Last August – Over and Out

Here is my last little offering of photographs from last August. They afford a stark contrast to the present cold January days. We are in the single digits today with a steady creep into the teens. The sun is shining brightly and it’s not too windy, but looks are quite deceiving. It was windy overnight and I woke up in the middle of it, aware that the furnace was running continuously. I turned the indoor temperature down a degree. I am prepared to go out in my long underwear, and I can wear it indoors if need be. My indoor birds will be warm enough. They are delighting in the sunshine anyway.

Below are two less-conventional Cedar Waxwing photos. The second photograph is a juvenile bird.

Here are two adult male Baltimore Orioles and a couple shots of an immature female.

It was nearly always possible to find a goldfinch in the duckweed.

Red-winged Blackbirds were not all that easy to see all summer but they were definitely present. The birds below appear to be juveniles.

Below, a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

And here is a Warbling Vireo. They are frequently heard, but rarely seen at the Portage.

A distant view of a Great Egret on the Des Plaines River.

I haven’t seen one Chipmunk all winter, so I’m glad I caught this one in a rare pose.

I can’t resist juvenile American Robins.

It’s hard to resist a summertime male American Goldfinch too.

I never paid attention to the sticker on the back of the sign below where the Indigo Bunting is sitting with his back toward me – “Tadziu” – but apparently on the Internet there are enough definitions, from the slang “chode equipped moron” to a given name meaning “represents idealism, intuition, romance, generosity, creativity, wisdom and tolerance.” Thanks to the bunting for adding to my vocabulary.

I will be back shortly with the realities of winter. I did manage a walk yesterday morning in Riverside before I went swimming, but it was brief, with more ice than birds. There was a partial thaw the day before, which hardened into slick ice as the temperature fell again. I’m going to settle for grocery shopping today and maybe I can walk tomorrow. There’s always plenty to do at home. I can only put off the chores (I promised myself I would accomplish once I retired) for so long…

Going Back a Bit – Now and Then

Suffice it to say we are presently in the middle of a cloud. I took the little camera out this morning trying to capture it. The rain overnight and the cloud cover made the prospect of going for a walk in the woods less attractive than usual.

In the backyard, the cloud continued…

This is a perfectly senseless segue to some photos from July 31st taken at the Portage on the cusp of what would soon be the beginning of fall migration. The photos have been languishing on my hard drive and in the name of creating space I have archived them to storage. I found I had one photograph of a Big Bluestem that day in my backyard (below).

Big Bluestem

It appears to have been a suitably sunny morning at the Portage.

It was getting more difficult to find an Indigo Bunting still singing (above) and what was my last attempt to capture a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the Monarda below.

A Chimney Swift…

Summertime flora…

Queen Anne’s Lace
Squirrel Tail-Grass
Tall Bellflower, also at the top of the post

An elusive Gray Catbird in a mulberry tree…

As I recall there wasn’t enough water to support a lot of turtles last summer but here is one.

An Osprey flew over…

A young American Robin perched on the statue, getting its bearings…

Belted Kingfishers are not often easy to capture but I managed this one, a male.

Ah, dragonflies… a female 12-Spotted Skimmer.

The Portage pond, as it were, on the left, and the low level of the Des Plaines River on the right.

Two Cabbage White Butterflies…

A Monarch Butterfly in the Red Milkweed below.

And a Pearl Crescent Butterfly…

I have been out to the Portage a couple times in the last week and will be back with some of that, but I thought it might be nice to briefly remember what the sunlight looked like in the middle of summer before we finally plunge into some winter weather. Rain may turn to snow with some accumulation tomorrow.

Goose Lake Prairie

Cragg’s Cabin

I missed my annual visit to this place on the July 4th weekend. Then two Sundays ago, I decided to see what it looked like two weeks later. Weather conditions were favorable and I had no other plans, so it seemed like a good thing to do after I psyched myself up for the nearly hourlong drive. How spoiled I have become zipping over to the Portage in five minutes every weekend.

I got my yearly Dickcissel fix…

I don’t know why I have never bothered to look at the signs before but this time I paid more attention to them. The one below, however, is the only one the birds did not decorate. The rest, which explained more about the plants and the history of the place, were too messy to include here.

The parking lot was empty. However I was greeted by a Killdeer. If I remember correctly, there was a Killdeer here last time I visited. I suspect they nest near the Visitor Center. Also below is a recording from the parking lot.

I always count on seeing and hearing Dickcissels here and I was not disappointed. Except there seemed to be fewer individuals to photograph. The one below, perched and singing which is how you normally find them, was still farther away than I would have preferred. The Dickcissel’s song is below the pictures and there is also a Field Sparrow singing in the background.

Field Sparrows are lovely little birds and I was happy to see and hear them.

I got a closer look at this Field Sparrow with a worm.

View of the Visitor Center from the trail

I heard more Common Yellowthroats than I saw, which is typically the case. This one would not turn around and face me.

It took me quite a while to find a Song Sparrow, of all things.

I decided that the prairie plants were as spectacular as the birds and easier to photograph. I was a little disappointed to find the Purple Loosestrife as it is not a native species.

Below, a Monarch Butterfly enjoying a Compass Plant flower.

Compass Plant

I couldn’t stop taking pictures of this tiny Northern Crescent butterfly.

On a small piece of remaining boardwalk. I found a Red Admiral trying to blend in with some coyote scat. The other individual was more discretely checking out the gravel trail.

There didn’t seem to be many Indigo Buntings but in general, the birds were busy nesting and not displaying. I did manage to capture this one.

Great Blue Herons flew past, but I missed seeing any up close. There was one barely visible when I reached the Goose Lake, such as it is, but I did not want to disturb it so I reversed course.

Most of the trails are mown grass, which is where I eventually encountered the Dickcissel on the ground.

Shortly before I started to turn back, I encountered two guys who flushed a female Ring-necked Pheasant. Below are a couple not-very-clear flight photos.

The sun’s glare on the trail map below makes it even harder to see

There weren’t many Red-Winged Blackbirds visible. I settled for this one.

Over the pond by Cragg’s Cabin, I managed to capture a Cliff Swallow.

On the way out, I stopped the car to let two Wild Turkey hens cross the road. I got out of the car to take a few pictures of one. She seemed unconcerned by my presence but didn’t volunteer for a better view.

A Plastic Bag Bird too far away to capture and discard
Another Great Blue Heron in the clouds
A Great Egret

Overall I am very happy that I made it back to this beautiful place. I am a little sorry that it has taken me two weeks to report on it. But here we are at the end of July already. One confusing day leads to the next. On that note, I’m going swimming tonight for another slice of temporary ecstasy.

Almost forgot the Raspberrries!

Migrant Morning at the Portage

I had a lot of other photographs I was going to post from previous visits but they will have to wait. In spite of the rainy forecast Saturday morning, I went to the Portage and even though it was overcast, it was magical. Within a minute or two I had heard 10 bird species. I saw most of them and many more.

Perhaps the first bird I saw and heard was a Baltimore Oriole. There were easily half a dozen males staking out territories. This was the only one sitting out in the open.

I encountered a small flock of warblers fairly early. I was lucky to be able to sit on a big fallen log that has become permanent enough to attract graffiti. The opportunity to sit and look up into the trees was welcome. Below, couple Yellow-rumped Warblers.

I encountered small groups of White-Crowned Sparrows. They were delightful to see, but they weren’t singing. I have had them in my yard for a couple weeks and they have always started singing the minute I open the door. It was nice enough of these guys to pose for pictures.

I’ve been hearing Yellow Warblers for a couple weeks but hadn’t seen one yet at the Portage. But I found this one in my photos.

Yellow Warbler

And then, of course, the Indigo Buntings. I underestimated their ability to look gorgeous even in poor light.

Below is a series of Black-and-White Warblers. There have been times I haven’t been able to capture these guys and girls, so this was a real treat for me.

I think I’ve decided Hackberries are my favorite trees. The birds like them a lot, and the Portage now seems to be full of them. They are in the elm family and I suspect were planted to fill the gaps left by all the elms we lost over the years to Dutch Elm Disease.

Here’s a Black-capped Chickadee demonstrating why he likes Hackberries. They seem to attract good worms.

A few birds I would expect to see all summer…

This female American Robin looks a bit exhausted. She also appears disheveled with her brood patch.
A male American Goldfinch
Gray Catbird
Great Blue Heron flyover

There were at least 30 swallows over the water. I had three species – Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. They are all represented in the slide show below.