M-W-F Riverside

My three morning visits to Riverside last week were pretty uneventful, but I felt grateful for safe and predictable treks through familiar surroundings. When one’s perception of reality keeps changing, it’s reassuring to know some things have not transformed totally, even as the seasons impose metamorphoses. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, something unexpected might occur.

On Friday, three days after the Portage Peregrine Falcon, I noticed this one perched across the river. I have to wonder if it is the same bird.

The sunniest day was Monday. I first noticed the sunrise outside my front door and tried to capture it with my cell phone. I don’t really have any horizon views in my neighborhood but it was still worth commemorating.

Below is the view of the Des Plaines River by the time I got to Riverside.

It was still strange to see how low the river was.

The Mallards didn’t mind. In fact, lately they are the dominant species.

There are a lot of Dark-eyed Juncos too, but I rarely get them to sit still. This one might have felt less obvious with a branch in front of its face.

Now is the time to see where all the summer’s Baltimore Oriole nests were.

A Red-tailed Hawk took advantage of clear skies on Monday and proceeded to scatter the Rock Pigeons.

On Wednesday this wasp nest became more apparent. Wednesday was pretty sunny too.

Dark-eyed Juncos up to something.

American Goldfinches are more scattered lately. I am beginning to see a few at my feeders.

I spotted a Song Sparrow nearly disappearing in with its surroundings.

I was struck by the light shining on the Riverside Lawn trail.

It was a good day to be a Mallard. stand in the shallow river and preen.

Even this male Northern Cardinal didn’t mind me taking his photograph as he sat in the sunshine.

When I returned back to Lyons by the Hofmann Dam, I noticed some House Sparrows and became intrigued by one that seemed to be eating seeds from the invasive Phragmites.

On Friday there was not much to look at.

I managed to capture a pair of Mallards as they made their way upstream.

The bare trees crowd the riverbanks.

I had to do some grocery shopping after I went swimming on Friday, so I got home a bit later than usual. As I was putting groceries away, I looked out the back door window and saw a Cooper’s Hawk sitting in my hawthorn tree. I hadn’t removed the lens from the camera yet so I was able to grab a couple photos before it left. It’s a small tree so the hawk looked even bigger.

I had a very relaxing weekend. I was inside the house long enough to do some organizing and find some things I didn’t realize I had. I also went back to writing the book. Maybe I will make some progress as there is less time to be distracted by daylight adventures. My indoor birds are cheering me on when they aren’t busy tearing paper for their nests or chewing on my socks.

Portage Peregrine

I didn’t go for a walk yesterday, as much as I wanted to go back to the Chicago Portage. The sky was gloomy and threatening rain which we never got. But more than that, I didn’t want to lose my parking space because of the holiday, and I had so much cooking to do I figured the only way I would have enough energy to get it all done was to stay home.

But two days earlier, on Tuesday morning when I got to the Chicago Portage, the first bird I saw was a Peregrine Falcon, perched on a tree overlooking the frozen stream, eating its breakfast.

I got a smidgen closer and started taking more photographs.

I started to feel a bit sorry for the falcon having to deal with me while otherwise obviously enjoying its meal, but I couldn’t help myself.

Needless to say I took too many photographs, so here are some more.

Only a bright red bird could distract me momentarily.

Here’s what the Portage looked like that morning from the bridge. The water was frozen, so there were no ducks or geese.

A couple Dark-eyed Juncos stuck around almost long enough for a photo or two.

Two Mallards flew over but kept going. I guess they weren’t tempted by the ice.

But then a Great Blue Heron flew over.

And a little while later, I found it sitting behind where I was on the trail, by the frozen stream.

I crossed the second bridge.

There were sparrows at this point.

Fox Sparrow

I saw more American Tree Sparrows than any other species.

And one more Fox Sparrow.

Here are a couple more photos of the Peregrine Falcon dining.

A Red-tailed Hawk flew over a couple times. I was barely able to capture it the second time around.

One more surreptitious view of the Great Blue Heron.

So you never know what you will see these days at the Chicago Portage as we head into winter. The most amazing thing to me was that the Peregrine Falcon was present practically the entire two hours and twenty-five minutes I was there. I had some more distant photos of it as it moved around, but then snuck up behind it going back down the inside trail for the photo which is at the top of the post. Here’s one more from that viewpoint just for good measure.

I hope your holidays are going well. I’m looking forward to seeing how many different combinations of leftovers I can come up with through the next few weeks.

Portage Recently

After two days of inclement weather earlier in the week, I couldn’t stand the thought of not walking, so I put on my long underwear and all the other necessary layers to endure a very cold walk Thursday morning at the Chicago Portage. I didn’t see a lot of birds, but I was happy to catch up with the flock, such as it was, eventually. Most of the birds were quite far away and the cloud cover made it that much harder to capture their images.

The last time I was there before that was last Sunday, the 13th, when at first the sky proved more interesting than anything on the ground.

But then I saw a deer.

The sun came out and made it quite pleasant.

American Robin

House Finches have been more noticeable lately as they move around with the sparrow and cardinal groups. For the most part, any birds I am seeing lately have been part of a larger mixed flock.

I managed to capture a Fox Sparrow that day. They are larger than other sparrows and they tend to sit still for a while, making the only challenge how far away they have decided to perch.

I have been seeing American Tree Sparrows at the Portage for weeks now. I don’t think I have seen any in Riverside yet although there are likely some there. Their arrival always verifies winter. Although the bird below had its back to me I think I found the feather pattern attractive.

Of course Dark-eyed Juncos spend their winters here too.

And Black-capped Chickadees are a year-round delight.

So this was how the Portage looked on the 13th.

Some more American Tree Sparrow photos from that day. This bird was perched at quite a distance.

Below might be the same bird in the earlier photos. I just found it interesting to see how well it blended in with the foliage, especially in the middle photo below. Hard to tell where the bird begins and the brush ends.

It was much colder on Thursday, but at least there was sunshine for a while.

Here’s how the sky looked when I stepped out my front door.

But by the time I got to the Portage, the scene was much gloomier.

I see Mourning Doves more often in my backyard lately, but this one was present at the Portage on Thursday morning.

The Northern Cardinals stand out now that all the leaves are gone.

As long as there is open water, there will be Mallards. This water is pretty shallow though. I suspect it could be frozen over by now after the second day of extreme cold.

I heard a Fox Sparrow chirp – which the Merlin App confirmed – but didn’t realize I had probably seen it until I found this barely captured bird in my photos later.

Fox Sparrow

Here are a few more images from Thursday’s outing. There weren’t many. But I’m glad I went. Yesterday and today have proved too cold, blowy and somewhat snowy for my taste. Maybe I’ll reacquaint myself with the mirrorless camera as it would be a lot less to carry around and manipulate with gloved fingers.

House Finch
Gray Squirrel
American Robin

Going for a walk every morning has become an integral part of my daily routine, so I don’t intend to stay inside for long. I did go swimming yesterday and it was rejuvenating. My greatest joy every day is to play piano for the birds when they join in with such enthusiasm. I hope to manage posting a few recordings in the not-too-distant future. After all, that’s how this whole thing started.

I may spend a little time in the yard this morning. If I had been outside long enough yesterday I might have caught the sound and sight of tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes flying over. Of course they were. They always take advantage of that push from the north, and we certainly have had that. I am sorry I missed them, and I haven’t traveled far enough lately to see them up close. Oh well. Tomorrow will be sunny, if cold, but I will be in the choir and with any luck doing the line dance with others at the end of the service. I look forward to being back on the trail Monday.

Thanks to all for checking in.

Riverside Lately

As fall migration has waned and winter’s grip descends, searching for birds takes on a different cadence. Maybe in the cold you could use to walk a little faster, but then you might miss that brief view of the only bird you will have seen for the last five minutes.

These photos are from three walks along the Des Plaines River on November 9, 11 and 14. The 14th was the only morning with a little sunshine, so those gray skies are quite real. The 9th was the last time I saw the Great Blue Heron and not all that well.

Mallards predominate, predictably. The drakes’ deep green heads gleam in sunshine. Or even in cloud cover.

There were two Red-bellied Woodpeckers interacting on the 9th and one showed off its red belly.

This is the Des Plaines River looking north from the Joliet Avenue bridge, with a low water level, framed in the filigree of tree branches that have lost their leaves.

I guess the Golden-crowned Kinglets were easier to see without leaves in the way.

It’s also deer season again.

Dark-eyed Juncos are abundant but not always easy to photograph, especially being gray birds on gray days.

Of course there are plenty of Canada Geese too. This group must have attracted my attention as they stood in the river looking as if they were trying to figure out where to go next. I also liked the lone goose taking a one-footed nap with one eye open on me.

Here’s a sunnier look to the south from the Joliet Avenue bridge.

After crossing the foot bridge on Monday the 14th, I caught a brief look at a Carolina Wren.

I also had a Song Sparrow perched for a moment.

American Goldfinches are still busy eating all they can before they start relying on my backyard feeders. I look forward to them giving the House Sparrows a little competition.

I was surprised to see an Eastern Bluebird on the Riverside Lawn side. I don’t know why I can’t decide on just one photo. Probably because I took too many of them.

Here’s what the trail looked like on Monday. Not quite barren yet. And I have passed by that fallen log a million times without looking at it very closely. I suppose with less distraction the landmarks will become more evident.

I have chosen to stay in this morning. There may be a light freezing drizzle. The previously predicted snow is not exactly happening, now described as a “wintry mix.” I’ll go for a swim midday when I perceive the pool to be less crowded. Then I need to practice the line dance before tonight’s choir rehearsal. It’s just one of those days. I’ll get back to wandering around with the camera tomorrow.

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.