The Grace of a Green Heron

I fully intended to get caught up with all the photographs from warbler migration, particularly in Riverside, but those posts will have to wait a day or two…

We had a warm front the past couple of days which seems to have ushered out the warblers, so I wasn’t expecting to see much yesterday morning when I got to the Chicago Portage. But then, I encountered a Green Heron, and we hung out for what must have been five minutes or longer. I have never experienced anything like this before, it was quite amazing.

I had started on the path that crosses the bridge near Harlem. I encountered an American Robin on the trail. Nothing unusual there.

There was a little bird off to the side that I realized later was a female Indigo Bunting.

Past the bridge, I began to encounter the sounds of the usual suspects – Red-winged Blackbirds, Warbling Vireos, Baltimore Orioles – but then suddenly I heard a loud “skeow” call and found a Green Heron had joined me to look over the water in the stream. It sat in a small tree perhaps no more than 100 feet away.

I raised the lens slowly and started taking photos. The heron was not perturbed by this. Indeed it sat very still. I did not want to flush it, so I stood quietly in its space.

I started taking photographs of other birds across the water. The heron remained.

Song Sparrows…

House Sparrow and Green Heron

A female Red-winged Blackbird was in the marshy grass.

Green Heron and female Red-winged Blackbird

Through it all, the Green Heron remained. This is only a sampling of the photographs I took. It was hard to choose.

The heron finally decided it needed to go somewhere else, so it turned and took off to my left and behind me. I did not attempt to capture it in flight. In retrospect, I wonder if it had been waiting all that time for me to take the first step.

That left me to find out what was going on with other birds.

A bedraggled, wet-looking Black-capped Chickadee

I spotted the first of several male Indigo Buntings.

Gray Catbirds were everywhere but this was the only one I caught sitting still for a second.

Only one first-year male Redstart appeared. It was singing loudly yet this was the best I could do to photograph it.

The view of the second bridge with the new growth

Indigo Buntings and American Robins will be here all summer. They will likely be less visible the hotter it gets.

Baltimore Orioles were everywhere, enjoying the sunshine.

I managed to barely capture a female Baltimore Oriole.

Down in the wooded “ravine” area off the high point in the trail, two Northern Flicker males were having a quiet face-off.

I noticed a perched Ruby-throated Hummingbird over the trail.

An American Robin scouring the duckweed for food

More Indigo Buntings…

I went down to sit on a fallen log on the other side of the water. A Song Sparrow was foraging in the grass.

And a female Red-winged Blackbird was gathering nesting material.

When I started walking again, I saw a Hobomok Skipper in the distance, a very tiny butterfly, and then later one a bit closer.

I was very pleased to see a male Orchard Oriole off the inside trail. I can only hope he is staying for the summer to raise a family.

Blue Jays rarely if ever tolerate my camera, so I had to take a picture of this one.

Deer are seen less frequently, or so it seems.

One more of the gracious Green Heron.

After two warm days we have cooled off again, but there is plenty of sunshine. We need some rain and there is none in the forecast. I was in Riverside this morning. The river is so low, I suspect one could walk across it.

Yesterday Linda Rios and I played “Orange Dawn” by Ian Clarke again for a little local private afternoon gathering. Tonight is the end-of-season choir party and talent show for which I am accompanying two singing selections and hope to play a little piece by Manuel de Falla. It occurred to me yesterday that I can thank the showy piano cadenza in “Orange Dawn” for all this attention. Whatever it is, I am looking forward to things calming down a bit so I can get caught up with this and more. If the days are still getting longer, it seems there should be more time for naps too but that doesn’t seem to happen.

I promise to get back to reading others’ blog posts too as soon as this whirlwind subsides.

The Birds Are Back: 2 – a Weekend Birding the Chicago Portage

Last Saturday morning, I led the first of two Unity Temple Auction bird walks at the Chicago Portage. After the group left, I stayed and found more birds with Bob Smith. I went back again the next day. Both days were cloudy and sometimes even a little drizzly, which did not make for great photographs, but I took too many photos anyway. Spring migration is finally rolling.

Before I go further, I just wanted to share the photograph below that reminds me of a wallpaper pattern. Birds have a natural artistic sense.

Baltimore Oriole Wallpaper

WARNING: This post has too many photographs. You may get dizzy. I certainly did trying to get them all in here. For the sake of expediency I am forsaking any attempt at order. Sort of.

American Redstarts are always a challenge, even in good light.

Below is a first-year male American Redstart.

And then a second year or older male…

There have been a lot of thrushes at the Portage. Below are Swainson’s Thrushes.

I have seen several Gray-cheeked Thrushes too. The unfortunate lack of light didn’t help with the images of the one below.

Northern Waterthrushes, several of which have been present lately, are a different type of New World Warbler. They’re not thrushes. I thought I heard somewhere that they now had their own classification, but they are still in the parulidae family.

Another Northern Waterthrush, down close to the water where they normally forage.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are still around.

Back to the Thrushes. Below are two individual Veerys seen on both days.

Scarlet Tanagers are back. A pair could stay to breed at the Chicago Portage.

Female Scarlet Tanager

Indigo Buntings are back to raise families as well.

My Indigo Bunting friend Tadziu was not available when I led the group through the trails, but he showed up later on Saturday. Below the photos is a video I took of him the Thursday before, which has some of his song.

If you remember my Flicker Mania post from April 15 when Northern Flickers were Everywhere, by contrast, it’s now definitely a challenge to catch a glimpse of one of them.

A busy Northern Flicker

House Wrens fill the air with their chattery songs. Most are staying for the summer.

A House Wren

Tennessee Warblers can also make a lot of noise, but they have been difficult to spot.

A Baltimore Oriole is below, collecting material for her fabulously constructed nest.

This Black-throated Green Warbler almost disappeared into the green.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are not easy to spot these days. They’re way up high and maybe even a little harder to hear with their wheezy song.

They were much easier to see just a couple weeks ago.

Another bird that can be heard everywhere but makes a rare appearance – a Warbling Vireo.

I barely caught a glimpse of a female Common Yellowthroat (in the first two photos below) and then discovered I had by chance barely captured the male as well. This is a warbler of open fields and some park-like settings, and is most often found in shrubby habitat. They stay all summer and you might even forget about them were it not for often hearing the male singing his “witchety wichety” song loudly from some hidden location.

Below is an Eastern Wood-Pewee, a flycatcher that normally stays through the summertime at the Portage. It has a lyrical song for a flycatcher that can often be heard from quite far away. If I hear one singing closer, I will have to see if I can record him.

On Sunday I saw the Great-crested Flycatcher below. Ebird tells me I saw my first one this year on May 9.

Empidonax flycatchers are often tricky to identify, especially without accompanying vocalizations. I believe the bird below is a Least Flycatcher, which is also the Least Difficult to ascertain.

Another Swainson’s Thrush is below. I finally heard one singing yesterday.

It was hard to capture a Nashville Warbler those two days.

I have since seen more Magnolia Warblers and I promise to post some better pictures soon.

We still had a Dark-eyed Junco last weekend, which came up rare for such a late date.

Chestnut-sided Warblers have been around for a week or more. I promise better photos to come of this bird too.

Below is one of two Osprey that flew over late Saturday morning.

The Wilson’s Warbler below was kind enough to offer his most reliable field mark, although in better light, I can wax rhapsodic over Wilson’s Warbler Yellow.

Northern Cardinals might be a little puzzled – or bored – by all the fuss over the influx of other brightly-colored birds. They seem less bothered by the camera’s attention lately.

We saw a Beaver swimming in the stream Saturday morning. We also saw a Muskrat later but I didn’t get a respectable photo.

Swallows were busy. There were Northern Rough-winged Swallows… which I saw, incidentally, this morning before it started to rain.

And there were Barn Swallows.

White-crowned Sparrows were easier to see.

I saw my first Blackpoll Warbler last weekend.

One more Indigo Bunting

I promise not to do this again…it’s too hard to organize. But I just had to let loose with these photos before diving into the rest of them. Spring Migration is like the Holy Grail.

I was praying for rain this morning but the forecast was indecisive, so I went to the Portage. It started to rain in earnest about twenty minutes after I got there, so I switched priorities and did my grocery shopping. I will go back out to swim shortly. My new plants are grateful for the rain. And since I didn’t manage to stay up late last night to finish this post, so am I.

Tomorrow is the second auction bird walk and the forecast couldn’t be better. We should have plenty of sunshine which will make it easier to see the birds.