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.

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.

Reconnected – Two Days Later

My two days without Internet service are over. With enough access on my phone, I confess I hardly missed it. But now that I am able to publish photos from the camera again, I want to get this post out of my system.

I was thrilled to find a Winter Wren in my backyard on Thursday afternoon. I had been to the Chicago Portage in the morning seeing very little. And after about a week of seeing or hearing Winter Wrens every day I was not encountering them anymore. Then this little delightful creature showed up in my yard. My messy, full of trees, leaves and spent tall native flowers and grasses yard – just the place for a fall migrant. I think the wren was actually attracted to the remaining mess by the back fence where the tree stumps had been removed. When I have encountered Winter Wrens they often seem to be messing around in dead wood.

Fallen leaves from my Hawthorn Tree

Here are a couple more fleeting photos of the Winter Wren.

I had first seen the wren when I went out to refill the birdbaths, so I went back in the house and grabbed the camera. It was a nice enough day to sit in the yard for half an hour or so and observe whatever activity was available. There was a predictable, endless stream of House Sparrows.

But then I saw something moving in the clump of spent flowers that had planted themselves just off the back porch stairs. It turned out to be a Nashville Warbler, which is late and therefore “rare” for this date. It wasn’t easy to see all that clearly but it is definitely a Nashville with that white eye-ring, gray cap and yellow body.

It occurred to me that, after all these years, this is exactly what I had in mind when I moved into my house and began by replacing the lawn with trees and native plants. I just wanted to attract birds. It seemed obvious to me at the time, but it was not initially very popular with City Hall or some of my neighbors. Perhaps awareness of the climate crisis and species extinction is tilting the scales more in my favor lately. I may even be participating in another garden walk next year. I hope so – it will motivate me to work in the yard more than I have been lately!

So was anything happening at the Chicago Portage on Thursday morning besides leaves?

There were a few – very few – birds. I am always excited to see an American Crow, of course.

And there were a few well-camouflaged American Goldfinches.

But in general, flora and colorful leaves provided the most interest. There was a small stand of some late-blooming Evening Primrose out in the middle of the marsh.

It would probably be enough to stop here, but I am going to move on to the next morning’s visit to Riverside, which produced more birds, and by the time I reached the health club to go swimming, a message on my phone saying my new router had arrived.

It is always good to see a familiar face in Riverside. This Great Blue Heron was present again just off the Hofmann dismantled-dam location.

Here’s a view of the Des Plaines River from the Joliet Avenue bridge, looking north.

As I stood on the bridge, I heard and then saw two Belted Kingfishers rise up and fly over. I was able to capture one of them.

The bird species of the morning, though, was definitely Golden-Crowned Kinglet – they were everywhere, in numbers.

By the time I reached the spot where I was about to cross the footbridge, just past the police and fire station, there were Golden-crowned Kinglets hugging the trees lining the path.

Walking along the river, it was hard to ignore Mallard males gleaming in the sunshine.

A couple more photos of the river and trees, which were hard to resist.

At Riverside Lawn, there weren’t a lot of birds, but enough to make a morning. I saw a distant but brightly-lit Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Dark-eyed Juncos were easier to see when they were preoccupied on the ground.

White-throated Sparrows were here and there.

And it’s always special to see a Fox Sparrow.

When I got back to where I park my car by the Hofmann Tower, I was happy to see a Great Egret in the river. As you can see, the water level is low.

Here are a couple more images from Friday morning.

It’s a season of change, from day to day. I will be back soon with more scenes from what has been an exceptionally beautiful autumn of birds and their surroundings.

Back to Riverside x 3

Three visits to Riverside are represented in this blog post: October 10, which was a beautiful, sunny morning, October 14 a bit cooler and cloudier, and October 17, chilly and cloudy. Up until today we’ve been flirting with freezing temperatures overnight, but now, suddenly, we are thrust back into summer for a few days.

On the 10th just after I crossed the footbridge to Riverside Lawn, I heard a Carolina Wren. Then I saw the wren perched on a bare branch, singing away. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had this treat. A recording of his song that morning is below.

Carolina Wren
A view o the Des Plaines on October 10

There were still plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers on the 10th.

And Golden-crowned Kinglets, who were getting a little bit easier to see.

There have been Hermit Thrushes everywhere I have been the last couple weeks.

I think this might be the last Orange-crowned Warbler I saw.

American Robins are about, here and there.

Killdeer are still present. The river has been receding lately.

I noticed from the footbridge these three carved pumpkins that someone put out on a log, and decided to get a closer view of See No Evil, Speak No Evil and Hear No Evil. Predictably this fine work was consumed by wildlife on my next visit.

There are still Red-winged Blackbirds here and there.

And I got lucky with a Red-tailed Hawk flying over on the 10th.

On the 14th I was very excited to hear and then see a Winter Wren but I was not able to get a decent picture of him. I have seen one or more of these birds nearly every time I have been out since, so I will keep trying.

Here are some more photographs of the White-breasted Nuthatch at the top of the post. The autumn leaves make a nice contrast for him.

I had another encounter with a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

This was the last time I saw any herons on the river. The cold snap probably encouraged them to move farther south.

A gray squirrel posed for me and then indicated he’d had enough.

This Chipmunk picked a perfect fall background.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

A Mourning Dove was in no hurry to escape my lens.

Here’s another White-breasted Nuthatch.

I have seen little groups of White-throated Sparrows but they’re not always easy to capture.

It seemed to be a good day to get lost in the leaves. I think this is the last Magnolia Warbler I saw.

Also on the 14th, a family of deer and a lot of Rock Pigeons.

On the 17th it was cold, cloudy and pretty quiet. I only walked on the Riverside Lawn trail, up and back.