Fall Migration Retrospective

I stepped out Friday morning to go birding and right outside the door, my camera strap broke and dropped the camera and 100-400mm Canon L lens on my concrete porch floor. There was no way I could have foreseen this accident, but even with a newer strap I will more likely be holding onto the camera body when there is pavement underfoot.

I proceeded to go birding anyway. The camera seems to be fine. But the zoom ring on the lens is stuck somehow making it too tight to turn, so I am sending the lens for repair. I went back to my old lens yesterday, which has a manual push-me pull-you zoom on it – using it was a bit of an adjustment. But luckily I don’t have as many birds tempting me to photograph them as I did back in September, which is when I took the photos in this post. September 30, to be exact, at the Portage.

The lovely lady at the top of the post and in the gallery below is a female Common Yellowthroat.

Kinglets were showing up too. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet below gave me plenty of looks at its crown without the red. Then I had barely one good shot of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, but there were many more in the days that followed.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

One bird I felt privileged to see a few times this fall was a Northern Waterthrush.

Not a warbler but a nice-looking Red-bellied Woodpecker…

Below is a Northern Parula.

Black-throated Green Warblers were abundant this fall.

In the I Took Way Too Many Pictures Department, the most cooperative bird of the season had to be Blackpoll Warbler.

Sunshine and greenery at the Portage … before the fall. And a pair of Canada Geese for good measure.

One more of the Common Yellowthroat

I will be back soon with another post, slipping in and out of real time … it feels almost normal these days anyway, to be slipping in and out of reality.

Two Chilly Portage Mornings

I’ve been to the Portage several times lately, and that includes a few times since these photographs which were taken November 26 and 28. I managed to get a few pictures of an American Tree Sparrow, which was my main motivation to go out into the cold the second day. I will likely see more of this species in the coming weeks.In fact I saw three this morning. But it’s also been relatively quiet at the Portage lately.

For whatever reason it was harder to get the bird posing below in focus than the one mired in the stalks.

The usual cast of characters were present on one or both days. I was fortunate enough to have four woodpecker species on the first day: Red-bellied, Downy, Northern Flicker and Hairy.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

What’s really interesting about the photos below is that I didn’t realize until I started processing them that next to the Flicker on a separate branch was an Orange-Crowned Warbler. I enlarged the image of the warbler below.

This is Dark-eyed Junco season. I have been encountering flocks usually foraging on the path, along with Northern Cardinals.

There are still some American Goldfinches about all though not as many as I was seeing a couple weeks ago.

It’s always a nice surprise to see a Brown Creeper.

Here’s what the Portage was looking like on those cold, cloudy days.

I think the Fox Sparrow below is the last one I have seen.

There have been one or two Red-tailed Hawks every time I have gone to this location. Sometimes I only hear the hawk, but usually if I am still around by 10:00 I get to see one. This is a particularly dark-colored individual.

More washed-out Portage pics.

I usually see or hear at least one White-breasted Nuthatch.

Canada Geese on the Des Plaines River
Dark-eyed Junco

I hope to be back sooner than later. It’s getting harder and harder to pack a full day into the space of reduced daylight. I have been living with birds for a long time, but now that I spend even more time with them, the consequence could be thinking more and more like a bird!

Going Back a Bit

I have been out locally the past two weeks and there is much to post about, but I thought it might be time to take a historical break. These pictures are all from October 19th at the Portage. Only a little over a month ago, there was still more color among the birds than the leaves. I spent a lot of time with this Nashville Warbler.

Perhaps in the instance below the leaves outshone the bird – a pretty drab-looking American Goldfinch.

The other late fall warblers were on hand. Below is a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

And the one I kept seeing later and later into the season, an Orange-crowned Warbler…

Barely visible but I would know that face anywhere (Orange-crowned Warbler)

Not a lot of sparrows on hand but I managed to capture these two.

White-throated Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow

And the Kinglets – Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned…

It’s been wonderful to see Brown Creepers on so many occasions.

Always glad to see a Black-capped Chickadee who seems to return the sentiment.

This could have been the only Great Blue Heron I saw here for months since the drought caused the water level to drop so drastically.

Not a wonderful place for a Hermit Thrush to pose but I was glad to see it.

It wasn’t quite woodpecker “season” yet but I managed to see this female Downy Woodpecker.

There are lots more historical visits to make sense of – indeed a flurry of fall warblers that I was so busy taking pictures of I barely have barely had time to go through them, so they may periodically provide a little visual warmup during the cold.

I am mourning the death of my beloved singer/songwriter/implacable musician Zebra Finch male to whom I gave the name of Arturo Toscanini. He died Thursday morning. I found him on his back, on the floor of the dining room by the windows. He was still warm when I picked him up. He had been singing a lot lately, and I think perhaps he had been telling me his time was coming because I found myself thinking about how old he had to be, even though he had no signs of aging or impairment, other than it seemed his little goatee was getting whiter and whiter. The blessing in all of this is that I have one of his offspring who is singing an abbreviated version of his Arpeggio Song and an even shorter memory of his TaTaTaTaTAH Song. Also, other birds have taken up the actual Toscanini Song that he used to sing a long time ago. And there are many more songs among them to catalogue and follow. At some point I hope to go through the years of recordings (I determined I must have gotten Arturo sometime in late 2014) to see if I can put together a timeline of his compositions. In the meantime, I am incredibly thankful for all the avian musicians I still have with me. Singing is their raison d’etre, and music is life.

Rusties!

Rusty Blackbird

When flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles occur, we’re always looking for Rusty Blackbirds in the mix and until last Sunday I had not seen any. When, just by luck, I happened to be standing on the trail just as a flock of blackbirds flew into the tree in front of me, and lo and behold, mixed in with the Red-wingeds were Rusty Blackbirds!

Below, there’s one Rusty and one Red-winged, for comparison.

These two look like the official greeters.

I was treated to another busy White-breasted Nuthatch.

After an entire summer looking for Red-bellied Woodpeckers and never seeing them, now they are becoming easier to spot. You can even see the “red” on the lower abdomen in the bottom photograph.