Bullfrog Break

Bullfrog 4-15-17-0899Bullfrog 4-15-17-0886A few weeks ago I took my car to the dealer for its annual checkup and then went to McGinnis Slough to see how spring was progressing. As I walked through the path next to the marshy area the grass started to move, and I determined there had to be frogs hopping into the water out of sight. After stopping  and waiting for a while, I was able to finally see some Bullfrogs and photograph them. They were capable of moving so quickly, I’m glad a few sat still for me.

Not a lot of birds present yet, but the Song Sparrows were abundant.

This female Red-Winged Blackbird was an indication that some breeding birds are ready to get down to business.

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Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Always nice to see a male Wood Duck even as he started swimming away from me.

Still seeing Ruby-Crowned Kinglets even three weeks after I took these pictures. I suspect the cold winds still pushing down from the north is keeping them from progressing to their breeding grounds. Have not been able to get one to reveal its Ruby Crown.

The male Belted Kingfisher below was busy.

We’re a lot leafier now, but the trees were just beginning to show some green for the robin below.

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American Robin

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There were likely more American Coots like the one at left, but I didn’t see a lot of them even skulking around in the marsh.

 

 

 

As I was panning on the Red-Tailed Hawk below it flew into the sun and even though it was somewhat cloudy that was not something I was planning to do, but I like the way it turned out.

RT Hawk in the Sun 4-15-17-0838One more Bullfrog shot. Who knew they could be so pretty?

Bullfrogs 4-15-17-0904And as promised a few more from the Science March.

Hope to be back soon with a report from the indoor crowd, the Spring Bird Count, more from Panama, Migration Central…wherever the wind blows me next (it’s unseasonably chilly and windy today).

Back to Panama, Day 1 continued

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Orange-Chinned Parakeet

More birds from the first full day of a short but colorful trip. It’s always a delight to see parrots and parakeets, after you’ve managed to distinguish them from the leaves of the trees into which they blend so well. Orange-Chinned Parakeets were our most common psittacine species.

The picture below is as close as I got to the tiny spec of “orange chin” this bird is named for. I’ve come to the conclusion you can only “see” it in the field guide illustrations.

Orange Chin of the Orange-Chinned Parakeet 3-13-17-1564Below is a Yellow-Tailed Oriole. I saw a lot of different Orioles all at once years ago in Belize and got terribly confused. Luckily this was the only Oriole we had to worry about except for the Baltimore Oriole which we shall see shortly in spring migration in the United States, with many staying to breed throughout the summer.

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Yellow-Tailed Oriole

Later in the day we visited some wetlands and caught glimpses of the juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron on the left and its parents on the right.

Also present in the wet areas were Northern Jacanas like the one below.

I think I have never seen a Greater Ani before, only Groove-Billed and Smooth-Billed. I was surprised to see the scalloped blue edges on its feathers.

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Greater Ani

We had some raptors too. The Gray-Lined Hawk below is a new species for me. What a gorgeous creature.

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Gray-Lined Hawk

I’ve seen Zone-Tailed Hawks before, but never really gotten such a detailed view of their feather patterns underneath.

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Zone-Tailed Hawk

The Black Vulture below is feather-challenged but still elegant in flight. Black Vultures outnumbered every other kind so you will be seeing more pictures of them.

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Black Vulture

I couldn’t resist throwing in a few more pictures of a Plain-Colored Tanager. I’m sure he was pleased I paid so much attention to him.

This Black-Headed Saltator isn’t living up to its name. If it weren’t for the overall shape of the bird and the white eyebrow I would still be trying to figure out who it was.

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Black-Headed Saltator

We saw a lot of Yellow Warblers, and there have been a few reported to have made their way to the Midwest in the U.S. already.

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Yellow Warbler

This is not my greatest picture of a Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird but I like the branch it’s on.

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Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird

Red-Lored Parrots were seen a few times too. This bird seems to be feeding on something here. Looks crunchy, what fun.

There was a Three-Toed Sloth in a tree close to the tower we stayed in. It blended in well but luckily was exposed enough for a photograph.

Three-Toed Sloth 3-13-17-1424It’s been a busy week, with the March for Science last Saturday, then Choir Sunday at Unity Temple, work, upcoming rehearsal and participation in the Spring Music Festival at Unity Temple-United Lutheran which my friend Linda and I attended last year but this year we are performing Schubert’s Sonatina for Flute and Piano. I managed to get in a swim last night but the rest of the week is clamoring for attention. I’ll be back with more birds from Panama as soon as I can.

Happy Spring!

A Walk in the Woods

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Northern Shoveler

I’ve been back from Panama for two weeks and I’m still not done going through my pictures. Even staying home instead of going swimming a few times hasn’t gotten it done between software updates…

So I went for a walk at the Portage yesterday even though it was cloudy, because spring migration is upon us, and I wanted to get out with the camera, especially after I forgot to take it with me on Saturday when I joined Illinois Ornithological Society’s trip to lakes in Lake County looking for Common Loons and other waterfowl, named “Loonapalooza” by my friend and the organizer and leader of the trip, David Johnson. I drove for an hour to get to the meeting place only to discover that I had remembered everything (scope, tripod, water bottle, binoculars, backpack, and I thought my brain) but left my best camera with its new lens at home. It never made it out the door. Next time I’m leaving that early in the morning I suppose I should write a list and put “brain” first, camera second… I’m blaming it on my medication, but there’s no need to go there now.

Above all this useless information is a young deer that appeared across the water, came across the bridge and walked almost toward me, very unusual for after-nine-ish in the morning.

Below, a Red-Tailed Hawk flying over.

The good news is I am in love with the new lens, which until recently I didn’t even know existed because there are times when I quit looking for any more camera stuff, but the two guys with cameras on the Panama trip informed me that Canon had finally come out with a new, improved 100-400mm lens. I had stopped using the old one, which I still have, but had hardly any use for. Instead I have been struggling with the monster Tamron lens for the last two years, which was getting harder and harder to carry around and focus. I think that lens might be going on the recycle list too. Because the new Canon 100-400mm lens and my Mark III 5D are really happy together, and an extra 200mm doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a decent picture, especially if you can’t hold the equipment still.

CAGO 4-2-17-0090That said, there’s still only so much you can do with anything in poor light. Like the very cooperative and friendly Golden-Crowned Kinglet below, he was pretty dull and drab yesterday.

GCKI 4-2-17-0263The dead wood in the water was perhaps more suited for the weather. It is transforming into…I’m not sure what bird that resembles on the right, below.

I was happy to see a Belted Kingfisher on the water. Although even he looks gray.

BEKI 4-2-17-0006Sparrows were abundant. White-Throated Sparrows, which are a dime a dozen on the lakefront, seem special here. There were lots and lots of Song Sparrows singing like crazy, even though I managed to capture a silent one. Below these two, a couple hidden shots of a fairly distant Fox Sparrow, whose rufous caught my eye and brightened up the surrounding gloom. And the final sparrow at the bottom, a Chipping Sparrow, is my first one of the season, although I’m sure I heard one in neighborhood last week.

CHSP 4-2-17-0154Lots of woodpeckers but they were hard to get on. Below is a Red-Bellied on the left. The little bird on the right is a Brown Creeper, not a woodpecker, but spends as much time on trees as woodpeckers if not more, and it’s also the first one for me this spring. Click on the pictures to enlarge, and look at how beautifully the creeper blends in.

There was a bench at one end of the water but it has disappeared. However, there are a few other places to sit. I stopped to rest on a boulder that is near one of the information boards, and watched five Canada Geese flying in together and then starting to squabble over positions.

I don’t think I saw Wood Ducks last year, so it was nice to see a pair yesterday. Here’s the guy, his mate was less accommodating.

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Couldn’t resist one more of the Shoveler.

Northern Shoveler 4-2-17-0036Okay, well, tonight I’m going swimming unless there are thunderstorms, and I promise I will finish The Panama Pictures so I can start sharing them with you.

Thanks to everybody for stopping by, for following my inconstant blog. Happy Monday.

March On

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Great Horned Owl on nest, Salt Creek Forest Preserve, Cook County

I started writing this post on March 1. WFMT’s Carl Grapentine kicked off March 1’s morning program by playing, what else? Various marches. I was just getting over February.

The end of February was sufficiently balmy to lock  it into the record books with January as being the first time both months went without snow in Chicago.

I birded with my friend Susan last Sunday. We went to Bemis Woods South and the Salt Creek Forest Preserve. It was so quiet I didn’t bother to do a list. We were about to give up on the Salt Creek portion when a man walking in the opposite direction told us to look for an owl, so we continued. The Great Horned Owl at the top of this post made the day. Its nest was easily seen from the trail, and it sat and watched as people went by.

Two more birds from Bemis below, a White-Breasted Nuthatch and Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

March came in like the proverbial lion, returning to chilly, windy temperatures. My reward for venturing out of the office last week was to see my first Yellow-Rumped Warbler in Millennium Park. Nothing rare, but an earliest first for me.

It’s a busy time of year for the birds, as they prepare for spring. Today I visited the Chicago Portage, and although by the time I got there the sunny start was disappearing, and the number of Canada Geese and Mallards was increasing, and there were some more unusual visitors in the air, like the Bald Eagle below with nesting material and a small flock of Sandhill Cranes. The Sandhills were oddly quiet.

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The Bald Eagle was flying east, but I have no idea where the nest might be. That direction was industrial, with the Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Saw and heard my first male Red-Winged Blackbirds today at the Portage, where they have come to establish territories.

There were maybe 40 Mallards spread out wherever there was water, and 5 pair of Canada Geese were checking out nesting spots. I haven’t seen any banded geese this year.

Other than the Red-Winged Blackbirds there were very few passerines, with the exception of a few American Robins and European Starlings. I heard a Song Sparrow, Chickadees, Killdeer, and a couple Downy Woodpeckers were flitting about.

The last Downy Woodpecker I photographed was last week in Millennium Park.

Also present that day, a couple Northern Cardinals and the White-Throated Sparrows who literally yelled their calls from the bushes when they saw me approach our favorite spot.

More Portage views…

cago-and-mallards-portage-2-26-17-9953I hope to be back once more if possible, with an update on my indoor crowd – before I leave for a quick trip to Panama. I’ve been planning this trip for months and unbelievably, all of a sudden it’s here.

noca-millennium-3-2-17-0390Thanks to you all for checking in. Until next time… Peace and Think Spring.

San Cristobal Island – Galapagos

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Gray Warbler Finch

I am happy to be recovering from the cold from hell, so it’s time for a long-overdue post and luckily I still have pictures left from the Galapagos. Either I am getting old, not getting enough sleep or going through crow withdrawal – likely a combination of all three – but my resistance to these rhino-inconveniences seems to be less strong than usual. I have made it my New Year’s Resolution to go out more often during the work week and Find Crows. Crows will protect me against the ongoing assault to my spirit.

Below, a few pictures of a Blue-Footed Booby flying and diving.

These pictures are likely out of order, but our landing on San Cristobal was dry, meaning we could climb out of the panga onto steps at a dock. Needless to say we avoided the steps where the sea lions were sleeping (see farther below in the post). We then took a bus ride out to our hike.

A glimpse of the rugged lava-rock terrain.

The iguanas on this island are Galapagos Land Iguanas. They don’t swim. They are the color of the beach sand instead of wet rocks.

Below is a San Cristobal Lava Lizard. Found on this island only.

galapagos-lizard-07-15-2016-7013San Cristobal has its own mockingbird species. As far as I could tell, the “mocking” for all the species here applies more to their attitude than mimicry of other birds’ calls…

Galapagos Striated Heron doing its heron thing.

Why can’t all flycatchers be as cooperative as the Galapagos Flycatcher?

Flying over the beach, a Galapagos Hawk.

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Galapagos Hawk

I felt very lucky to get a couple pictures of the Dark-Billed Cuckoo. Even here Cuckoos are not gregarious.

Our sought-after finch on San Cristobal was the Woodpecker Finch below.

More pictures of the Woodpecker Finch in action.

After lunch we sailed to Santa Fe island for the Vegetarian Finch.

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Vegetarian Finch, Santa Fe Island

Back on San Cristobal, the Gray Warbler Finches are flower piercers and eaters.

The sea lions were everywhere.

The sea lion below left is covered in sand.

I have included a video below for some sea lion action and barking.

Somewhere coming or going we saw Manta Rays close to the surface. Our ship and the dinner sculpture are inset.

As San Cristobal has its own mockingbird, it’s only fair to give it more attention.

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San Cristobal Mockingbird

I have a couple more posts to come from the Galapagos. It’s been challenging to spread it out over such a long period of time, but fun too. I never thought I’d say it — I wish I could go back!

 

A Riot of Color

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Long-Billed Woodcreeper

I have finally managed to get through all the Sacha Lodge/Amazon photographs, with only a few stragglers left, so as I comb back through them day by day I will try to share the best with you.

Finally settling down into these pictures has buoyed my spirit too, which was broken somewhat by a combination of events. I got sick the last two days of my second trip, which were travel days, basically, off the boat and back to the mainland (I wonder if it was reverse seasickness?), and it took me a week or so after I returned home before I felt like I could eat again. Zapped, everything became more of a chore than usual. And diving back into a cartoonish political sphere didn’t help my mood either. But I think I’m beginning to find some sort of balance again, at least for a while.

Maybe the best medicine was planning to take two short trips next year..something to look forward to.

We visited two clay/salt licks on July 4, where we saw lots of Dusky-Headed Parakeets (above, top) and Cobalt-Winged Parakeets (above, bottom). The Cobalt-Wingeds come to a lick in Yasuni National Park where there is a blind so you can wait for them to gather and witness the pandemonium. Click on the pictures for a better view.

Below, some parrots, which are notoriously difficult to see when in the trees.The Blue-Headed Parrots are in the top of the first picture, but I was lucky enough to get a better shot of two of them below. The Orange-Winged are the two in the lower right and the Mealy has its back to us. I am surprised I managed to get some color off the Chestnut-Fronted Macaws.

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Blue-Headed, Orange-Winged and Mealy Parrots

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Blue-Headed Parrots

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Chestnut-Fronted Macaws

By the second day I was using the flash attachment… And it wasn’t all psittacines.

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Scarlet-Crowned Barbet

I don’t know if I ever saw the part of the bird below for which it was named, but Woodpeckers have a way of being named for miscellaneous field marks. There’s enough to identify the Spot-Breasted without seeing the spots on its breast.

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Spot-Breasted Woodpecker

A female Hook-Billed Kite on the left and a Gray-Headed Kite on the right, below.

A tarantula on someone’s door back at the lodge later…and a glimpse of an Oriole Blackbird, below.

Let us not forget the black birds. Yellow-Rumped Cacique and Black-Fronted Nunbird…

The picture below was shot from the boat, which is always a challenge for clarity. I begin to wonder how much of the image-stabilization really takes over for me.

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Black Caracara

Short-Crested Flycatcher and Gray-Breasted Sabrewing…

I think we had eight species of Woodcreeper on this trip and I added three to my life list. but I haven’t begun to figure out that yet.

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Black-Banded Woodcreeper

What a wonderful owl, to be awake and visible during the day…There were actually two of them, but the other one was obscured by vegetation.

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Crested Owl

I’ll be back very soon with more from the tropics and beyond.

Goose Lake Natural Area and the Hebron Trail

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird

I saw a couple birds at the Portage a few weeks ago that reminded me of Yellow-Headed Blackbirds although they were most likely not, but the light was so bad I couldn’t determine what they were, even after enhancing bad pictures. They were definitely large blackbirds but not Grackles.

(For clarification – the pictures above are all Yellow-Headed Blackbirds and were taken at Goose Lake Natural Area in McHenry County.)

I then thought that by the time I get back from Ecuador next month, it could be too late to see the Yellow-Headed Blackbirds that nest in McHenry County close to the Wisconsin border. I went to this area last year for the first time and vowed to go back. So Sunday morning I picked up my friend Lesa and we headed up north into ensuing thunderstorms. By the time we got all the way up there about an hour and a half later, the rain was nearly over, so it was perfectly timed.

On our way out to the marsh through the wooded trail, we saw a distant Ring-Necked Pheasant and light at the end of the tunnel.

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There were other things happening on the gravel trail. Like feeding time for a fledgling Common Grackle.

And birds drying off after the rain.

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Common Grackle on the left, Brown Thrasher on the right.

And Empidonax flycatchers, likely Alder or Willow, but unless they say something we can never be really sure.

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The other rarity I lured Lesa with was Black Tern, and we definitely saw them.

Red-Winged Blackbirds were predictably everywhere.

The marsh had Pied-Billed Grebes (below, top), and some downy Hooded Mergansers (three pictures below) which I needed help to identify, not seeing any parents and forgetting that ducks other than Mallard are a possibility. I should have recognized the behavior of the Mergansers which was what drew our attention to them anyway. One had caught a fish and the others were chasing him or her.

Perhaps the nicest surprise were two Sandhill Cranes. We heard them for the longest time but could not see them until they decided to fly over us.

Predictably we saw American Goldfinch and Eastern Kingbird.

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American Goldfinch

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Eastern Kingbird

After wishing we’d brought our scopes and maybe even lawn chairs, we finally came to a little deck-like overlook with a bench, near the Song Sparrow pictured below who was sitting with a dragonfly waiting for us to quit paying attention so he could go feed someone at an undisclosed location.

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Song Sparrow

We were enjoying the cool cloudiness after the rain but the sun started to break through the clouds and the heat started to build, so it was time to retreat. Next time I think we have to find a way to carry a scope with us as it’s likely we missed a few birds. All in all we had about 33 species on our list.

I wish I’d thought to bring my recorder because the male Yellow-Headed Blackbird below gave us a few brief but beautiful spurts of song. Well, maybe beauty is in the ear of the listener. He sounded perhaps like a rusty crank turning. But it’s complex and probably musical to females. Here’s a link to the Cornell website if you want to hear what one sounds like. I’m entranced by the orange-colored crown on this bird.

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The last bird we counted was a Red-Tailed Hawk. We saw another accipiter fly over the trail on the way back but could not identify it quickly enough.

I had intended to do much more posting before my trip, but found I was still going through photos I took weeks ago! Time has flown and soon I must fly to my vacation destination.

I leave Friday for Quito, going to the Amazon and then the Galapagos. This is likely my last big trip. Although I may have said that before. So unless I manage the unthinkable and post once more before I leave, I’ll be back next month to share photos from my trip.

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