More from McGinnis

I returned to McGinnis Slough on 8/11, 8/17 and 8/21. The Snowy Egret and/or Little Blue Heron were still being seen around the earlier dates by others, but I was never able to locate either one. I went back on the 21st in large part because it was on my way to the pool in Orland Park where I swam for a week while my pool was being cleaned.

On the 11th, only large birds caught my attention. The first was an Osprey.

There were far fewer Great Egrets, and therefore fewer to try and make into Snowys.

One Great Blue Heron offered a view in flight.

On August 17, I noticed two Blue-winged Teal swimming with a Wood Duck. The Blue Dasher dragonfly at the top of the post was also present on that day.

Instead of the Sandhill Cranes seen on the 9th, there were several Trumpeter Swans.

A Red-tailed Hawk flew over and put on a show.

On the 21st, all my subjects were smaller.

Mourning Dove

There were more ducks inhabiting the spot usually taken up by Wood Ducks.

There were Blue-winged Teal among the Mallards and Wood Ducks

There were more Wood Ducks than previous visits. One was hiding in the second photo below.

There were small, but cooperative butterflies. I’ve seen several of these two species this summer. Enough so that I recognize them now, but by next summer I’ll no doubt have to look them up again.

There haven’t been as many dragonflies this year. That probably has something to do with the weather and climate change.

Eastern Pondhawk Female

The Rose Mallow is always in bloom here. I found this white one to be easier to photograph than the pink ones.

And as a little footnote, as I stepped out the front door of my house on the 17th, I noticed this American Goldfinch male chowing down on purple coneflower seeds. The seed bonanza season has begun for goldfinches. I will leave everything to them for the fall and winter and not clean up until spring.

As I am sitting here writing this post I just noticed the Snowy Egret was seen again yesterday at McGinnis Slough. I am not driving back out there in this heat to see if I can find it. There are some things one has to just let go. That said, I may visit McGinnis Slough again later in the week in cooler weather, because even if I don’t see the Snowy, something else could be interesting.

Missing at McGinnis

I had a run of no Internet access over a few days, but I’m up and running again… A few weeks ago, there were several reports of a Little Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret at McGinnis Slough, and since it’s a place I’ve visited often enough I rearranged my schedule, such as it is, and decided to have a look. I wound up going a total of four times. I never saw either of the reported rare birds, but I did see something different on every visit.

On August 9, the most amazing thing to me was the number of Great Egrets. Years ago when I first visited this place I felt like I could always count on seeing a lot of egrets, but in recent years I have never encountered such numbers as I did on this date. I estimated, conservatively, 110.

When I first got arrived, everything was engulfed in fog. I was too early!

As the fog began to lift, creatures started to appear.

A Damselfly – it might be a Sedge Sprite
A juvenile male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Wood Ducks were present where they usually are located, but barely visible save for the whites of their eyes.

A Great Blue Heron flew directly overhead in the fog.

A break in the vegetation revealed two distant Sandhill Cranes. You can click on the gallery images for slightly better views.

There were Wood Ducks in the aquatic plants.

I have no idea how I captured this Killdeer in flight.

Then the Sandhill Cranes flew right by me.

Farther away, an Osprey appeared, for good measure.

Below is a view after more fog cleared, revealing the overgrown marsh.

European Starlings were flying around and then landing to feed.

But really the visit was spectacular because of all the Great Egrets and the Great Blue Herons flying by. All those little distant white dots in the second photo below were likely all Great Egrets.

And closer were several in the trees.

There were not nearly so many Great Blue Herons but I did get some nice looks.

After the fog lifted, I managed to find a juvenile male Wood Duck perched.

There were American Goldfinches enjoying the seed heads of some spent flowers.

We are in the midst of what I hope is our last heat wave of the season. I will try to make the best of it by swimming and blogging. I also have to practice my choir parts, as we are singing songs in Swahili and Italian next Sunday.

I’ll be back with the rest of the McGinnis visits shortly. There are fewer photographs so I can wrap them all up into one post.

Spring Starts at the Slough

I have been to McGinnis Slough twice this month – on April 8 and this past Sunday, the 23rd. It’s been such an on-again, off-again spring, it’s really hard to imagine, let alone anticipate, what to expect. But I always find a visit to this site full of potential surprises.

It was warm and sunny on April 8, and there were even some dragonflies I could not capture with the camera, but it certainly seemed like spring was imminent. The dominant species in the water – Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, and American Coots – were still present two weeks later, with a few additions. But the visit on the 23rd was cold and cloudy, which presented some extra challenges.

There are a lot of Northern Shovelers. Their numbers are exceeded perhaps only by the American Coots. But it has been hard to get a close view of them. They were a bit closer on the 23rd, when the light was less forgiving.

But I did manage to capture them in flight on the earlier visit.

I often inadvertently flush the Coots out of the marshy areas as I walk by, but for whatever reason I was able to capture a few of them somewhat closer than usual.

Blue-winged Teal have been everywhere this spring.

I managed to get quite close to a pair of teal nestled by the back end of a Canada Goose. You can’t see the birds very well, but I found the exposure of the preening male’s feathers fascinating.

Two more Blue-winged Teal photos.

I adore Pied-billed Grebes. They always look like they’re smiling, if rather sardonically. I was very close to a couple of them on the earlier visit.

The slough has greened up considerably in the last two weeks.

I managed to grab a few photos of a small group of Bufflehead on the last visit.

Also last Sunday, one Great Blue Heron testing the chilly water.

There were a considerable number of Ring-necked Ducks this last visit, but they were too far away to capture well. This was the best I could do from a distance.

Ring-necked Ducks

The Mallard drake below was likely guarding his nest location.

Red-winged Blackbirds simply own the marsh.

Black-capped Chickadees were enjoying the warm sunshine on my earlier visit.

The obligatory American Robin

I have seen Tree Swallows off and on all month, but mostly on the warmer days.

I always expect to see Wood Ducks here, but they are a bit more secluded right now. In a month or two they should be easier to find hanging out on their favorite fallen log.

Just another reminder that it is nesting season already.

Common Grackle
Blue-winged Teal

It was cold and rainy this morning. I kept arguing with myself about going out for a walk anyway, as soon as the rain stopped. The rain, as miserable as it is with the cold, has not been a downpour. But it has kept me in, and now the day is getting away from me. This afternoon, Linda and I have our likely last rehearsal before we perform in the 2023 Spring Music Festival. The run-through is Friday night and the actual event Saturday evening. It will be our comeback performance after the 2019 SMF.

I have many more observations to share from my other two most-frequently-birded locations, but the balancing act between musical endeavors and spring migration will be a bit more sporadic this week.

Two Sunday Sloughs

Two Sundays ago, I went first to McGinnis Slough, and then to Little Red Schoolhouse, which features Long John Slough. Suffice it to say the air was filled with the songs of Red-winged Blackbirds. I must have encountered at least 100 of the birds between the two locations.

Yet there was very little happening at McGinnis. I didn’t realize until I took my photos off the camera that the Red-tailed Hawk below was carrying nesting material in its talons.

A Northern Cardinal managed to pose while still feeling protected by branches.

There weren’t many birds to see in the water. Over on the far side I could barely see two Trumpeter Swans and a few gulls. I assumed that they are Trumpeter Swans as they always nest here.

I continued on to Little Red Schoolhouse.

Not much was going on at the feeders near the visitor center.

In the slough, there were perhaps fifty or so Common Mergansers. They were quite far away so the photo below is quite cropped.

I walked the Black Oak Trail and found myself looking out at the slough with a couple other birders when we spotted a juvenile Bald Eagle taking flight. It appears to be 3 to 3-1/2 years old.

One more distant look at a few Common Mergansers.

About the only thing I could get close enough to as I walked the rest of the Black Oak Trail was a tree stump with a conflomeration of fungus, lichen and moss.

The weather continues to interfere with my resolve to take a daily walk. But there was enough to accomplish inside today. I filed my first “totally retired” tax return. I formatted the lyrics for the program which will accompany our choir Sunday performance of a chamber version of “Considering Matthew Shepard” on April 2. And I just made a batch of red lentil soup with lemon, and some Peruvian aji amarillo dipping sauce. I will have some roasted veggies with the dipping sauce for dinner. This will help me get over the idea of “losing” an hour: I can’t wait for the birds to wake me up at sunrise anymore, it will be too late.

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.

McGinnis Magic

I went to McGinnis Slough yesterday morning. It’s been on my mind for a week, and since there isn’t a lot of trail on the east side by LaGrange Road, I decided I could manage it with my knee, which I later took to the pool for a therapeutic swim. The Slough, of course, looks more like a bog.

But it was good to be somewhere else for a change and at first I didn’t see very much. There was a nice Eastern Kingbird. This seems to be the bird of the week.

The Rose Mallow is in full bloom. I always look forward to seeing this.

There was a beautiful Great Black Wasp on some Queen Anne’s Lace.

Walking north toward the overlook of the slough, I saw two Eastern Kingbirds in the Elderberry.

And there was an obligatory Rabbit.

There are usually a lot of dragonflies here but it was cool and a bit overcast so I only managed to capture this Blue Dasher Dragonfly and a Blue Fronted Dancer Damselfly, species I have been seeing all summer.

There seemed to be what looked like Evening Primrose all over the place. I used to have some in my yard years ago.

There was virtually nothing to see without a scope over the slough, and I could barely make out seven or eight Great Egrets, but that was a sign of things to come.

As I walked back south along the trail that follows some nearby open water, such as it is, I encountered a few delightful House Finches. They appeared to be juveniles and as curious about me as I was about them.

And then, through the tall grass, I saw a Great Egret perched on top of a branch of a fallen log that I have seen other birds on before.

As I tried to capture the Great Egret clearly through the grass, I noticed something else. Lo and behold, two Trumpeter Swans and their three Cygnets. I saw this configuration last year, but it must have been earlier because the Cygnets were much smaller. It’s good to see these three have survived to this age.

It then became evident that the Wood Ducks were hanging out on their favorite fallen log nearby.

Here’s a closer cropped image of the transforming male in the tree above.

But that’s not all that was going on. There was a Great Blue Heron behind all the ducks.

I was back there for some time, and not terribly far away from the birds, but I guess they felt safe behind all that grass that got in the way of my photos.

Then at some point another Great Blue Heron flew over, squawking somewhat vociferously,

There wasn’t too much to look at in the rest of the open water, but this little group was nice.

2 Mallards and 2 Wood Ducks

On my way out, as I stopped to look at something in a tree, I noticed there were three Great Egrets perched in another tree which reminded me of how this place used to look years ago when there were scores of them.

Needless to say I was restored by my encounter with these birds. And then swimming made it a nearly perfect day as I was able to work on my knee without injuring it further. I’m trying everything. Exercise, different shoes, whatever. It’s encouraging. Then I celebrated by getting my second Covid-19 booster, figuring it was probably a good idea to get it done before choir rehearsals start soon. The booster has left me feeling a little down, but I guess that means I needed it. Who knows? Everything is a gamble these days. Playing fast and loose with an ice pack on the futon.