Back to September

In defiance of dreary days, I started going back to revisit photographs taken on September 1 of this year. Now I wish I could time-travel back to September 1 as we are sliding deeper and deeper into an Arctic Blast that will be with us through Christmas. Please bear with me while I reminisce.

Fall passerine migration was in full swing that Saturday. I went to Thatcher Woods with some of the Oak Park Bird Walkers led by Henry Griffin, and then continued on to the Chicago Portage. The photos are arranged by location if not exact chronological order.

Right off the bat Henry spotted a Red-headed Woodpecker perched at a distance and I managed to get some faraway photographs.

The other exciting bird later that morning was a Black-billed Cuckoo which came to the edge of the forest to check us out.

Below may be the only Chipping Sparrow I saw last fall. On a picnic bench.

There are bluebird boxes at this location and in the spring we saw Eastern Bluebirds (and Tree Swallows) around the boxes. On time visit, we saw a juvenile Eastern Bluebird, below.

Flycatchers ruled the day. Below is an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

Then there was a Least Flycatcher.

And in my photos much later, I discovered an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Just a couple other birds were available for identifiable photos. Below is a juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

I didn’t capture any warblers at Thatcher save the one below. It’s a distant Palm Warbler.

After we parted at Thatcher Woods, I continued on to visit the Chicago Portage. A juvenile American Goldfinch caught my eye.

American Goldfinch (juvenile)

In the nuthatch department, I was fortunate enough to see both White-breasted and Red-breasted nuthatches, the latter being less frequently seen and more elusive.

I managed to grab a few images of what looks to be a juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker.

I puzzled over the identification of the Confusing Fall Warbler (CFW) below until I finally settle on a Pine Warbler.

The bird below could also be a CFW if it had not confirmed in the very last photograph with its orange feet that it was indeed a Blackpoll.

Here are a few more Cedar Waxwing shots.

And as you may know by now if you follow this blog, I never turn down a Northern Cardinal.

Also considered a warbler species, I had a Northern Waterthrush that day.

Below is what little I managed to capture of an elusive Magnolia Warbler.

This hoverfly would not go unnoticed.

Either I saw a lot of thrushes this fall or it was just because I was out more often. Or maybe a little of both.

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush

Three more warblers. Below is a Bay-breasted Warbler.

Then below, an American Redstart.

And below, a Yellow Warbler. I don’t think I saw very many this fall.

One more of the immature American Goldfinch.

As I go back to reality and the cold: we had fun singing in the choir this morning, and we managed to coax the sun to come out after it has been behind the clouds all week. It was shining through the clerestory windows once we sang “Hail o Sun”.

At home with the birds this afternoon I am resting up before I undertake afternoon and evening activities. Since Saturdays are so busy this month I’ve moved the big cleanup to Sunday night, so we will celebrate by vacuuming, swapping out dirty cages for clean ones and putting clean papers on the floors. In the meantime, some birds are taking advantage of my quieter moments. Greetings from the Hand-warmer Finch.

I’ll be back in a little while with a little recap of my participation in a Very Cold Christmas Bird Count yesterday.

Wherever you are, I hope you are safe, warm and comfortable heading into the Winter Solstice.

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.

Meandering at McGinnis

I went to McGinnis Slough once last month and then again on November 1. This post covers both outings, neither with an abundance of bird species in the water. But I was lucky to see some different land birds.

A word about today… I was grounded by the weather. We really needed the forecasted rain, but there was not enough of it. Instead we had high winds with gusts up to 60 miles per hour and it was scary enough being inside watching my trees swaying and holding their own against the gusts. There were some intrepid, likely disgruntled House Sparrows in the yard, but I removed all the feeders last night in anticipation of the rain, and I am sure they were perfectly capable of foraging for food for a day.

The first visit to McGinnis on October 11 was low on water and waterfowl species but there were at least three dozen Great Egrets on the far side. The trees were just starting to turn color.

The closest I could get to a photograph of a Great Egret was at a distance, with one set against a couple hundred American Coots. Coots were the water bird of the day, but they were all far away.

There was a Great Blue Heron wading in the shallow water.

Very early on I saw a Blue Jay swoop down into the grass like it was looking for something. It put the leaf back after picking it up.

Later I caught a Blue Jay in flight.

Here are a few more photographs of the male House Finch at the top of the post. House Finches have been more visible than they were all spring and summer lately.

Instead of the usual group of Wood Ducks, I saw only this one.

I did capture the distinctive silhouette of a Great Blue Heron in flight.

There was a Palm Warbler. I still can’t get over how strange this fall has been, seeing only one or two Palm Warblers here and there.

A Northern Cardinal was easy to spot in the diminishing leaves.

And a Yellow-rumped Warbler was pretty predictable for October 11.

I was trying to capture the enormity of the coot congregation but it was hard to do with all the reeds in the way.

Shortly before I left, two Sandhill Cranes flew over.

Just this past Tuesday, on November 1, the slough looked like this. Not a lot of birds of any kind in the water although thousands had been reported a few days earlier. So most of the birds I saw were on land.

I did manage to sort of get a distant photo of a Great Blue Heron.

American Goldfinches have been busy taking advantage of seeds and blending in well with them.

A Dark-eyed Junco posed for me.

European Starlings aren’t what you expect to see at McGinnis Slough.

There were a couple Song Sparrows.

I fussed over these next photos a lot. I kept thinking it was a Clay-colored Sparrow, but I wasn’t sure enough because it came up rare for the date and location. Now a few days later I am convinced it was a Clay-colored Sparrow. The clean gray nape and pale lores confirm it, but I felt originally just the gizz of the bird, as they say, was Clay-colored. And the body of the bird is uniformly buffy.

There were fewer Great Egrets this time.

I am not sure I realized I was photographing a Rusty Blackbird but this was definitely a nice surprise to find in my photos from Tuesday.

One more view of the slough. The trees are now fading and losing their leaves.

All the house cleaning I normally start on Saturday is done for the week and out of the way before tomorrow morning. We are singing for Choir Sunday, which means the Unity Temple Choir will be featured throughout the entire service. I’m looking forward to the repertoire, in particular the Ola Gjeilo pieces. The weather will be much improved after today. The sanctuary will be beautiful with sunlight pouring through the clerestory windows. A moment of calm to be had after the storm and, I suppose, before the next.

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.