Thatcher Wrap-up

Yesterday’s last walk at Thatcher Woods began very cool and cloudy. We saw several birds but not all that well. And then by the time we reached the open meadow, the sun had emerged from the clouds and it was easier to see whatever birds came to the edge. The best part of the walk was perhaps the very end when first one very dark Merlin flew right over us and then another flew in and perched atop a dead tree. I kept expecting it to leave, but it didn’t, so I took way, way too many photographs of it as it changed its viewpoint.

This post is a celebration of a few more or less unusual birds that appeared yesterday and on September 1 when I participated in another walk led by Henry Griffin. On that day, the grand finale bird, if you will, was a Black-billed Cuckoo.

That day also started off with a bang when we spotted a distant Red-headed Woodpecker.

And September 1 was also a good day for flycatchers.

Eastern Wood-Pewee

And a Least Flycatcher.

And just now reviewing the photos I think I found an Olive-sided Flycatcher. I’m not sure we reported it. But Merlin – the app, not the bird – seems to agree with my identification.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

One more bird from that day was a Gray-cheeked Thrush.

Gray-cheeked Thrush

And from yesterday, I barely captured this Hermit Thrush, even though it behaved exactly like all Hermit Thrushes I have ever met by sitting for quite a while staring right at me.

Hermit Thrush

Another surprise bird at the end of our walk yesterday turned out to be a juvenile Purple Finch. Perched pretty far away, the photo doesn’t do it justice.

Purple Finch

One more bird from the September walk.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 9-1-2022

So that leaves me with more images of the Merlin. I so rarely see these birds, I couldn’t help myself.

Today is sunny and crisp, but I was singing in the choir this morning, so I won’t be going out for a walk until tomorrow. However, there is much to do outside in my backyard. I think I will go out and disperse more bucketsful of dirt and wood shavings. We’ve warmed up a bit, but I am already embracing the inevitability of hot cocoa.

Riverside Revisits

Here’s a little roundup of my last two visits to Riverside – October 3 and October 5. I was supposed to go yesterday morning but I woke up late in anticipation of the prediction of rain all morning and then felt guilty whenever the sky seemed to clear, only to revert to a promise of rain again and after a considerable amount of back and forth with the forecast, I decided it was just as well, I could process these photographs instead and get them posted. Save up my birding energy for this morning. It was somewhat windy and cold anyway in between the drizzles. This morning’s low produced some frost. I will be trying out my old winter jacket.

The Des Plaines River from Hofmann Tower
The Rock Pigeons are returning to their favorite roost.

The first thing I do after I park my car is check to see if the Great Blue Heron is in its usual spot, farther up stream off of Indian Gardens.

Both days I saw a deer or two on either side the river.

There’s often a Great Egret not far from the Joliet Avenue bridge.

And the Great Blue Heron tends to move after a while close to where the dam used to be.

On the 5th, I was a little surprised to see a Spotted Sandpiper preening.

And there have been Killdeer.

Autumn color is starting to frame the river.

No surprise – my most plentiful subjects were still Yellow-rumped Warblers. But I became enamored of their ability to blend in with their surroundings.

A couple more Yellow-rumpeds flirting with the leaves.

On the 5th I also saw a Tennessee Warbler.

I will miss seeing the Great Egrets.

Another bird good at impersonating a leaf – a Palm Warbler.

I suspect this is the same Cooper’s Hawk that is at the top of the post, but on October 3rd it was sitting on the riverbank on the Riverside Lawn side and then it suddenly took off and I was lucky to capture it. I can’t decide between the two exposures. It seems the camera was nearly as fast as the bird.

There are some early bursts of red leaves here and there.

I liked the way this Yellow-rumped Warbler was framed by the leaves.

And always creating their own color space, male Northern Cardinals.

A number of Common Grackles are still around.

After practically disappearing all summer, the Red-bellied Woodpeckers are becoming easier to see now.

On the 3rd I decided to visit Indian Gardens briefly and I saw this Red-bellied Woodpecker…

and two Great Egrets in a tree overlooking the river.

Also at Indian Gardens, I saw a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow at a distance. It was difficult to capture a clear picture except for when it turned its back on me.

White-throated Sparrows are starting to show up as well.

In between visits it appears someone has been busy planting and staking out some native plants along the paved path.

I saw a male House Finch on the 3rd. I hope to see more like I did last fall. They visit my yard but it’s hard to see them even there with a hundred House Sparrows in the way.

I got to spend a little time with this Palm Warbler.

At Indian Gardens, a Chipmunk sat for me. Since identifying the Chipmunks as the mistaken Yellow-billed Cuckoo, I have started listening to more and more Chipmunk vocalizations and they have quite a vocabulary of steadily insistent sounds.

Along with the Common Grackles there are still a few Red-winged Blackbirds.

On the 5th I was tempted to try and capture a bee on the asters in my front yard when I got home much later.

Well, I am on my way to Thatcher Woods this morning. It’s cold but sunny. I’ll be back.

Portage Participation

Here are those photos I couldn’t fit into my last post, from two visits to the Chicago Portage last Saturday and Sunday, specifically the first and second days of October.

There were plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers but there were some other warblers as well. On Saturday I found what turned out to be a very pale Bay-breasted Warbler (below) that looks a lot like the Chestnut-sided Warbler I found the following day. This is where you get down to the nitty-gritty and start comparing things like bill shape and eye-rings and so on.

Bay-breasted Warbler

I took too many photographs of the Chestnut-sided Warbler the next day. Oh well.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Also on Sunday I found a Black-and-white Warbler.

Palm Warblers have been few and far between this fall. I am used to seeing more than one or two individuals.

Palm Warbler

These are the same species I’ve been seeing for weeks off and on but I’m still happy to find them.

Magnolia Warbler

A Nashville Warbler is below.

There are still a lot of young House Wrens. Below are a few photos I took of a very cooperative individual.

Golden-crowned Kinglets haven’t been too easy to photograph lately but at least I got the golden crown on this one.

Below is a juvenile Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

I barely captured a Swamp Sparrow. Sort of.

And I spotted one Cedar Waxwing.

This Mourning Dove didn’t seem to mind my presence. So I took its photograph.

I don’t photograph every Yellow-rumped Warbler I see but some of them are just too easy to pass up.

I’ll be back as soon as possible with some bird action from Riverside. This Saturday is my last bird walk of the season at Thatcher Woods. We were lulled back into early fall with warmer temperatures today. Saturday’s forecast is for a much chillier morning start, but with plenty of sunshine which should improve our chances of seeing more migrants.

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.