Visiting with Vireos

To add to the confusion or maybe to clarify instead, how about a little Vireo review? I misidentified a Warbling Vireo this morning while talking to a lovely birder I met on the trail in Riverside Lawn, thinking I saw the eyeline of a Red-eyed Vireo but when I reviewed my photographs, they were all of a Warbling Vireo. Either it’s been easier to see Warbling Vireos this year, or else it’s just the luck of being out more, but I have managed to capture them on several occasions. This bird was particularly easy to photograph because it was distracted by trying to grab some webbing, and maybe I was more distracted by its behavior as well.

Depending on the light, the slight yellowish cast on the breast can appear darker.

And then in this morning’s photographs, I had what appears to be a Philadelphia Vireo, which is very easy to confuse with the Warbling but is definitely more yellow on the breast in appearance and darker above.

The Red-eyed is most commonly seen and shouldn’t be confused with anybody else. Sometimes you see the red eye for which it is named but these photos from Saturday at Columbus Park did not capture that field mark.

I had to dig a little into the archives a bit for the other two vireos. Below is a Blue-headed Vireo I saw briefly at the Portage a couple weeks ago, but the other photographs are from the exact same time of year two years ago.

And I will end with the one least-often seen but always appreciated – the beautiful Yellow-throated Vireo. I captured these individuals on two separate occasions last fall at Bemis.

I’m glad we got that out of the way. I’ll be back with lots more.

Oh yes – most importantly: vireos always have blue feet which you may be able to see in some of the closer photos.

More Warblers and Others

This is the last of the fallout warblers from Tuesday morning but I have added a few more to my migration sightings, so I will have to round those up next. I suspect that after feasting most if not all the warblers I encountered on Tuesday resumed their journey to their breeding grounds, with no interruption from the weather to slow them down. And some of the Yellow Warblers will be staying.

There were only a few Black-throated Green Warblers.

Warbling Vireos are abundant but will not be so easy to see once the leaves take over.

The White-breasted Nuthatches have been noticeably quiet, so I can’t count them until I see them.

There was still enough water left in the fluddle for the two Solitary Sandpipers that were hanging out,

Scarlet Tanagers are always noticeable. I have seen them several times this season so I will be back with more captures.

Remember Palm Warblers? I think they are probably all gone but there were still several on Tuesday.

A few more of the last Palm Warblers…

Here’s the female Blackpoll Warbler that Vera identified after it snuck in with the Palms. Thanks, Vera!

A warbler I don’t see very often, a Northern Waterthrush, is a likely bird around the river.

Below is the last Pine Warbler I saw. They were earlier than other species but now are considered late. According to my Sibley app this is a likely first-year female.

Gray Catbirds have been very easy to see this spring. They’ve been quite vocal too.

Finally there’s food for flycatchers.

Eastern Phoebe

There were two Eastern Kingbirds sallying for prey from high perches over the river that day.

It was nice to see a couple Cedar Waxwings. While I once say them kiting for insects in large numbers, more likely I will see them congregating in fruiting trees later.

I’m always up for a Blue Jay if it’s sitting still.

I will be back with more warblers and other species as spring migration continues. In a way I am thankful things have slowed down a bit.

Warbler Overload – Part III

Warbler migration always seems to be defined by the appearance of “Maggies” and Redstarts. Magnolia Warblers are generally abundant in migration, and they always seem to cheerfully accept their fate as lens subjects.

The male Magnolia Warbler has that big bright white wing patch. The female Magnolias do not have the wing patch and their black streaks don’t form a “necklace” or thick black streaks.

More male Magnolias…

And some females…with one paler male snuck in below.

Just a couple more…

The American Redstarts are somewhat harder to capture. This is at least a two-year male. The first year males look a lot like the females in that they do not have the bold orange and black coloring.

These birds tend to forage more frenetically than some other species.

I think this is a first-year male. It’s sometime hard to tell, but the yellow on the breast is a bit orangey-er than the yellow on the females.

These birds may appear dull but they make up for it with their active foraging. Two days later when the leaves filled out on the trees, it was much harder to see them.

This bird lost its tail!

A few more of what I think is a first-year male American Redstart, sometimes affectionately referred to as a “yellowstart.”

There are still a few Yellow-rumped Warbers around and they have the same colors as the Magnolias, just arranged differently.

Wilson’s Warblers are among my favorites. But as of this outing they managed to hide their trademark black caps almost entirely.

If you click on the photos in the gallery below you might be able to see only a hint of a black cap in one or two of them.

So there are a few more warblers I have yet to cover – not as many photos of each species (whew!) – and some other birds seen as well, and then plenty more migration madness to continue. I am convinced the male Northern Cardinals are enjoying being basically ignored by us warbler-hungry photographers.

I am very tired from going out to hear a friend perform last night and then getting up early to do the spring migration walk in Columbus Park, so I may not have much to say for a little while. But I will be back with the review of Tuesday’s birds, and there are so many more I have seen since then.

Warbler Overload – Part II

Few warblers are as exciting to observe as the male Blackburnian Warbler in springtime. I keep asking myself why I took so many pictures of at least three individuals on Tuesday, but the only answer I can come up with is “because I could.”

I mean, this is truly a good reason to give in to obsession.

And with so many opportunities, I kept taking them…

Another beautiful bird is the Bay-breasted Warbler. If you remember my fall posts at all, I had several of these birds represented and they looked almost nothing like they do now.

The thing that made it so relatively easy to keep clicking away was the combination of hungry birds in numbers. I really think the birds were less concerned about me than they were with fueling up for their flights north. Also, the leaves were just starting to appear, so it was easier to see the birds than even a day or two later.

A few more of the Bay-breasted…

If you have made it this far, let’s go for a third species.

Black-and-white Warblers I had already seen and photographed this spring, but it’s always a challenge to get a good image.

Just to let you know I did not ignore the Robins…

I will be back with yet more warblers from Tuesday and other birds observed. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Warbler Overload – Part I

Suddenly the weather is summer, and with the heat after a long, rainy prelude, the trees are leafing out and spring migration is in full force. I was contemplating two other posts of recent outings but Tuesday’s visit to Riverside and Riverside Lawn demands attention first. I didn’t go out yesterday because I was helping a friend, but it’s just as well as I needed some extra time to process nearly 1,000 photos to begin this series.

There was a tremendous fallout of warblers along the Des Plaines River. While I anticipated as much – this was the kind of thing I dreamt about previous years while stuck sitting in front of a computer at work – I just didn’t expect the magnitude of this fallout. I literally saw so many individuals of several species, it was almost maddening. It took me 3 hours to cover a little over a mile, which up until now has taken me two hours tops. I was moving slowly anyway, as the morning grew hotter, but I just kept seeing more and more birds. I counted 16 warbler species. They will not all be represented here, but I have even more species and photographs to come from the day before at the Chicago Portage. So hang on, here we go. (I have decided to split this up into three or more installments or it will never happen.)

I started seeing Chestnut-sided Warblers right off the bat, which made me happy because I had not yet seen them this year.

They ran the gamut, from brightly-colored individuals…

To drab birds…

And somewhere in between…

If I accomplish nothing else in this first of many installments, I must pay tribute to the beautiful Prothonotary Warbler that is at the top of this post and appears in more photos below.

Seeing the Prothonotary so well and having the opportunity to photograph it was breathtaking.

I would like to continue but it’s late and I have to get up early to beat the heat tomorrow morning, so I will be back as soon as possible with some more birds from my big warbler day. Because I have to make room for even more birds seen since then!

Spring Migration Continues

Even if the temperature doesn’t seem springlike lately, the trees are starting to leaf out, the birds are returning, and there is every other indication that spring is here. And now that the Spring Music Festival is over, I wonder if I will stop having occasional ancient dreams about performing because I have actually done so. It was good to be “back in the saddle again” to quote from our minister Emily’s opening monologue as she was the perfect emcee for the event. She actually played guitar and sang her own version of “Back in the Saddle Again” to reflect the novelty of a return to this tradition after a three-year pandemic-induced delay.

For the moment, we are experiencing a lot of rain, the complete antithesis to last year’s drought. I managed to visit Riverside Lawn yesterday but it’s likely I will not return immediately. In the back of my mind I anticipated flooding would happen eventually. Below is a portion of the trail I encountered.

Beyond that it’s been cloudy and chilly, so lack of light has been an issue especially focusing the camera with my old eyes. And I still manage to take too many photographs. This is a combined post of photos from yesterday and my visit on 4/29.

The most beautiful sight was at least 50 Chimney Swifts circling around the bend in the river. If you click on the photos below you might be able to see some of them – it was impossible to capture them all as they moved about quickly and then dispersed. I thought there were more than 50 but ebird pushed back on “60” and since I couldn’t possible count them individually for as quickly as they moved I settled on an acceptable number.

Green Herons have also returned to the area. I have seen two at the Chicago Portage in the last week but haven’t been able to photograph them well yet. With all this water I am confident I will see them again in sunnier and greener conditions. These photos are from the 29th.

On both days I saw a few Solitary Sandpipers in the fluddle close to the paved path in Riverside.