Tadziu’s.

Indigo Bunting with Baltimore Oriole answering

I was happy to see a Black-capped Chickadee for a change of pace. It was busy and quiet.

This Ruby-throated Hummingbird was far away but perched so I attempted a couple photos. I hate calling them “shots”…!

Vegetation I haven’t seen or noticed before always attracts my attention. From left to right, Motherwort, a non-native species; Red Clover, also introduced; and galium aparine, known by a plethora of colorful names including Bedstraw, Sticky Willy, Catchweed, Whippy Sticks – now naturalized in the U.S.

Below, perhaps more or less native, allium canadense or Wild Garlic, and Fox Sedge.

There was this beautiful orange fungus on the 12th. I haven’t seen it since, I will have to remember to look for it.

Two tiny insects, what looks like some sort of fly, and a beetle I am too lazy to look up and identify.

I keep photographing this bridge as long as I can still see it through the vegetation, and then a view of the stream overgrown.

Not the clearest photo of a somewhat distant White-breasted Nuthatch but I hadn’t seen one all summer and the two tree barks almost make me dizzy.

One House Wren pondering his next move…

A view of the Des Plaines River from the trail above the bottomlands…

Today is also the 11th anniversary of my blog. And my birthday. I may not be posting as often as usual (albeit I post infrequently enough as it is!) for the next few weeks as I have penciled in – no, engraved in stone – my intention to start working on the book I’ve been meaning to write for the last 20 years. I don’t intend to finish it, but it’s a good time to start: I have no immediate obligations without choir rehearsals during the summer, the weather, whether too hot or stormy, may interfere somewhat with my propensity for morning bird walks, and I don’t know, I just have a feeling that if I start writing it may take me over like the last long writing project I was involved with years ago, and that will be worth doing in and of itself. A long retreat into another corner of my mind. A brief respite from the world’s troubles. Truth in observation. Trying to make sense of it all, but acknowledging when it makes no sense.

Summertime at the Portage

I haven’t been out birding since Sunday morning and I likely will not get to do so until the middle of next week, but that’s okay, I am having a wonderful visit with Linda G., my closest friend since we met in junior high. Birds are occupied with their most important breeding activities which tend to make them hard to see anyway: we might get around to a walk but don’t count on it. But that’s okay, I have a backlog of photos from outings last week and before. These photographs are from last Thursday, June 23.

The forecast was for partly sunny, but this was plenty of sun for me. The temperature was not too hot so I think the birds were enjoying it too.

Baltimore Orioles were in the mulberries. The photograph in the upper left corner of the panel below is of a female.

I was following a bird later that was down low in the grasses and it turned out to be a female Orchard Oriole. You can see how she appears “greenish” compared to the female Baltimore Oriole in the previous panel. I am so happy to know Orchard Orioles are breeding at the Portage.

Indigo Buntings are everywhere – at least the males are still easy to spot. I haven’t seen a female that I could capture lately, but as the summer continues I should start seeing them and the juveniles. I have been seeing Tadziu on both sides of the bridge lately. Here he is perched in his original spot.

And now he also likes the very tippy-top of a tree on the other side. I confess I recorded him three times. He basically sang the same song in all three recordings but I just couldn’t help myself. I can recognize his song from a distance as I approach his territory.

So below are Tadziu’s greatest hits.

The Indigo Bunting below is an entirely different individual. He wasn’t singing for me so I couldn’t record him to compare, but he’s beautiful. I love the way the light plays with these guys.

There isn’t a lot of Squirrel-Tail Grass and I suspect it doesn’t last very long but it was looking good that day.

Below is some variety of sedge I have never seen before and cannot identify, so I welcome any suggestions. At least I think it’s a sedge.

When I got across the south bridge as I walked in, I noticed workers applying herbicides. I had seen what I think was a Forest Preserves truck in the parking lot. I asked one young woman if they were going to tackle the poison hemlock, and she said she didn’t know about that yet, but that they were discouraging Mugwort, which is in the photo below right. Apparently it’s considered an herbal remedy by some but it’s also very invasive, native to Europe and Asia. I think the strategy is to prevent it from flowering and producing seeds, which apparently can be as many as 200 seeds per plant, but it also has a rhizome root system, so stopping seed propagation is only one step in control. I didn’t dare ask what herbicide they were using, but if I see them working again I will get over my prejudices temporarily and try to be a better reporter.

I encountered a young rabbit that day.

I haven’t been able to identify this yellow flower yet but it seems to be a new one at the Portage. I will pay closer attention to the foliage on my next visit and see if I can figure out what it is. It’s so easy to be lazy…

This Chipmunk was nibbling on something.