Fall Warblers – Getting Ready for Spring

I had planned on this post days if not a week ago… This could be my last ancient fall warbler photos post. Even though we will still have some cold weather to deal with, spring and the longer days are gaining attention from the birds. It won’t be long before the trees leaf out and warblers start to arrive. Red-winged Blackbirds have already started setting up territories as of March 1.

So here are a few reminders of what the warblers looked like in the fall. Below and at the top of the post is a Bay-breasted Warbler.

Below is one quick capture I managed of a Northern Parula.

Yellow-rumped Warblers like the ones below will look quite different in the spring.

Male Nashville Warblers have a tiny red spot sometimes visible at the crown. If you click on the first image below you might be able to see a hint of red on this one.

One sought-after warbler that I saw a few times but didn’t manage to photograph until a later visit in October was this male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

There were a lot of Black-throated Green Warblers this past fall.

And many Blackpoll Warblers were available for observation.

I will never tire of Magnolia Warblers although they were ubiquitous this past fall. I really think they like to flirt with the camera lens.

Not a warbler, but there was a very well seen Cooper’s Hawk that day.

Things are getting a bit more interesting as spring approaches and I will be back as soon as I can with more photos and reflections. Life goes on. Sometimes surprisingly so.

Oops, I almost forgot the obligatory American Redstart.

Fall Again

It’s going to take me a day or two to recover from yesterday’s Gull Frolic and make sense of those images, so in the meantime I am back with more from late September at the Chicago Portage where I spent the bulk of my time following warblers feeding in the Hackberry leaves. Although it has been nice to look at these birds in anticipation of their return. my goal this spring will be to publish daily if possible.

These photos were taken on September 24. There were even more respectable images from September 26 so I will be back with those too. My laptop hard drive appreciates your indulgence in these housekeeping matters.

Black-throated Green Warblers were good subjects this past fall.

Just as cooperative, maybe even more so, were Blackpoll Warblers.

This turned out to be a rather reclusive Tennessee Warbler.

Swainson’s Thrushes predominated.

Below is a female Red-bellied Woodpecker, since I have seen only males all winter…

A late-leaving Indigo Bunting undergoing transformation.

Magnolia Warblers were everywhere this past fall but not always easy to capture. They remain among my favorites (in no small part because it’s always easy to figure them out).

Can’t leave out the Downy Woodpecker,

A nice surprise was this female – or immature – Rose-breasted Grosbeak. As I recall I saw one or two for a couple days.

I see more Northern Flickers flying away so it’s nice when they sit still a moment.

Two Mallards resting in the duckweed stream.

As for real time, we warmed up today and there is bright sunshine, but the wind makes being outdoors difficult for the birds and possibly even walking. Oh maybe I’m just making excuses, but I am still sort of worn out after yesterday. I wish a peaceful Sunday and the coming week to you all, wherever you are. I will be back soon with more colorful birds.

Falling Back

Blizzard conditions are keeping me inside and I am tired of winter, so now I have some photographs from last September 16 at the Chicago Portage.

Before I continue, here’s what it looked like yesterday late afternoon in my yard. The birds quickly got over their spring fever and came back to the feeders in the driving snow.

The sun is shining almost too brightly this morning and the freshly-fallen snow is reflecting it. After putting the feeders back out and shoveling the accumulation that was left, I was not eager to go out for a walk in the bitter cold. I will get enough cold tomorrow at the Gull Frolic.

Back in September, there were some fall warblers, like the Nashville Warbler below complementing the Goldenrod.

Even the “regulars” looked better in September.

Cedar Waxwings were all over the pokeberries.

Looking forward to the transformation back into this below.

I was a bit amused by this Red-eyed Vireo who seemed to be contemplating making lunch out of what I think was a spider.

Indigo Buntings below – a female, and then what appears to be a transforming male.

I am curious to see what warbler species will predominate this year. There were a lot of Bay-breasted Warblers last fall.

I can expect to see American Redstarts this spring.

Swainson’s Thrush

After trying to no avail to convince myself that I should be feeling better, go out, brave the sunshine for a brief walk and maybe swim earlier, something seemed to be pulling me back. A few aches and pains? Maybe, but that hardly ever stops me. I sat down on the futon with some coffee to assess my mood and continue with this post. Then I heard a thud as a Zebra Finch fell out of a hut onto the top of a cage. This is not normal. Birds don’t fall. It was a hen who seems to be unwell and she will likely go quickly. It didn’t take the males long to figure out she was compromised and they tried to take advantage of her. I jumped up to rescue her and scooped her up easily enough by hand as she wasn’t really able to fly. I held her close to my heart for a moment and then put the poor girl in the bottom of the former budgie cage which is a smaller space for her to rest in peace, so to speak. Maybe my lack of resolve this morning was a response to her waning energy. Whatever it is, I was glad to save her from torture in her last hours. She has since left the cage but is defending herself against assault: I will keep my eye on her. My coffee is getting cold.

More September Songs

I spent all day Saturday at a women’s retreat – my very first retreat ever with any organization (I don’t count a job-related paralegal “retreat” years ago) and after two years of virtual isolation save day-to-day brief interactions here and there, I am still basking in the love and inclusion of the community experience. We were all masked and sufficiently socially distanced most of the time. Normally this retreat would occur over a weekend, so this was the first (and I hope last) pandemic-influenced gathering. Actually the fact that it was contained in one day made it easier for me to attend because the thought of finding someone to take care of the birds these days doesn’t even enter my mind.

I spent yesterday still processing the insights and new relationships. In a way, I was still on the retreat. I fully intended to go for a walk this morning, but if the ground is anything like my backyard, there is likely ice everywhere, possible snow flurries are in the forecast this morning, and the windchill is in the single digits. I am still wearing my long underwear. Maybe I’ll go out and see if I can sneak a photo or two of the yard birds. But I think I will wait until tomorrow to go walking anywhere. We have a promised warmup which, by Wednesday, looks to be a big, soggy meltdown.

This is a brief photographic return to September 13th at the Portage. The only warbler I managed to photograph well was the American Redstart at the top of the post, but there were many more later. Perhaps the most spectacular sighting that day was the Red-headed Woodpecker below, albeit too far away to get a decent photograph. This is still a very infrequent visitor to the Portage but the habitat keeps changing, so we shall see.

Also spectacular that day was to see a beautiful Mourning Cloak caterpillar.

Young American Robins, in various plumages.

We must have gotten some rain, everything looked a little greener than the more parched summer images.

I do remember seeing one or two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds like this female that would sit and rest by the trail.

Downy Woodpeckers – all year long.

Had to check my ebird list to make sure I reported both… I believe the top photo is a Swainson’s Thrush, and the one below it, a Gray-cheeked Thrush.

I think this is Silphium pinnatifidum, which has a lot of different common names: Cutleaf Rosinweed, Cutleaf Prairie Dock, Tansy Rosinweed, Southern Dock … the wildflower challenge will resume this summer.

Perhaps the most gratifying part of the retreat was having the opportunity to share my love of birds and music and how profoundly the birds have changed my life for the better. I retrieved this published article from long ago and read it to the participants during the “sharing show” at the end of the retreat. I have added this as a page to the menu where it is a bit easier to read if you are so inclined. I was just becoming aware of birds and my observations are definitely of the novice variety, but I was delighted to rediscover the beginnings of all this, so to speak. Even more wonderful was to receive spontaneous praise for my writing. In retrospect I realize I have needed that encouragement, if I am going to go back to writing the elusive book I keep starting in my head. This experience will carry me forward to my start deadline which is now July 5.

Spring will soon be intoxicating and toss all these reflections asunder. But I still have some photos left over from September and of course there’s the here-and-there of more recent outings. I think my goal will be to get caught up enough so I can be more current by spring. It’s always good to have goals. I think.

End of September: Grackles! Osprey…

After a summer of hardly seeing any Common Grackles, on September 29th of last year I probably saw at least 100. The other Bird of the Day was Osprey. I am looking forward to seeing Osprey on the Des Plaines River this year, along with all the other regular big birds – Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Double-Crested Cormorants…

Dry conditions last summer and fall

A frequent visitor to the Des Plaines River was an Osprey or two. I tried to capture the juvenile bird below going after something.

The Common Grackles were perched in the trees along the river, but later on my way back through Indian Gardens they were all over the lawn with Red-winged Blackbirds. It’s likely they were gathering for migration southward. I never really get over those shiny blue heads.

Here’s an adult Osprey I managed to capture flying over the river.

I will always see Rock Pigeons at this location, which attests to its urbanity.

I think this is a juvenile Song Sparrow trying very hard to look like a female House Sparrow…

There was still one Double-crested Cormorant around on that day.

A Mallard hen in the bright sunshine…

I look forward to the Great Blue Herons that will adorn the river this coming spring and summer. I suspect the Great Egrets had just left by this date, but I expect there will likely be quite a number of them too this summer.

Never to be turned down, no matter how bad the light – a cooperative Blue Jay.

I frequently heard Killdeer and sometimes saw them, got lucky with this one flying overhead.

Also never ignored by me, an American Crow flying. There is nothing like a Crow. Period.

Thanks for stopping by and helping me clean up some space on my hard drive. Larger posts are likely ahead with spring migration just around the…corner. As I start to post more often the hard drive glut will be less of an issue, or so I tell myself.

As the weather improves and I go out more, there will be fewer of these retrospective posts. In the meantime it’s nice to dream of the excitement seeing these birds again.

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.