More Summer Portage Passages

We have threats of thunderstorms this morning and perhaps later in the afternoon, but like yesterday so far it seems to be a waiting game with periods of drizzle.

The last time I saw a Great-crested Flycatcher at the Chicago Portage was on July 22nd. I imagine they’re still around but I am not sure I have heard them lately either. This one was just close enough to capture with the 400mm lens.

I managed to focus for a while on a disheveled-looking Northern Flicker. I waited and waited for him to take off, hoping to capture him in flight, but he beat me to it.

A Spicebush Swallowtail was present both days.

You might expect the beetle below to be named after its vibrant color but instead it’s named after six tiny little white spots which might be more visible in the second photograph.

Whatever the attraction is to the dirt path, this female Powdered Dancer damselfly stayed there long enough.

Tadziu the Indigo Bunting is just as fond of his sunshine perch as he is of the other one across the bridge in the shade.

When there isn’t a lot going on to distract me, I tend to focus on whatever activity exists. Starved for action, I could not resist taking pictures of two young-looking Warbling Vireos who were busy in the mulberries. Berries require less work for them than bugs, I imagine. And as for me, it’s only a matter of time before I get to apply these skills to fall warblers.

The contrast between July 22 and July 25 before and after some rain is evident in the photos below of the bottomlands by the Des Plaines River.

It’s usually easier to get a decent photograph of a female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer.

Female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

This is pretty much how the water looks at the Portage these days. A sea of green.

I have some photos from two more visits at the very end of July, and then it’s looking for signs of more activity in August as fledglings turn into juveniles and thoughts of fall migration start to emerge.

In the meantime, sitting on my front porch yesterday afternoon, I had a brief visit from a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting in the apple tree. I hope to eventually get a few photos of her in action at the flowers or the feeders.

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.

Summer Surprises at the Chicago Portage

I began writing this post while I was sitting here with the sun pouring through the half-closed slats of the blinds, the curse of facing east in the morning, artificially cooled by the fans and air conditioning going more often than I’d like to maintain an inside temperature of 80 degrees. I paid the Chicago Portage a visit Monday and before that on Saturday, when the morning temperatures were much cooler, but decided to stay home yesterday, worked in the yard for brief periods, and gave my recuperating knee a rest. At least I have shade in the backyard. We are in the middle of a hot, dry spell again. The later-week predictions of rain have disappeared.

Oh – that beautiful male Eastern Towhee at the top of the post – I encountered him briefly right off the trail. It’s the second time I’ve seen him in the past couple weeks.

Monday as I was putting my camera and backpack in the hatch of the car, I looked up to see a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird first check the front yard, then zip over to the feeder on the porch and then over the roof toward the backyard where there are three more feeders. I haven’t seen a hummingbird for weeks, maybe months. That proved to be a good sign. When I got to the first bridge at the Portage, although very distant and the photos below are severely cropped, I did see a male Ruby-throat, perched on a dead tree over the water from where I stood.

I hoped to see a hummingbird again, perhaps in the Red Bee Balm that is in bloom, but did not.

Red Bee Balm at the Portage

After the hummingbird left, I spotted one American Goldfinch on the same tree.

Whereas on Saturday, I spotted five distant American Goldfinches trying to brighten up the gloom.

Monday was bright and sunshiny with most birds still at a distance. An American Robin and a Red-bellied Woodpecker share this frame.

The Prairie Coneflower, below left, is starting to bloom. It’s one of my favorites at the Portage. I still haven’t figured out the other yellow flower.

There are a lot of American Robins here even when you don’t see them. Below are two juveniles. The second photograph, taken in the mulberry tree, indicates the berries aren’t quite ready yet. I expect when they are ripe, flocks of Cedar Waxwings will join the Robins.

Here’s a Robin I managed to follow as it decided what to do with its catch.

There are quite a few Blue-fronted Dancer damselflies. I wish this one had chosen a better-looking place to rest.

I was intrigued by the new growth starting from a long-dead fragment of log poking out from the bottomlands through the fence.

Here’s what it looked like after the rain, back there on Sunday. I’m sure it’s all dried out now.

Sunday was not a great day to photograph Indigo Buntings but this one picked an interesting perch.

As a contrast, there was too much light on Monday.

The brightness did justice to two butterflies, a Silver-spotted Skipper and a Red Admiral.

I was surprised to see what had been an iconic dead tree by the second, or northernmost bridge, broken in half as it was a magnet for nesting Northern Flickers. I could not locate what happened to the rest of it.

The most interesting bird on Saturday was a Peregrine Falcon perched at quite a distance from where I stood across the water. When I got a bit closer to it, it fixed its gaze on me. Alas we grew bored with each other and I was looking elsewhere when it finally took off, missing a flight shot.

On Monday one Pearl Crescent became two.

I felt lucky to see an Eastern Wood-Pewee as I usually only hear him, but I didn’t manage to get him in great focus. Oh well.

Tadziu was on territory Monday.

I haven’t been able to find a Red-winged Blackbird anywhere at the Portage although I know they exist. So I had to settle Monday for a female Brown-headed Cowbird as a substitute blackbird.

A bucolic young rabbit with a couple Robins on the path.

Early Monday I encountered a very young deer.

It looks like the Elderberry is going to have ripe fruit soon too. Let the fun begin. I have just planted one of these in my backyard and I expect it won’t produce fruit for a while but I look forward to watching it grow.

A view of Tadziu’s bridge through the trees.

There is simply a lot of Tall Bellflower in bloom here.

One more of the Peregrine Falcon.

I’m not going out walking every day in this heat – more like every other day or so. There’s plenty to do around the house and in the yard. And there is that book. I had a revelation the other day while I was swimming, I think. Water has always inspired me, even doing dishes over the sink. That and sometimes while I’m playing piano for the birds. Anyway I think I fit some puzzle pieces together in my head so I am going to write a synopsis tonight and tomorrow which will give me a roadmap.

More to come. Still trying to fill up these longer days while we have them.

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.