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.
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.
I hadn’t walked around Riverside for a while so I took a walk Monday while it was still comfortable to be outside. There were lots of Canada Geese and only a few Mallards but I was happy to see the hen below with her two ducklings. I admit I cropped dad out of the picture.
It was also nice to see herons on the water. There were two Great Egrets but they were quite distant, so I photographed only one. I also saw one Great Blue Heron. The water level is so low they are standing in the middle of the river.
I was reminded of the storm the week before, both by the paved walk and later on the Riverside Lawn trail where I had to negotiate three downed trees.
I love the spotty plumage on young American Robins like the one below.
The damselfly treat of the day was a Blue-fronted Dancer.
I often see Common Grackles in the rocks by the river. This is a female.
Almost two weeks earlier, on June 8, I visited Riverside and the first bird I saw was a Cliff Swallow sitting on the wire for quite a while. I don’t see this species very often.
It was a cloudy day. and it was much cooler as well. Again, a Common Grackle caught my eye, this time, a male.
It seemed unusual to see a feral Rock Pigeon on the riverbank.
Canada Geese were in the river. Nothing unusual about that.
There was this little family taking a walk.
I struggled to see and photograph Killdeer that day. They blend in well with the rocks by the former Hoffman Dam.
Here are the first photos I took, literally just pointing the camera in the direction I was hearing the Killdeer.
At some point there was a Turkey Vulture being chased by a Red-winged Blackbird. I love to see the vultures in flight, they are so graceful. A series of several photos is below.
I managed to capture a Baltimore Oriole that day. The photo opportunities have decreased since nesting season has taken over everything.
Here’s one more of the Cliff Swallow.
There were a number of Variable Dancers on the Riverside Lawn trail. They are very tiny,
Summer is official now and hot weather is baked in, so to speak. I have a busy agenda this week and heading into July with the possibility of a house guest for a couple weeks, so my posts may be a little scattered or scatterbrained, but after all it is summertime. Hope you are enjoying the longer days and staying cool enough, wherever you are.
It was a nice weekend – two cooler mornings before the anticipated heat returned. I went to the Portage on Saturday morning and decided to visit McGinnis Slough Sunday. This is a brief summary of the McGinnis encounter.
There is very little water. Maybe it’s a little more water than last summer, but some birds I could always count on are not present. I saw no evidence of Trumpeter Swans, for instance. And last year there was a pair of Sandhill Cranes, but I haven’t seen any of those either. There was only one Great Blue Heron fishing close to the log where the Wood Ducks hang out. I could barely see anything through the reeds.
Later I managed a somewhat clearer picture of the Great Blue Heron and a couple deer.
I was surprised to see more people at the preserve than I expected, but I had forgotten that it was a holiday – Father’s Day – and beautiful weather, and why not? I got there fairly early anyway and first encountered a group of Tree Swallows.
This is always an attractive place for dragonflies and I found several beautiful Blue Dashers. I am always chuckling to myself as I try to do macro photography with a 100-400mm lens.
There were a lot of Song Sparrows singing. I only photographed this one, but recorded another briefly. Then at one point I just stood and recorded all the songs of several species I was hearing.
I barely managed to capture a male Common Yellowthroat who had retreated to a perch inside a small tree.
At one point I noticed a Downy Woodpecker feeding its fledgling.
A young American Robin was looking out over the vast expanse of the slough from its perch near the path, as if to reflect upon the world now at its wingtips.
Another young American Robin caught my eye. More of a keeping cool perch.
I kept hearing a Virginia Rail, but never even hoped to see it. I followed it with my ears as it moved around, at times not too far from the center lawn that juts out into the slough from the parking lot. Before I left, I sat at a picnic table there to cool off and just observe, when I caught a distant view of a Common Gallinule in my binoculars. It was nearly impossible to photograph but I tried anyway. I have never seen one of these here before. Perhaps this is an indication of the habitat changing.
There was a very tiny Least Skipper.
And I was surprised this Chipmunk stuck around just long enough for me to snap its photo.
Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere but this female turned out to be my best photo op.
Here’s one more of a Blue Dasher.
I don’t know how much energy I will have tomorrow, but with any luck I will be back with more sleepy summertime photos. As luck would have it — tomorrow being the summer solstice and the longest day of the year — it may be the hottest day we have had so far. I almost look forward to the days getting shorter.
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.
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.
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.
One more photo of the Silver Spotted Skipper which, in this cropping, at least, makes me appreciate Giant Ragweed a bit more.
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.
In celebration of my announced retirement to the firm yesterday – my last day at work is scheduled to be August 31st – I am publishing Part 2 tonight.
The last time I saw my friendly Indigo Bunting whose territory was around what I like to call the second bridge, he was claiming the sign as his territory as well, singing “And this is My Sign.” He then hopped over to the end of the bridge and started singing “And this is My Bridge” but when I raised the camera to capture him there, he took off.
When I was walking around the back trail by the MWRD property, I encountered a couple juvenile Yellow Warblers, which could explain why I haven’t heard or seen any singing males lately.
There aren’t a lot of dragonflies either.
I did catch a glimpse of a female Baltimore Oriole.
I started taking pictures of this swallow from a great distance by the parking lot when I first got out of the car – and upon blowing them up later found it flying upside down.
Robins are ubiquitous now and their numbers have increased, thanks to a successful breeding season. Worms are plentiful now with the rain.