Portage Peregrine

I didn’t go for a walk yesterday, as much as I wanted to go back to the Chicago Portage. The sky was gloomy and threatening rain which we never got. But more than that, I didn’t want to lose my parking space because of the holiday, and I had so much cooking to do I figured the only way I would have enough energy to get it all done was to stay home.

But two days earlier, on Tuesday morning when I got to the Chicago Portage, the first bird I saw was a Peregrine Falcon, perched on a tree overlooking the frozen stream, eating its breakfast.

I got a smidgen closer and started taking more photographs.

I started to feel a bit sorry for the falcon having to deal with me while otherwise obviously enjoying its meal, but I couldn’t help myself.

Needless to say I took too many photographs, so here are some more.

Only a bright red bird could distract me momentarily.

Here’s what the Portage looked like that morning from the bridge. The water was frozen, so there were no ducks or geese.

A couple Dark-eyed Juncos stuck around almost long enough for a photo or two.

Two Mallards flew over but kept going. I guess they weren’t tempted by the ice.

But then a Great Blue Heron flew over.

And a little while later, I found it sitting behind where I was on the trail, by the frozen stream.

I crossed the second bridge.

There were sparrows at this point.

Fox Sparrow

I saw more American Tree Sparrows than any other species.

And one more Fox Sparrow.

Here are a couple more photos of the Peregrine Falcon dining.

A Red-tailed Hawk flew over a couple times. I was barely able to capture it the second time around.

One more surreptitious view of the Great Blue Heron.

So you never know what you will see these days at the Chicago Portage as we head into winter. The most amazing thing to me was that the Peregrine Falcon was present practically the entire two hours and twenty-five minutes I was there. I had some more distant photos of it as it moved around, but then snuck up behind it going back down the inside trail for the photo which is at the top of the post. Here’s one more from that viewpoint just for good measure.

I hope your holidays are going well. I’m looking forward to seeing how many different combinations of leftovers I can come up with through the next few weeks.

Portage Recently

After two days of inclement weather earlier in the week, I couldn’t stand the thought of not walking, so I put on my long underwear and all the other necessary layers to endure a very cold walk Thursday morning at the Chicago Portage. I didn’t see a lot of birds, but I was happy to catch up with the flock, such as it was, eventually. Most of the birds were quite far away and the cloud cover made it that much harder to capture their images.

The last time I was there before that was last Sunday, the 13th, when at first the sky proved more interesting than anything on the ground.

But then I saw a deer.

The sun came out and made it quite pleasant.

American Robin

House Finches have been more noticeable lately as they move around with the sparrow and cardinal groups. For the most part, any birds I am seeing lately have been part of a larger mixed flock.

I managed to capture a Fox Sparrow that day. They are larger than other sparrows and they tend to sit still for a while, making the only challenge how far away they have decided to perch.

I have been seeing American Tree Sparrows at the Portage for weeks now. I don’t think I have seen any in Riverside yet although there are likely some there. Their arrival always verifies winter. Although the bird below had its back to me I think I found the feather pattern attractive.

Of course Dark-eyed Juncos spend their winters here too.

And Black-capped Chickadees are a year-round delight.

So this was how the Portage looked on the 13th.

Some more American Tree Sparrow photos from that day. This bird was perched at quite a distance.

Below might be the same bird in the earlier photos. I just found it interesting to see how well it blended in with the foliage, especially in the middle photo below. Hard to tell where the bird begins and the brush ends.

It was much colder on Thursday, but at least there was sunshine for a while.

Here’s how the sky looked when I stepped out my front door.

But by the time I got to the Portage, the scene was much gloomier.

I see Mourning Doves more often in my backyard lately, but this one was present at the Portage on Thursday morning.

The Northern Cardinals stand out now that all the leaves are gone.

As long as there is open water, there will be Mallards. This water is pretty shallow though. I suspect it could be frozen over by now after the second day of extreme cold.

I heard a Fox Sparrow chirp – which the Merlin App confirmed – but didn’t realize I had probably seen it until I found this barely captured bird in my photos later.

Fox Sparrow

Here are a few more images from Thursday’s outing. There weren’t many. But I’m glad I went. Yesterday and today have proved too cold, blowy and somewhat snowy for my taste. Maybe I’ll reacquaint myself with the mirrorless camera as it would be a lot less to carry around and manipulate with gloved fingers.

House Finch
Gray Squirrel
American Robin

Going for a walk every morning has become an integral part of my daily routine, so I don’t intend to stay inside for long. I did go swimming yesterday and it was rejuvenating. My greatest joy every day is to play piano for the birds when they join in with such enthusiasm. I hope to manage posting a few recordings in the not-too-distant future. After all, that’s how this whole thing started.

I may spend a little time in the yard this morning. If I had been outside long enough yesterday I might have caught the sound and sight of tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes flying over. Of course they were. They always take advantage of that push from the north, and we certainly have had that. I am sorry I missed them, and I haven’t traveled far enough lately to see them up close. Oh well. Tomorrow will be sunny, if cold, but I will be in the choir and with any luck doing the line dance with others at the end of the service. I look forward to being back on the trail Monday.

Thanks to all for checking in.

Looking Back on October 23rd

Not yet a month ago, I stepped out of my front door on October 23rd with the intention of visiting the Chicago Portage and was immediately summoned to action by the calls of American Crows. Crows make a racket whenever there’s a predator around, and sure enough, a Red-tailed Hawk was perched on my neighbor’s radio antenna across the street.

What ensued was Crows chasing the hawk, which gave me some lovely images against a cloudless sky.

When the three Crows had dispensed of the Red-tailed Hawk, they perched on the antenna for a moment, perhaps reflecting on their successful mission.

I got into my car and drove over to the Portage to savor one of those last beautiful fall days.

Yellow-rumped Warblers hadn’t left yet. It was a challenge to pick one out from the fallen leaves on the grass off the parking lot.

An American Goldfinch blended in with the dried up foliage.

It’s been a difficult season to capture a White-throated Sparrow well. I became more intrigued with the pattern on the back of this one.

White-throated Sparrow

I think this was the last time I saw a Gray Catbird.

I reported 16 Golden-crowned Kinglets but barely captured this one.

It was still possible to see Yellow-rumped Warblers foraging in the duckweed-covered stream, and of course Mallards were making their way through the muck of it all.

I counted four Hermit Thrushes that day as I found them all over the preserve. Later going through my photos I thought I had a Gray-cheeked Thrush, but it came up rare on ebird and I didn’t feel like arguing the point when the Hermit Thrush I was also photographing had distinctly dark spotting on the breast.

One thing I did notice a lot this year was Hermit Thrushes standing flicking their tails upward.

So here’s the bird I think was a Gray-cheeked Thrush. It seems crazy to report it almost a month later. I think I’ll pass on this enigma.

More American Goldfinches blending in with the fall colors.

All these leaves and their colors have left us by now.

Perhaps my biggest surprise that day was seeing an Eastern Phoebe. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t a pair at the Portage all summer, but it was nice to see this one coming through so late. I couldn’t stop taking photos of it.

And the birds I will be seeing all winter were becoming more visible, like this male Downy Woodpecker.

I always hear and generally see Black-capped Chickadees but they don’t always give me great opportunities for photographs, so I took this one up on its offer.

I will be back soon with photos from more recent local expeditions. I just wanted to share this before it got too far away from me.

We are feeling winter’s grip this week. Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday. I guess it’s only fitting that the temperatures match the ever-diminishing hours of daylight. Even though I bought a nice little lamp to light up my music, I think I’ll have to start playing piano just a little bit earlier. Maybe the best thing about all this is comfort food, particularly soup and bread.

Columbus Park: 2 Extracurricular Visits

We Oak Park bird walk people got together twice more to visit Columbus Park on October 15 and 29 respectively. The 15th was definitely birdier with plenty of Golden-crowned Kinglets showing off.

A rather familiar sight in the pond at Columbus Park is a gaggle of Canada Geese and that day was no exception.

You may remember the Great Blue Heron at the back door of the Refectory from the last time we were there. It was back in the same spot again.

The leaf color was a factor on that sunny morning, making nice backgrounds for the birds.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

I was delighted to find this series of photos of a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

We had several sparrow species that day too. Unfortunately they weren’t always that easy to see. Below is a Swamp Sparrow and then beneath it, a Clay-colored Sparrow.

I got several photos of a Song Sparrow in a thicket trying hard not to be seen.

And I nearly missed photographing this Fox Sparrow.

There were Dark-eyed Juncos, with this one being the only one I managed to capture. Sometimes all you see of a Junco is its white tail feathers flashing.

We also had a Brown Creeper. I think it’s the last one I have seen this fall.

At some point perhaps over 200 Canada Geese flew overhead and then landed in the water.

Here are some more photos of the Golden-crowned Kinglet at the top of the post.

A Palm Warbler was present in the wildflower garden.

Sometimes an American Robin can be interesting, as I found this one flying over the water.

The next time we met on October 29, the water looked like this. It’s a beautiful reflecting pool. Notice there were no birds in it.

We saw hardly any birds at all that morning after covering our usual bases. However, a Great Blue Heron did us a favor and landed right in front of us.

It was only around 9:15 AM when we decided to call it quits. I had an errand to run and then decided to go over to the Chicago Portage to see what was happening there. Being the last Saturday of the month, the volunteer crew was on hand, noisily sawing trees somewhere off the inside trail. So that part of the preserve was off limits. But logic told me the birds might be somewhere else and I did find quite a few on the outside trail.

There were White-throated Sparrows.

And a few American Goldfinches.

And some House Finches were present too.

One of several busy Downy Woodpeckers.

A Dark-eyed Junco was foraging on the second bridge.

Milkweed seed pods caught my eye.

I found another late Nashville Warbler.