Chilling on the Fourth

The week so far has seemed surreal. Last Sunday, the day Linda and I played flute and piano music for Unity Temple’s superb shared pulpit service led by Charlie Hoch, an all-day downpour began just shortly before I left the house to pick up Linda and arrive by 8:30 AM. But oh, how we needed the rain. The US Drought Monitor hasn’t been updated yet but I suspect we are at least out of “severe” drought now.

In my suburb the accumulation was reported at 9 inches. There were flood warnings lighting up my cellphone, but I was not worried. I have so many trees and native plants, I did not have one drop of water in the house. Both rain barrels were full. So was a previously empty plastic gallon bottle sitting next to them for handy refilling of the birdbaths. The next day, my front yard was abuzz with bees and other pollinators as the flowers had also taken a drink and opened.

The photos in this post were taken in Riverside by the Des Plaines River on June 19, and from my front yard this morning. I am trying to write this post while the bombs are going off in the neighborhood. At least that’s what it feels like. I hate fireworks. I am not looking forward to finding fireworks debris in my yard tomorrow. I can’t imagine how the wild animals tolerate this idiocy. My indoor birds have always been very good sports about it. They seem less bothered by the noise. I suspect they consider humans generally noisy anyway and they just deal with it much better than I do.

Back to the subject… So when I took the photos in Riverside, the Des Plaines River was very low. Gulls seemed to consider this an opportunity. I followed the Ring-billed Gull below as it caught something in the river, close to the Joliet Avenue bridge.

I started noticing Cliff Swallows nesting in the holes in the wall left after the removal of the Hofmann Dam.

I didn’t realize until I went through these photos that I saw a Herring Gull that day. They are less frequently seen than the Ring-billed Gulls.

Also not far from the bridge was a female Red-winged Blackbird.

The birds that seemed to be especially enjoying the low water level were Common Grackles. Below is a series of photos as I saw one bathing in the shallow water.

A pair of Mallards claimed a no-longer-submerged rock as their own.

Across the river in Riverside Lawn, a hollowed-out fallen tree caught my eye.

When I crossed the foot bridge there was a Double-crested Cormorant in the water. I wondered how well a diving cormorant could fish in such shallow water. As if in answer to my question, the cormorant started to take off for another location.

Taking note of some year-round residents. Below, a Mourning Dove and a Blue Jay.

The Common Grackle below had a rather large stick in its bill. I never saw what it did with it.

There are a couple places with fallen logs by the river on the Riverside Lawn side where I can sit and watch the birds. I had been noticing this one Tree Swallow that seemed to have a nest in a tree stump on the other side.

Back to the Common Grackles.

Suddenly a fledgling appeared. The parent bird was not pleased. Maybe it was time for the youngster to find out how to forage for itself.

I saw a couple Gray Catbirds that day. The disheveled one looks like a newbie.

Back by the exposed rocks near the Joliet Avenue Bridge was a Killdeer.

This morning, before the heat and the noise, I took a quick peek at the front yard. Below is a nice bunch of Silene Stellata – Starry Campion. I am puzzled because I have never seen this before. It’s a native, so I’m not worried. But I did not plant it. I wonder if there is an outside chance that the person who planted my front yard however many years ago had it in the mix and it never managed to express itself until now, but that seems beyond belief.

A Red Admiral was enjoying the Purple Coneflowers.

I also have a few Pink Coneflowers but I am not sure if they are blooming yet or maybe I just can’t tell the difference. I’m just so happy to see so many bees.

The bees were also busy with the Shrubby Saint Johns Wort. The blossoms don’t seem to be as full as usual but maybe more rain will take care of that.

I was delighted to see a female Widow Skimmer.

Also, I planted a little Bergamot last year and this morning I noticed it is now in bloom. I had this flower in the backyard years ago and it didn’t last after the trees grew and cast too much shade. I am glad to have it back again.

Briefly, in the backyard, buds abound but less is in bloom at the moment. By July 22, the day of the Wild Ones West Cook Garden Tour, there should be a riot of color mainly orchestrated by Tall Ironweed that wants to take over the planet. Below, some Rudbeckia, I think it’s fulgida, a/k/a Brown-eyed Susan, and blossoms on the quickly growing Elderberry I planted just last year.

I will be back with more of this sort of thing as the month progresses. Right now all I care about is an end to the fireworks. Every time there’s a lull I think, could it be over? Not yet as of 11:30 PM.

Goose Lake Prairie: Happy Fourth

Field Sparrow

The forecast was for rain not starting until maybe 11:30 or so this morning, so it seemed like a good day to restart my lapsed tradition of visiting Goose Lake Prairie on the Fourth of July. It turned out to be a beautiful morning and the threat of rain never occurred. Even though I arrived later than I had planned, for quite a while I was the only human, which suited me just fine.

Song Sparrow, the first of many

Dragonflies were everywhere. I guess the one I’ll be seeing a lot of this year is the Blue Dasher. Last year it was the Halloween Pennant. Nice to see all of these this morning.

Blue Dasher (female)
Blue Dasher
Widow Skimmer Female
Common Whitetail (female)
Halloween Pennant

So I’m trying to write this blog post tonight with the explosions going off all around the neighborhood, frequently sounding like a bomb exploding next to my house. I hate this holiday. I don’t understand why I have to be miserable and endure this every year. Maybe it’s why I decided not to be born until after midnight 71 years ago – it was too scary to start living with all this going on.

Luckily it never seems to bother my birds, they just endure it, likely chalking it up to more stupid human noise. We have pretty music playing on the radio. What’s one or two or fifty explosions?

But I can’t imagine the outdoor birds are too fond of this. Oh well. Back to the blog post. This morning I got to see some nice birds. There are a lot of pictures in this post. Let’s just leave it at that.

Eastern Kingbird

There was one Brown Thrasher who barely showed its face and then hid from me as I tried to see the rest of it.

I hoped for a Henslow’s Sparrow and one complied. Their return to Illinois grasslands is one of the few success stories over recent years. If you provide habitat, they will come.

Henslow’s Sparrow

The Red-Winged Blackbirds weren’t bothering to sing, so the guys looked a little bored with their guard duty.

There were a lot of Common Yellowthroats and as secretive as they sometimes are, I managed to see a few.

I’m still on the verge of tears from the explosions. I guess tomorrow morning I can go around and see how many fireworks shells are in the yard. Something to look forward to. My indoor birds are ready to fall asleep. I keep praying for rain.