What? Winter? Left Overs

My windshield looked like this, this morning, when I went out to start the car so I could sing with the choir for our first choir Sunday in two years.

It fits this post, which is a little collection of wintertime visits that I never managed to mention. The first was a visit to Columbus Park on 12-30-21.

I had gone to see if a Greater White-fronted Goose was still visible after it had been reported for several days. But by this time the water had frozen and so many Canada Geese were sitting on the ice it was too hard to tell.

Still, it was a beautiful, sunny day with lots of virgin snow.

Another beautiful sunny day a month later, on January 30, 2022, I decided to visit the Little Red Schoolhouse after another snowfall. Below is a view of Longjohn Slough which borders the trail starting at the Nature Center.

A few birds were visible.

American Tree Sparrow
Blue Jay
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Red-bellied Woodpecker

As I walked the trail, I came across a sign denoting the original location of the school for which the forest preserve is named.

Then in my yard on February 15, a Cooper’s Hawk sat for a long time in the redbud tree right outside the porch windows. I could not resist taking too many pictures. Here are a few.

I miss a lot of beautiful sunsets and can barely see hints of them through my kitchen or porch windows, but I tried to commemorate the winter clouds anyway.

I am full of music from singing at the service which was devoted to the Spring Equinox. What began as a cold morning has turned into a beautiful day. The sun is shining brightly. I hope this is my last windshield ice for a while.

Berries At Last

This will be short. I started writing it in between visits outside to shovel snow that just kept falling yesterday. it looked like at least 7 or 8 inches when I went out for the first round. By the time I was done another half inch had already fallen. I wound up shoveling three times total yesterday. The snow was heavier and wetter this time around. I went back out this morning and discovered the snow plows had come down the street last night, walling me in. I dug out my car and am thinking I will attempt a grocery round so I don’t have to do everything tomorrow. We might get some more snow, but it’s of the lake-effect variety and I am going in the opposite direction.

After waiting for what seemed like forever to see the berries on my hawthorn tree disappear, I managed to catch this robin feasting on some of what few were left last Saturday. Yesterday morning when I went out to the yard there were five robins in the same tree so they likely finished up the job.

Suffice it to say I was quite fascinated by the robin’s berry-fetching technique. I am sort of sorry I had a lot of branches loaded with berries trimmed off the tree back in November, but they were practically into my neighbor’s yard. I look forward to this year’s crop and anticipate waiting for February 2023 to see the berries disappear.

So I will go out now and do said grocery shopping while it seems safe. I get to park on my side of the street today which will make bringing the bags in easier. At least that’s my strategy. Stay safe and warm wherever you are.

Snow – and a New Yard Bird

Yesterday I devoted practically the entire day to dealing with the snow. It snowed overnight and didn’t stop until around 1:30 yesterday afternoon, although by that time it was pretty much down to flurries. I went out early to do the first shoveling of the walks and went out again a couple hours later, then picked up a camera every now and then to see if I could get any pictures. This is more snow than we got last week but not anything near what has transpired on the East Coast. I hope everyone stays safe and warm through the “Bomb Cyclone” Nor’easter.

Earlier I tried to get photographs with the mirrorless camera but it wouldn’t focus well. I apologize for those few fuzzies I have included here. Later I went out with the Canon and as I was still on the back porch, a nuthatch landed on the peanut feeder. I started taking photos through the screened windows and realized later that this was a Red-breasted Nuthatch and, to my knowledge, a new bird for my yard. I wonder how many other species come to the yard that I have never seen…

Red-breasted Nuthatch (female)

Two views of the snow in the yard – earlier, cloudy and through the windows, and later when the sun was shining and I was outside.

A few views of the snow in the front yard, courtesy of my cell phone camera, and a longer view of the back.

The sun peeking through the clouds…

I continue to have American Goldfinches consistently in the yard with up to 40 or so of them in the early morning hours while the feeders are still fairly well-stocked. They stop by off and on all day until about an hour and a half before sunset.

Of course I have a lot of House Sparrows too…And there are House Finches and Cardinals but it’s been hard to capture them. I’ll keep trying.

Grey Squirrel

I came in from the yard yesterday and found some of my Zebra Finches hanging out in the kitchen window where they like to sit and soak up the afternoon sun. I have closely cropped out as much of the dirty window as I can, but I will try to clean the window before I take any more pictures of them. My excuse for this is somewhat practical – nobody flies into the windows from either side of them.

I had no idea what I was going to do today until I got up, but it turned out to be a nice morning so I took a drive up to LaBagh Woods to see Common Redpolls. I will be back with a report later today or tomorrow.

Visit from a Leucistic Robin

I was quite surprised to see this visitor through my kitchen window about a week ago. I have seen an occasional leucistic American Robin but never in my yard. It was a one-time experience. Since it was preoccupied with its preening in my dying Staghorn Sumac tree, I managed to take too many photographs.

Also through the window in unsatisfactory light I did manage to see a Downy Woodpecker exchanging food with its likely offspring. There are two suet feeders hanging off the Sumac and they are star attractions for the woodpeckers and House Sparrows who have been feeding suet to their youngsters as well.

Worth mentioning, perhaps, is the fact that in spite of all the Brown-headed Cowbirds in the yard earlier this year, I haven’t seen any overgrown fledglings.

Meanwhile, in the front yard, pollinators have been busy. Visiting butterflies were a special treat. The series is of a Spicebush Swallowtail on a Purple Coneflower

Monarch Butterfly on the Common Milkweed

This is all for today. As always I hope to return soon…

A Little Local Color

The past two weeks have been challenging and I can’t seem to find a breather anywhere. Yet we race ahead into spring, even if temporarily yanked back to winter by strong winds, so I’m here with a few local images from a couple recent outings and the yard. This morning my cardinal was singing before sunrise… likely the same guy pictured below.

My windblown Northern Cardinal

Male Red-Winged Blackbirds have been coming back to claim their breeding territories for the past couple weeks. The one below was at Miller Meadow.

Also at Miller Meadow, tossed around in the wind, was a distant Red-Tailed Hawk. These pictures are cropped extensively but I liked how they captured the hawk’s maneuvers and the confirming red tail.

There was a somewhat leucistic American Robin at Miller Meadow and it was really hard to get a picture of it but it seemed worthy of documentation. I’ve never seen this before.

Below is what the Chicago Portage and the Des Plaines River nearby looked like last weekend. There were maybe 60 Common Goldeneye on the Des Plaines. I managed to get a closer view of one through the trees at the back of the Portage.

Common Goldeneye

I keep getting distracted by this shelf fungus every time I see it at the Portage.

Black-capped Chickadee, Chicago Portage
Mallards at Miller Meadow

Song Sparrows are returning to the Portage to set up territories too. I heard one singing, might have been this one.

Song Sparrow, Chicago Portage

Hadn’t run out of “winter” sparrows yet, there was a sizable flock of American Tree Sparrows at the Portage.

I will never run out of House Sparrows in my yard.

More windblown photos of my Cardinal visitors.

I never get tired of Canada Geese flying overhead in formation. People are reporting Sandhill Cranes and I hope to see some of them soon as well.

My plan is to get through a very busy weekend and return here soon! Something keeps pouring extra salt on my chaos… lately I’ve been surprised to land on two feet.

One more Downy Woodpecker at Miller Meadow…

Kouchibouguac Part 2

Ruddy Turnstone

I have been struggling to come up with a narrative for this post of pictures from the remainder of this day. Yesterday I would have finally managed it except I got sick, however briefly, and needed to sleep. Now that I’m fully recovered, it’s time to plunge into more holiday festivities.

So maybe it’s best just to let the pictures speak for themselves so I can move on to the next chapter.

Ruddy Turnstone
Common Tern with catch
Greater Yellowlegs
Another Greater Yellowlegs
A Canadian Crow
Song Sparrow

The Northern Gannets were never close, but they were always distinctive.

Pectoral Sandpiper wading with Ruddy Turnstone…

Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, whatever you are celebrating, and if I don’t get a chance before the 31st, Happy New Year…

Recycling the Unattached

Some of my original Zebra Finches from years past (the cleaner pot rack alone dates the photo)

I’m almost totally over the rhino-plus virus, well enough to get through what seemed like endless commitments. Now as my mind clears along with my sinuses, I am feeling remiss in keeping up with this commitment, so when I remembered this morning there is always an opportunity to fall back on those “Unattached” photographs that clog up my media library, I decided to select a few at random just for fun. A couple from the Galapagos, not so long ago, which reminds me I still have a couple days left from my trip I never covered…

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Yellow Warbler – Galapagos – July 2016

 

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Magnificent Frigatebird, Galapagos, July 2016

The three below are from a trip to East Africa in 2013.

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Gray-Crowned Cranes, November, 2013, Tanzaniya

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Burchell’s Zebra, November 2013

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Pearl-Spotted Owlet, November 2013

The sunset below probably happened in Belize at Crooked Tree in March of 2014…I’ll be back with more recent endeavors soon.. Thanks for following my meanderings. I hope you enjoyed this little blast from the past.

Singing Spring Sparrows

WCSP 5-7-17-7817Virtually every morning I go out to fill the bird feeders in my backyard before I leave for work, and I have been hearing White-Crowned and White-Throated Sparrows singing for weeks, but I never see them. Looking out the windows I am used to see them foraging around on the ground, but this has not happened. So yesterday afternoon, which was absolutely gorgeous and sunlit, when I went out to sit and dig up the patch of pigwort that has invaded one section of the yard, I took the camera with me, just in case.

WCSP 5-7-17-7820I was rewarded with the presence of three White-Crowned Sparrows and two White-Throated Sparrows. The White-Throateds showed up first, digging around at the bottom of the compost pile and then sometimes in it. They didn’t stay very long, however.

Eventually I noticed something interesting: one White-Crowned Sparrow was nibbling on a piece of spray millet that I had just recently added to the compost bin. I realized some time last week that I have been throwing out chewed-up spray millet every day with the cage papers and waste from my indoor birds, which means it’s been going needlessly to the landfill. It never occurred to me that someone might find the uneaten portions of this delightful treat irresistible.

The other attraction seemed to be little leftover bits of shelled peanuts. The squirrels probably get the majority of them but the birds have been onto this use of the tree stump for a while. I keep hoping for crows but I’ll take White-Crowned Sparrows anytime.

In case you’re wondering what the back view of a White-Crowned Sparrow looks like, here’s one shot from under the feeder pole.

WCSP 5-7-17-7809The weather is still unseasonably cool but that’s nothing for the sparrows. I’m hoping they’ll stick around maybe for another week so I can continue to hear their beautiful songs. Yesterday as I had to go back into the house to resume indoor duties, I was treated to a little late-afternoon/early evening chorus I wish I had been able to record. One White-Throated Sparrow started out singing in B-flat, then a mourning dove joined in, in the same key, and then a House Finch started carrying on with his busy song. No people noise interrupted their singing. This was likely a one-time experience I’ll have to keep in my head, but it will remind me to take the recorder with me next time.

WCSP 5-7-17-7762WCSP 5-7-17-7818

Winter Hints at Spring

NOCA 2-11-16-1548In some ways, it seems like winter has finally arrived, with the temperatures dropping well below freezing and snow on the ground. Yet the days are getting longer, the extra light a promise of rebirth. And as if to emphasize the point, we are promised another one of those overcompensating warm-ups by the weekend. I am glad for that, because I am flying south (reverse migration?), and fewer layers to wear on the plane will be appreciated.

But I digress. Back to winter. Saturday I spent most of the day at the 15th Annual Gull Frolic in Winthrop Harbor, and not to be outdone by last year’s cold, Saturday was indeed extremely frigid, especially with the wind gusting off the lake. But clear, cold days have lots of sunshine. I probably will not get around to sorting out the gull photos before I leave, so I am here with last week’s food fiestas in Millennium Park.

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When I got out Thursday, no Crows were about, which is a bit unusual, but it happens. Nobody likes being taken for granted. The thought crossed my mind that they might have given up on me, but it was still a nice, sunny day at times and I enjoyed sitting on the curb, hanging out with the resident winter passerine crowd.

Friday I went out again, and this time the Crows found me.

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watching and waiting…

Cookies and hot dogs were again voted favorite offerings.

A Black-Capped Chickadee came to investigate.

It seems even when I’m not paying close attention, the Crows still manage to capture the camera’s eye. And female Northern Cardinals, who disappear in the spring preoccupation with nesting, are easier to engage now too.

AMCR 2-12-16-1564NOCA 2-11-16-1374I probably will not be back to this page until early March. I’ll be in Nicaragua next week with Bill Hilton Jr. and Operation Rubythroat to help with banding and studying Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. There should be many opportunities to see lots of birds, and I am sure I will add some new tropical species to my life list as well.

AMCR 2-12-16-1611I wish you all a Happy End of February and Happy Leap Year!

 

Meanwhile Back at the Portage

Fox Sparrow, Chicago Portage

Fox Sparrow, Chicago Portage

I am nearly finished going through all the Costa Rica photographs, I think, but in between it seemed like time to check in with the local birds over the holiday. The weather was still warm and pleasant last Sunday, so I visited the Chicago Portage. I was the only human for the first forty minutes or so. I had no expectations, which is my general approach to the Portage – that way I can always be pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be a nice visit, with Fox Sparrows predominant of the 19 total species I encountered.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Dark-Eyed Juncos were present, and they have been in my backyard regularly since the beginning of November. I don’t know if I’ve seen American Tree Sparrows at the Portage before but they were certainly well-represented. And White-Throated Sparrows, a little harder to see here than they are in the city but I got at least one to cooperate.

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Junco

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

On the way out, I couldn’t help but notice the growth below.

Shelf Fungus

Shelf Fungus?

Downy Woodpeckers are always present at the Portage. Sometimes they are easy to see, other times not, but somehow the camera managed to capture this one in flight.

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Female Downy Woodpecker

Perhaps my biggest surprise was to discover pictures of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker feeding on dried berries, entangled enough to show off its red belly. I honestly don’t remember taking these pictures but I must have. Unless now the camera has completely taken over my brain (beware the warnings about artificial intelligence).

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Red-Bellied Woodpecker

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Red-Bellied Woodpecker, in a more likely pose

The Portage itself is always in a state of flux and it looks like this now.

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Also on the way out, about when I thought I would never see a chickadee, this Black-Capped Chickadee and a few of his buddies were foraging in dried stalks that complement their coloring perfectly.

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Black-Capped Chickadee with a worm

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Another view of the Portage and its low water levels. No birds in the water at all. There was one Canada Goose on the lawn by the parking lot and five flew over but nobody came down to hang out in the creek.

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One last photo of the Fox Sparrow who is at the top of the page. Fox Sparrows come in different races across the country (Sibley identifies four subspecies and says they’re sometimes considered separate species). The one we get here is the “red” Taiga race and this guy certainly fits the description. I just checked the Cornell website and they mention 18 subspecies within 3 or 4 groups. They are not always so easy to see, so I suppose you could spend a lot of time and effort trying to track down different types of Fox Sparrows across the continent.

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More to come from Costa Rica, and eventually a report from the home front.