My Reward for Taking Too Many Pictures

I went to the Riverside trail on October 15. It was extremely cloudy and I had no idea what I could muster photographically under such conditions. I walked as far as I was going to go in one direction along the river and then turned back, and found a very green-looking warbler foraging low in front of me. When I got home to review my photographs, I could not for the life of me figure out what it was. I could only surmise what it wasn’t. The pale-looking eyebrow, the darker green primaries didn’t fit the Orange-crowned Warblers I was used to seeing.

After a good night’s sleep it occurred to me that perhaps the way to approach the bird’s identity was to look closely at the bill shape and size. Color and feather arrangement might seem changeable in a photograph but the bill shape would be constant. And that led me to thinking this was a Mourning Warbler.

As it turned out, when I opened my copy of The Warbler Guide, I found one small photograph that exactly matched my bird. She is a first-year female Mourning Warbler. I was excited as it has been years since I’ve seen a Mourning Warbler altogether. I added some of my photos to my ebird report and made the email-generated Cook County Rare Bird Alert (“RBA”) – I guess she’s a little late making her way south.

A distant Northern Flicker accented the cloudy background.

I have really become familiar with Orange-crowned Warblers this fall. And while I’m looking at bill size and shape, this species has a distinctly small, sharply-pointed bill. Some photos of an Orange-crowned Warbler are below.

For comparison, below are some more photographs of the Mourning Warbler.

Fall is a good time for woodpeckers.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Orange-crowned Warbler

Fall is also a good time for squirrels and nuts…

A cloudy sky.

I have really enjoyed seeing Great Blue Herons here.

And Great Egrets were present too.

Only Mallards are showing up in the waterfowl department.

There are always some Northern Cardinals but this was not a good day to capture one.

The other bird that made the RBA was the Gray-cheeked Thrush below.

Golden-crowned Kinglets have been fun to follow the past couple weeks.

A fall tangle of leaves.

The river looks a little fuller than it did. I envision being unable to do this trail when we start getting a lot of rain…

Here are a few more photographs of the Orange-crowned Warbler who was my best model.

Below is a female House Finch.

I thought the Great Blue Heron against the clouds was worth capturing.

One more of a Northern Flicker…

I have been back to the Riverside trail twice since this cloudy day. We are finally starting to cool off. This morning the Great Egrets were all gone. To be continued… but now, I need to get ready for choir rehearsal.

A Walk in the Neighborhood

There’s a huge park in Berwyn — it takes up several blocks! — that I always thought was much farther away than it actually is. I have not been walking as much as I used to the past five years, and definitely feel the need to get out and walk without having to drive somewhere first. So I walked over to Proksa Park a couple times last month and found a few birds to photograph. The round trip is about three-and-a-half miles which only half a mile less than the total mileage I used to walk every day when I worked closer to the lakefront.

I was happy to see a crow flying over on my first visit. I keep hoping to see more crows at home.

There are a lot of native plants and you can always count on American Goldfinches to take advantage of them.

The park has some nice water features that attract Mallards.

And the occasional heron, like this Great Blue Heron in the distance on my first visit.

Spacious, paved paths for walking and running…

I saw a few Magnolia Warblers here as I did almost everywhere last month.

And an American Redstart or two.

Below is a Blackpoll Warbler.

I almost forgot this lovely Gray-Cheeked Thrush. I have corrected the identification thanks to Vera’s comment – I thought it was a Gray-Cheeked to begin with but it was late and I was tired (or that’s my excuse for now). The heavy spotting gives it away and I don’t think the eye-ring is Swainsony enough.

This is a very pleasant destination and I will be visiting off and on throughout the year when I feel like getting out for a good walk.

One more of a Magnolia Warbler.

We just had a downpour, with more rain to come. This is very welcome indeed since I have been removing plants and planting new ones around the yard and the house. We are long overdue for a good soaking. I’ll have to check the river later in the week and see if it made any difference.

Return to Riverside

I parked in Lyons on September 27th and got out of the car, assembled my gear, and started walking barely a few steps when I looked up and saw this juvenile Osprey perched in a dead tree right above me. That was an auspicious beginning to a nice walk.

I crossed the bridge after not seeing any other birds on that side of the river. A fellow blogger, Tootlepedal, has suggested my last mention of the bridge was illegal without a photograph of it, so I did my best to frame it, but between my big lens and no way to get far enough away to capture it at a distance, this was the best I could do. I will keep trying, but I haven’t found this bridge’s aesthetic value yet…

Right off the bridge there has been a Great Egret, this time on the rocks that have been exposed due to the lack of water in the Des Plaines River.

The Great Blue Heron close to it was in a much wetter-looking spot. Actually this is right around the spot where there once was the Hofmann Dam, which has been removed.

The Red-winged Blackbird below could barely keep his perch.

Magnolia Warblers were still visible and this one was posing.

A handsome Turkey Vulture flew over, enhanced by a clear sky.

Two different species with the same color palette: they were both in the pokeweed.

White-throated Sparrow
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (immature)

It’s somewhat comforting to know the water is still deep enough in a few places for Double-Crested Cormorants.

I was very happy to see a Golden-crowned Kinglet well. They usually don’t sit still for too long.

A couple more of the juvenile Osprey. There were actually two of them flying around but I didn’t get photos of the action.

I went back two days later and got more pictures that I still have to process. Migration is slowing down a little bit, but I’ve also had a lot of work to do. I will be back with another report soon.

I am happy to note that we are finally getting some rain. It’s not going to make much of a difference in the water levels of the river, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

Leading Myself

I had been envisioning all week what it would be like, yesterday, to get out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and go through my normal routine of waking up my body, preparing and serving breakfast to my indoor flock, filling the feeders and changing water in the bird baths for the outdoor flock, and then getting ready to leave in time to arrive at Columbus Park and lead a walk that was to start at 7:00 a.m. I don’t organize the walks. I have been asked to “lead” this and other Saturday walks that alternatively go to Thatcher Woods in River Forest through the first Saturday in November. Leading basically means showing up, in case the organizer can’t make it. That will be the end of the “fall migration walks” and the same schedule will restart in April for spring migration.

I made several discoveries yesterday. Perhaps most important was the conclusion that I managed to arrive on time after the organizer had already advised me he couldn’t make it, I had a few moments to spare, which means I might be able to sleep maybe 20 more minutes before Saturday morning’s visit to Thatcher Woods.

So I arrived on time. And started talking to one of the golfers who use the same parking lot for access to the adjacent golf course. And I waited. I watched for cars with people getting out of them bearing binoculars. But all the cars arriving produced golf clubs. I soon came to the conclusion that I was the only person showing up for the walk. Below is a picture of what the sky looked like at that time. Maybe with the combination of clouds and no organizer, I was not enough of a draw.

Those little black dots in the clouds are Chimney Swifts.

I figured I may as well check out the park for birds anyway, all dressed up with my gear as I was, so I started walking across the lawn to the water where there were only a few Mallards. It was still quite cloudy and beyond my desire to compensate for the lack of light.

I confess I was a little leery of walking through the park so early alone. Although it has always been a safe place with others, I was not familiar enough with the spot to feel entirely confident. But then it started to lighten up, and I was hearing birds, and I figured well, I could see what was there. And I’m glad I did, because instead of following a group around – some “leader” I am – I now feel like I actually could lead a walk through Columbus Park.

Below is a video I took with my phone of Chimney Swifts flying over – it starts out mainly hearing them but then when I realized I could zoom in a bit you can actually see them. There’s also a Red-winged Blackbird singing in the beginning, for good measure.

Chimney Swifts

It began to brighten up a little, which helped the photo taking situation. It was difficult capturing the Blackpoll Warbler below in the shady portion of the park, however, but I kept trying.

I agonized over the pictures below as I was sure it was a Bay-breasted Warbler but for some reason ebird insisted it was a rare sighting for this date. I submitted my photographs and so far they have not challenged me.

I wasn’t seeing a lot of birds in the water, so I looked forward to going to the native plant garden next to a portion of it where I would likely see more birds, and I did.

Palm Warblers like the one below were expected.

I haven’t seen a lot of Tennessee Warblers this year – so it was nice to find this one.

And below, a very young-looking American Goldfinch.

On the way out I managed to capture a sneaky picture of a Wood Duck drake through some tangled branches. Also saw the resident Great Blue Heron in a well-camouflaged spot.

One more of the Tennessee Warbler

At 8:30 a.m. I felt as if I had covered the area – even though I missed a raptor I barely saw flying over. I encountered a birder who was waiting on someone to start her walk through, and we exchanged notes. Columbus Park is her go-to spot, like the Portage is mine. She may join us at Thatcher next week. I am no longer dreading these early Saturday morning rises.

I was tired, especially after having gone swimming the night before, so I took a long nap when I got home. But I am glad I managed the early start and stayed for the birds. I’m sure I would have seen more birds if I had company, but I encountered some nice, smiling runners and walkers and felt more connected to Columbus Park, which is really a beautiful place.

Leading Walks

I led two walks for the Unity Temple Unitarian Universality Congregation (UTUUC) auction again, on September 11 and September 25 this year. I didn’t take a lot of pictures, even though I was in much better shape than I was last time with the broken elbow. The pictures from the 11th are first and the ones from the 25th start with the Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

More than anything, it was good to get out with people from the congregation, most of whom I had not previously connected with, which was the whole point, beyond raising money, of offering a walk as an auction item. We had great conversations and the weather was good on both days, so I find myself looking forward to doing this again. And again.

Not quite the last Indigo Bunting (a juvenile).

I managed to capture this Chestnut-sided Warbler with a bug.

The Yellow Warbler below was deemed “rare” in that it was late to be seen on September 11, so perhaps I developed too many photos of it to prove I had seen it.

A Red-tailed Hawk flew over.

It was nice to see yet another Eastern Wood-Pewee.

I am always grateful to the bees that remind me the Canada Goldenrod, however strident in taking over spaces, is needed and appreciated by them.

A closeup of some galls that attach themselves to hackberry leaves.

Not a representative photograph at all, but below was my first of many Yellow-Rumped Warblers to come.

Below is a somewhat hard-to-see Blackpoll Warbler. You can always click on the image to see it better.

For a few days there was a juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak or two.

Finally started seeing some Ruby-crowned Kinglets on September 25th like the one below. I have since captured more – to follow eventually.

Magnolia Warblers just kept popping up all month.

One more of the delicately decorated Swamp Darner also at the top of the post. It was on its way somewhere on September 25th,

I led a walk this morning at Columbus Park – I was the only participant. I think I might return shortly with that adventure before I continue to plow through the accumulated backlog: for instance, I wound up going back to the Portage before and after the second walk and found it to be very birdy, so be forewarned.

Catching Up

Here it is the end of September and I am just getting around to photos from the 10th taken at – where else? – the Chicago Portage. The activity seemed to die down a bit that day so there aren’t quite so many to sift through. Magnolia Warbler above and directly below.

I’m not 100% sure but I think the bird directly below is a Pine Warbler. One of those confusing fall warblers…

This was the first time I had seen a Northern Parula in a while. A not-so-common warbler around here.

A few other birds seen that weren’t warblers…

Red-eyed Vireo
For the record, a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird…
Swainson’s Thrush

Blackpoll Warblers have been everywhere, or so it seems. Below is another.

Never confusing, a Black-and-White Warbler below. I suppose if you couldn’t see them well you might mistake one for a nuthatch as they behave the same way.