Down by the River

My visits to Riverside last Wednesday and Friday were quiet but interesting. On Friday, I found myself at eye-level with a Great Blue Heron perched in a tree near the paved trail in Riverside. Returning in the opposite direction on the trail, I encountered the heron fishing by the shore.

Leaves starting on the trees

I was so happy to see the footbridge without scaffolding, I didn’t look closely enough to realize that it was still under rehabilitation. After I turned away, a woman passing by said it would be closed for two months! Right in time for warbler migration, I thought. But there are still plenty of places to walk without crossing the bridge.

The Golden-crowned Kinglets were first to show up, and now the Ruby-crowned Kinglets, like the one below, seem to be prevalent. You have to look really close at the bottom photo to see a sliver of red on the crown.

The unusual way the light struck this American Robin made it look almost like another species.

Everything seems transformed by spring.

A White-breasted Nuthatch on my favorite Hackberry tree bark
A Boxelder Maple
Lichen or fungus and moss underneath

Walking in Riverside Lawn, I spotted two Eastern Phoebes near the water. They were both singing slightly different songs.

It’s nest-building season and this female Northern Cardinal was on a mission.

This Song Sparrow was curious, but not singing.

In the fluddle that occurs below street level in the field by the paved path, I found a pair of Rusty Blackbirds.

There was a Common Grackle, for comparison.

Ring-billed Gulls are returning
A very young buck
This was the last time I saw this pair of Red-breasted Mergansers

I am not seeing Red-bellied Woodpeckers as often lately, but I always hear them.

When I got back to my car parked by the Hofmann Tower, the Great Blue Heron was standing in the water by the former dam.

On a whim, I stopped by Zoo Woods on my way to the pool. This is another wooded area that runs along the Des Plaines River and is directly across First Avenue from Brookfield Zoo. It has no trails, only a long, winding drive full of parking spaces. I got out of my car and walked the periphery. I had heard there were nesting Great Horned Owls here. I didn’t find any owls, but there were some other birds. Below is one of the Northern Flicker photos that didn’t manage to make it into the last post.

There was a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

I was delighted to see my first Eastern Bluebird of the season.

And then right before I left, a bright yellow bird caught my eye. It turned out to be a Pine Warbler.

We have now had two cold days with rain and snow. Mostly it has been cold and windy and barely enough precipitation. I am looking forward to sunny weather tomorrow morning, even though it will be on the chilly side. I hope to be back soon.

Spring Arrivals in Riverside

After a lot of rain, we have settled into a warm, dry spell. Now we are under a “fire weather watch” as strong winds will accompany the high temperatures and lack of humidity.

These photos are from three visits to Riverside within the last week and a half. Perhaps most unusual was seeing this very early Palm Warbler as it was rare for last Friday’s date.

On a gloomy and likely chillier visit about a week before, I saw a Rusty Blackbird, which was not rare but a less-common occurrence for me.

And on the same day the footbridge was closed for painting, so I could not proceed on my usual loop.

Conditions were good for the American Robins with all the rain.

As far as I could go one-way into Riverside Lawn, the flooding in parts of the trail was more than I wanted to deal with anyway.

I have still seen a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in the river as late as yesterday. I managed to get close enough last Friday for a decent photo of the male.

Blue Jays are usually heard but not seen so when this one volunteered, I complied.

Friday was sunny. I liked this White-breasted Nuthatch’s choice of wood.

And Friday was the first – and so far only – time this spring that I have seen a Great Blue Heron in the river. The water has been rather deep and the current strong, making it harder for a heron to hunt.

More progress has been made on the bridge painting, I guess.

No sign of the water receding any time soon on the trail. Although I suspect with the hot, dry weather we have now, most of it will be gone by tomorrow.

In the hollow of that big, fallen log I noticed a dead raccoon a couple weeks ago. It is still there.

Friday was a good day for Golden-crowned Kinglets. This one was in low enough branches to visit with.

I have seen a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, although they haven’t been particularly easy to capture yet. I’m confident that will change soon.

This Red-winged Blackbird is definitely accustomed to suburbia.

Back in Riverside Monday morning, on my way in, I met a Chipmunk. On my way out I encountered two Hermit Thrushes.

Beyond that, I had a somewhat cooperative Northern Cardinal, and a singing Song Sparrow. The Song Sparrow wasn’t all that visible, but I decided to see if I could capture him singing with the video switch on my camera, in spite of the fact that hand-holding heavy lenses is not a logical way to go about making videos. The audio is quite clear, however, so I am including it.

I will try to be back sooner, because every day there’s a new bird or two and pretty soon I will be really struggling to keep up with it. Much more to come. Happy Spring.

On and About the River

It’s been a slow week or two out on the trails but every once in a while there’s a surprise. Such was the morning of February 6 when shortly after I started walking the paved trail by the Des Plaines River in Riverside, I saw a young-looking Pied-billed Grebe sitting in the water by the near shore with a couple Mallards. Even though there was vegetation in the way of my lens, it occurred to me when I later looked at these photos that I don’t think I have ever been this close to a Pied-billed Grebe.

There wasn’t much else to get excited about that day or on two subsequent visits but what I did manage to capture is represented here.

I saw our friend 64H by the Hofmann dam with a female companion, perhaps

It was a nice, sunny day for Mallards.

A look at some of the ice – slowly melting.

On the other side of the foot bridge I barely managed to capture the Redhead which was still present and a male Red-breasted Merganser.

On February 8, there was still a plenty of ice and it was gloomier. A Common Goldeneye was fishing.

I was a bit surprised to see this Mourning Dove sitting on a low branch over the ice in the river.

When I returned on February 10, the most notable thing was the sunshine.

Now the pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were quite cuddly in the water.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker showed up briefly to emphasize the blue sky and buds on the tree it was visiting.

I have been to the Chicago Portage off and on and there are a few photos there for another post perhaps. I took a couple more distant jaunts the past two weekends just to get out of my rut, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening anywhere lately. But with the increased daylight, birds are singing. In addition to the Northern Cardinals, the Red-bellied Woodpeckers have started to sing. And Red-winged Blackbirds are also returning to their territories. Spring is a promise.

River of Geese

Prior to the Deep Freeze of the last few days, my three most recent visits to Riverside were full of Canada Geese in the Des Plaines River, some of them tagged. I would have gone back on Friday in spite of the sub-zero windchill except for staying home waiting for a plumber to assess a more permanent solution to a clogged kitchen sink. I am now looking forward to that repair Monday morning.

January 27 was cloudy. The river was a gathering place for a couple hundred Canada Geese. It was among a group not far from the paved path that I saw 68B. The interesting thing about this bird is that I reported seeing her way back in September of 2014. She hatched in 2013 or earlier and was banded on July 16, 2014 near Brookfield in Cook County, which is the same location for banding of all the other geese I have reported. They have been pretty faithful to their original banded location. I saw this bird at the Chicago Portage, which is part of the same ecosystem.

A cold, gloomy view of the Des Plaines River

68B is in the third photo below.

To break up the goose monotony, I was entertained by an engaging Black-capped Chickadee. You may note that it has the same color scheme as the Canada Geese,

Then on January 30, there were two new numbers to report. 54H is a female banded in July of 2015.

And 26N is a male banded in July of 2016.

January 30 was cold and gloomy. This little group of geese was south of the Joliet Avenue bridge.

Other waterfowl included two male Common Goldeneyes and a pair of Common Mergansers.

The largest gaggle of geese was near the footbridge, as usual.

On February 1, 54H and 26N were in the group below near the Hofmann Tower.

A small gaggle of geese near the paved path in Riverside

There have been only a smattering of Mallards in the river.

This White-breasted Nuthatch had the courage to appear by himself instead of in tandem with a Red-bellied Woodpecker, which is how I have been seeing them lately.

Then, just on the other side of the footbridge, I saw a Redhead. Chris, who I see frequently walking his dog Isabel, had just said a little while ago that he hadn’t seen a Redhead. I concurred that I had not either. And then here was one. What a beautiful surprise. When I saw Chris later we both laughed, as he had seen it too.

Beyond that, likely the same two male Common Goldeneyes I have seen before. I haven’t seen the ladies lately.

And there were no more land birds to photograph that day, but I captured a sneaky look at my first Chipmunk of the year.

And just to confirm, the Hofmann Tower pigeons were in place.

One more of the Downy Woodpecker that is at the top of this post.

I have been to the Chicago Portage a couple times during the cold spell that followed and as far as I could tell, the Des Plaines River was likely frozen over, which doesn’t mean the geese weren’t sitting on the ice, but I suspect that maybe I wasn’t missing too much by not visiting Riverside. I will see if I can make a quick stop there tomorrow after my kitchen sink redemption.

With a little luck, I will be back before that with a little birds-at-home update. In the meantime, the sun is shining, the snow is melting, and it appears we are out of the woods, so to speak, for subzero or even single-digit temperatures. But I still have the memory of below-zero in my bones, which makes it that much more delightful to soak up the sun.

One Sunny Morning

Sunshine is at such a premium these days, I can only remember one or two sunny mornings. One of them was this past Sunday, but I was inside, singing with the choir. It was a wonderful experience, however, made that much more special by our guest soloist, tenor Sean Harris. The energy he brought to our collective performance was palpable. The light of that occasion has kept me going through ensuing dark mornings all week.

These photos are all from the sunniest day of the month so far, January 9, in Riverside. The first bird I saw was 64H. Below his photo is the certificate I received from the USGS the same day I reported seeing him. Since he is at least 8 years old and I nearly always see him alone, I have imagined a rather sad story. I suspect it is likely he lost his mate and is waiting for someone like her to accompany him.

Some Mallards were enjoying a nap in the sunshine.

There may not have been a lot of birds, but those I could photograph were so much easier to focus on with light. What a concept.

When trying to photograph the Common Goldeneyes, sunshine was the problem.

After what seemed like several weeks, the American Robins were back.

Even this Northern Cardinal didn’t seem to mind posing for me. I guess he figured the pictures would come out pretty good with all that sunshine.

I saw 64H again later on the grass. Then a few more Canada Geese came in for a landing.

That was it for sunshine. Except for a rainy day or two, I have gone out in the mornings and have seen birds every time, in spite of the endless clouds. There’s no sunshine in the foreseeable future, but I will try to be back sooner with a more recent report.

2023 Begins

Gray day after gray day. The year got off to a gloomy start. But I am happy to report today was mostly sunny, tomorrow will be as well, and even yesterday afternoon – after I got back from a visit to the lakefront – the sun had broken through the clouds. So I hope to be sharing sunnier-looking reports with you soon.

That said, these photos are from visits to Riverside on January 2 and 4.

On the 2nd, perhaps most interesting was observing a disagreement between two Mallard drakes. The one on the right is the interloper. You can see the progression of their little spat by advancing the slide show. The guy on the left was eventually successful in defending his territory and saw the challenger off into the water.