Colorful Fall Birds at Columbus Park

The spell was finally broken at Columbus Park on Saturday. We actually saw some migrants. It began with a couple Cape May Warblers that I simply could not take my lens off of.

Another individual almost looked like a different species altogether, he was so stripey.

They were both busy in the center of the same tree with a Yellow-rumped Warbler or two. A Yellow-rumped is in the first three photos below and the last photograph in the series shows a Cape May Warbler and a Yellow-rumped Warbler together on the same branch.

There was a Nashville Warbler later on.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was in the same area as the Cape May Warblers but it was moving so quickly from tree to tree, I barely captured the image below.

When we first arrived, there were Mallards tooling around in the shallow water by the Refectory.

Later across the pond on the other side we spotted a juvenile Great Blue Heron standing at the back door of the Refectory.

I made a quick visit to the Chicago Portage after our walk to see if there was any extra activity there. I was going to include those photos in this post but I think I will just do a separate post as I went back there again Sunday morning and found more birds sort of in the same spot.

And actually I simply have way too many photographs of the Cape Mays at Columbus to make room for anything else. I couldn’t help myself. I was surprised to see the bug also making an escape in the first photo below.

I managed to capture a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. There were Golden-crowned Kinglets too but they were elusive this time around.

At one point someone noticed a hawk in the middle of a bare tree with grackles and robins perched all around keeping an eye on it. It turned out to be a Red-tailed Hawk. None of the photos were good with all the branches in the way.

However many Yellow-rumped Warblers were present, they weren’t always easy to photograph. But I kind of like how this one blended into the background in these two shots. The bird was fairly distant so these have been cropped considerably.

Of course I have a few more of the Cape Mays. I will be back very soon with the last two visits to the Portage – before I try to get caught up again with the other visits that preceded them.

We have been blessed with the gift of beautiful fall weather the past few days. That makes it easier to get up and out earlier. With the days getting shorter and the nights getting colder, the time to observe fall migration seems precious and limited. I am grateful.

Fall Walks at Thatcher Woods

I am back from the land of afternoon naps with a short segment.

We’ve had two Saturday morning walks at Thatcher Woods in River Forest, and we will have our final fall migration walk there on October 8. It’s been pretty quiet the last few weeks, but I did manage some photographs of a few birds, so here they are.

Basically, the Red-tailed Hawk was the only bird I captured doing anything on September 10.

Then on our last visit on September 24, the first of season bird of the walk – and for several of us, first of the year – was this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker who was perched somewhat distantly in a tree. This was likely the best long look I will get this year so I took too many photographs. I have since seen a few more of this species but have not been able to photograph them. For me, the placement of white on the wing quickly distinguishes this bird from other woodpeckers.

I must have had a few long moments to photograph the Red-tailed Hawk.

Also notable on the 24th, but impossible to capture well with the camera, were 34 Northern Flickers foraging on the lawn. We didn’t dare bother them by getting any closer.

A murder of about 20 crows flew overhead, which was beautiful to see. I could only capture a few, but to me there is nothing like a crow in flight.

Here are a few more of the sapsucker.

On our last visit we saw some Yellow-rumped Warblers by the parking lot, and after the walk I stayed a moment to get a few photographs.

Here are a few more of the Red-tailed Hawk.

Our last walk at Columbus Park is tomorrow morning. I have much more to report, it’s just been a busy week and I’ve been too tired to sustain many thoughts. I will try harder to be “back” at least while there’s still some activity before winter sets in. Then the birds will be fewer but somewhat easier to see, perhaps. Best to expect the unexpected.

Getting Reacquainted with Yellow-rumped Warblers

There have been moments in past migrations when it has seemed like all we were seeing were Yellow-rumped Warblers. Specifically, in this part of the country we have the Myrtle variety. The birds look quite different in the fall than they do in the spring, and even contrasts between individuals can be a little daunting. After reviewing the photos I took yesterday morning in Riverside, I’ve come to the conclusion that I had three different individual Yellow-rumped Warblers.

There are a couple field marks beyond the one for which the bird is named, which you can always count on, however, and it was good to review them after my visual brain has been filled with images of all the other warblers I have seen or might see. The undertail pattern is consistent and striking.

The other feature is a split eyering. And there’s just something about a Myrtle’s face after you’ve seen more than a few.

Here are more images of the three individuals. You will see how variable their plumages appear. No. 1 is below, which also is the same bird at the top of the post and directly above.

No. 2 was a little yellower underneath.

And No. 3, sort of drab-looking. But this bird was so cooperative I obliged it by taking way too many photos.

There were a few other warblers I had a harder time capturing as they were way up in their favorite tree again. I had hoped maybe the storm Tuesday night would bring a few more birds down. Here’s a Blackpoll Warbler, one of only a couple warblers I captured clearly enough.

And a Chestnut-sided Warbler.

A few more of the hard-to-see Chestnut-sided Warbler.

And to make things a little bit more confusing, I had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which appeared really yellow in this light.

Beyond the few warblers, the Great Egrets were present again just south of the Hofmann Tower. There were eight of them at this spot but I could not capture them all clearly in one photo.

Then as the foot bridge came into view later, there were two more Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron.

I heard and then saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker in a tree close to the sidewalk. If these birds are anything like they were last fall and into the winter, I will be seeing a lot of them soon.

I had a couple Gray-cheeked Thrushes.

Mallards are few at the moment.

There are still some Double-crested Cormorants on the river. I managed to barely catch this one in flight.

At my feet on the Riverside Lawn trail, a Powdered Dancer Damselfly.

I stayed home today and worked in the backyard while waiting for the tree service to come. I cleared out a huge amount of an invasive species that I had mistakenly assumed was something I planted after I noticed it was bothering the heck out of me and taking over. I will finish digging up what’s left of it over the weekend. The weather was perfect for working outdoors at a coolness ranging from 54 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. We remain cool tomorrow. Two workers will be back to replace the center post and repair my fence. Life is good.

Looks like Chantarelle Mushrooms were growing atop the old Ohio Buckeye stump
And here’s what was left of the stump after they cut it down – being sent to the grinder.

Fall Colors of Sorts

I got out early this morning to beat the heat. It was a delightful 64 degrees F. when I woke up and I opened the windows for a short period of time while performing the birds’ breakfast service, but the predicted high for today is 91 although we may fall a couple degrees short of it. In any event I wanted to avoid the heat.

It was a very slow walk on my part. I predicted I would be “paying” for my walk and swim yesterday as my right knee is not very happy lately. Back to the drawing board. I will manage.

I took that photograph of all the Milkweed Beetles at the head of the post because I began to realize I was missing them in my yard after I removed all the seed pods early from the Common Milkweed. There’s some kind of symbiotic relationship going here, I suspect. So next year if I want to see these guys I will have to leave the seed pods on the plants until they are gone. I do remember seeing hundreds of little bright orange eggs on the leaves of the plants so I would have had the beetles had I not removed the seed pods. The beetles are harmless to the plant and apparently to monarch eggs or caterpillars, if I had them. as they are only herbivores. They have few natural predators as their consumption of the common milkweed plants makes them toxic except to deer or rabbits. I don’t think I screwed up the ecosystem too much by removing the seed pods early but maybe I will leave them be a while longer next year and just be pulling out as many if not more common milkweed shoots.

I managed to find a few birds this morning. A Nashville Warbler was foraging in the plants by the break in the fence.

I somehow managed a slight photo of a Black-throated Green Warbler.

A distant Blackpoll Warbler was perched out in the wide open.

Maybe my most surprising bird was a juvenile male Indigo Bunting. I had been thinking I somehow missed all the juveniles this year that must have fledged at the Chicago Portage. This one could be a migrant from somewhere else.

One of several busy, noisy American Goldfinches.

Also in those plants by the break in the fence were a few young House Wrens. This one was fine with having its picture taken.

I didn’t realize this butterfly was upside down until I processed the photos…

Question Mark Butterfly

I zoomed in on a distant Hairy Woodpecker.

And that is it for this morning. Well. If I’m going to be off my feet for a while – just long enough to give my knee the idea that I might let it try to heal a bit if it’s so inclined – I may as well go back to those earlier photos I promised. It’s just been kind of fun and easy to write in real time over the last few days. Sort of a feeling of trying to preserve the moment – in the moment.

P.S. I’ll never make it with AI. I love how when I like what I’ve written, the plugin tells me my content “needs improvement.”

Oh, I almost forgot what seems like the obligatory Gray-cheeked Thrush!

Riverside Morning

I managed to get out of the house before the kid rush this morning. I should explain. There’s an elementary school at the end of my block and now that classes have resumed and I am retired, the parade of cars and parents walking their kids to school every morning is a phenomenon I rarely witnessed when I was working and already out the door for my commute.

Blue Jays rarely sit still long enough to be photographed but they were very active and noisy this morning and when one flew right into my warbler tree, well, you see what happened.

It was perfect timing to arrive at the Hofmann Tower, to see all the herons getting their morning together. I counted 8 Great Egrets and there were 2 Great Blue Herons at one point. A couple Great Egrets got into a bit of a disagreement. I think the Great Blue Heron in the last photo below may have broken up the fight.

One Great Blue Heron stood its ground.

While another decided it had enough.

After all that excitement I wondered what if anything I would see. We had a little thunderstorm activity last night which might have shaken things up a wee bit.

The Des Plaines River is full of water…

I crossed the Joliet Avenue bridge to the Riverside paved trail and walked slowly, staring up into the tall trees toward warbler calls I could hear. And sure enough there were some warblers. Not many, but a variety, so to speak. Unfortunately they were so far away and so active it was hard to capture them well but I managed some photographs of them and other migrants.

Blackpoll Warbler

A few fleeting photos of a Bay-breasted Warbler were welcome.

Barely captured was a Cape May Warbler.

An American Redstart…

And a Magnolia Warbler.

Other birds appeared.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Gray Catbird
Northern Cardinal

The Mourning Doves were statuesque.

And a first-of-season species was represented by this Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Gray-cheeked Thrushes continue to be a presence this fall.

And one little Mallard by the footbridge caught my attention.

That’s my quick report from this morning. I will go to the Portage tomorrow to see if there are any new birds there. I just met with my arborist who is going to take care of my tree issues Thursday morning, so I will probably miss that day on the trail. Wednesday night is predicted to be a high-migration night, so missing Thursday could be disappointing, but tonight is also a very high migration forecast, which could mean tomorrow will be a busy bird morning. If I can hold onto that thought before I fall asleep I should be able to get up good and early tomorrow.

Two Quiet Days at the Portage

Fall migration seems to have slowed down a bit over the last few days – at least for birds on the ground. The forecast or “birdcast” looks like a lot of birds will be traveling over my area on Tuesday night which might be good for Wednesday morning. In any event, I will keep going out for a look.

These photographs are from the Chicago Portage last Thursday and today. I went out quite late today after spending the earlier quite cloudy morning hours, while it was nicely cool, trying to clean up my backyard to get it ready for repairs. I will be getting estimates on replacing most of the fence, half of which fell into the alley yesterday (I managed to prop it up on an angle hoping it will not fall again) and also removing my beloved but quite dead staghorn sumac tree which is about to fall. The birds and I will miss that tree a lot. I have to figure out where else, if anywhere, to hang the two feeders on it.

So it was around 10:00 AM and I decided to go for a walk at the Chicago Portage anyway even if I expected nothing. The sun was shining. I got to the Portage, then realized I had forgotten the camera, went back home for it and returned. So much for messing with my routine.

Toward the end of my walk this morning, there was the Gray-cheeked Thrush below. The bird at the top of the post is a Swainson’s Thrush from Thursday morning.

Gray-cheeked Thrush

There were barely a few warblers this morning. I was following anything that was moving, most at quite a distance, so these are not great photographs.

I think this is a Pine Warbler

A fungus on a dead log caught my eye.

For sure one species migrating – Monarch Butterflies. They are everywhere and I think I am seeing a few more than I did last year at this time.