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.

Summer Slough

Even though it’s not a great photograph, I am leading off this post from McGinnis Slough on July 17 with this rather rare sighting of two Trumpeter Swans and their three Cygnets. While one can normally count on seeing the swans, albeit from a great distance way on the other side of the slough, the largest part of the slough has virtually no open water, so the swans moved to the small portion of water that is closer to LaGrange Road. I saw them through the tall grasses and reeds that grow close to the trail. I posted close-ups of the adults in March of 2019 when there was excessive flooding which enticed them to check out what this side of the slough was like. Here’s a link to that post. https://wordpress.com/post/musicbirdblog.com/21280

Below are two photos of what the larger body of water looks like without much water in it. If the swans nested in their traditional location, I wonder how difficult it was to move the kids all the way across this marsh.

I heard more birds than I saw. The Marsh Wrens are always frustrating to me this time of year. I hope to start going back next weekend as fall migration approaches, and maybe I’ll get luckier. In the meantime, below are some more photos of the swan family. They were joined briefly by a Wood Duck.

Butterflies are not in great numbers, and I missed seeing the dragonflies I would expect to see. But it’s always nice to see a beautiful Monarch.

Below you might be able to see the Great Black (Digger) Wasps on the Red Milkweed along with the butterfly.

Northern Crescents seem to be everywhere this summer. They are very tiny but colorful so they stand out.

Here’s a new wildflower discovery for me. It’s called Self-Heal or prunella vulgaris.

A little more water…but no birds in it.

There were a few Great Blue Herons – which I managed to capture off and on.

And it’s bunny rabbit season…

I am trying to stay grounded but it’s hard. I am in limbo, shuffling work, my envisioned future without the stress of it, and the shape-shifting present we all share. Swimming, music and the birds will keep me going. I have had enough of the summer heat and look forward to spending more time outside. Fall migration will begin soon, and with it I will be leading several Saturday bird walks. I dream of visiting more places once with my weekdays are free.

Thanks for stopping by, I treasure your interest and support!

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!

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.

August Portage, Hot, Dry and Lazy

i kept struggling to write this post. In the meantime of course I have made more visits to the Portage. Maybe I can write this post now that I won’t be taking pictures for a while.

I was halfway into my morning walk today when I encountered someone walking toward me, about a block away. At that point I could not see that he was walking his dog, but he was not changing his path, so I started walking toward curbside to give us social distance. I tripped and fell suddenly on my left elbow. I could not get up, even with the dog walker’s help. So he called 911 and a nice woman from across the street offered me water. By this time I saw what I caught my shoe on – a circular piece of metal a little over a foot in diameter, strewn in the curb of the parkway: a perfect trap.

I’ll cut to the chase since I can’t type very well with one hand. I was taken to the emergency room because I became weak from the shock, x-rays were taken, and I have a broken elbow.

I am feeling much better, save the fact that I can’t go swimming and I can’t play piano, and I may have to take up dictation at this hunt-and-peck rate. In any event I saw an orthopedic surgeon this afternoon and he recommended surgery to stabilize the joint and attached tendon, because of my active lifestyle. Apparently the healing process will be faster as well as more efficient. I await a scheduling phone call.

Now on to some late August photos. I won’t be commenting so much… These photographs are from August 22, as I try to catch up with all my visits.

I think this was my last capture of a male Indigo Bunting for the season. The one below looks a little worse for wear. He was hanging out with a bunch of juveniles.