Riverside Wrens and Friends

I returned to Riverside Monday morning, after my previous visit last Wednesday. The weather was sunnier on Wednesday than Monday. But on Wednesday, I heard and then saw a Winter Wren, and even managed to get some photographs of it. Which is more than I got this past Monday when I had even better looks at the Winter Wren, but that’s another story.

Since this is a long and somewhat complicated post, I think I’ll revert to chronological order. Below is what the Des Plaines River looked like last Wednesday, for starters. The water level was a little bit higher than it was Monday.

In the raptor department, there was a distant, perched Cooper’s Hawk with its back to me.

American Goldfinches are still seen here and there.

I can remember complaining the last few years about never getting a photograph of a Dark-eyed Junco. Now I have way too many of them.

In good light, Downy Woodpeckers can be good subjects.

The sky was almost too blue a background for this White-breasted Nuthatch.

Shortly after I crossed the footbridge to Riverside Lawn, I had my Winter Wren encounter. The wren was at some distance but on a sunny day I was able to capture it cavorting around.

Perhaps the only bird the sun did not treat well that day was this female Northern Cardinal.

When I returned on Monday, it was cloudy.

Des Plaines River

And the river was low again, with many places for Canada Geese to stand in.

I caught a flurry of Rock Pigeons around the Hofmann Tower, but there was no accompanying raptor so I don’t know what caused them to go into flight drills.

Two Dark-eyed Juncos are below, with a White-throated Sparrow in the middle. Unfortunately they were backlit but I because haven’t seen very many White-throated Sparrows this fall I am including it.

Off Riverside’s paved trail, I found this Red-bellied Woodpecker busily inspecting a stump.

When I got over to Riverside Lawn, it wasn’t long before I realized that another tree had fallen and the trail, such as it is, was now totally obscured and not exactly passable. Before trying to decide how I was going to go around all this mess, I decided to just sit on the first fallen tree that I had been negotiating easily for about almost a month.

Almost simultaneously, the flock appeared. I suspect they were intrigued by the newly fallen log as well. Of course there were Dark-eyed Juncos.

A Downy Woodpecker was present.

For comparison, I was also lucky to see a Hairy Woodpecker.

A couple incidental photos from Riverside Lawn…I think before I sat down on the log.

Some tree fungus
Northern Cardinal male

While I sat on the log, the Winter Wren came in and was so close I could not photograph it with my big lens. Below is the only image of the Winter Wren I managed to capture on Monday.

But soon after that, a Carolina Wren arrived and perched on a stump a short distance directly in front of me and I complied with its request to be photographed. It’s also at the top of the post.

There were also a couple White-breasted Nuthatches not too far away. Directly below is a male, and the bird in the gallery beneath it is a female.

This is the time of year when Red-bellied Woodpeckers stand out against the drab, leafless trees. And this one was no exception.

Sometimes I manage to focus on a busy Black-capped Chickadee.

More snaps of the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

I have managed to find a way to walk around the new obstacle although I am not sure how easy it will be later, in snow and ice.

The most astounding thing Monday occurred hours later on my way home from the pool. I was approaching a busy intersection at 37th and Harlem when I saw a Bald Eagle rise up from behind a strip mall and fly right over my car, and then there was a smaller raptor chasing after it. I suspect they both may have been attracted to some prey which I never saw. I got through the intersection, pulled into a gas station and pulled out the camera.

The smaller raptor turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon. The two birds chased around for what seemed like a few minutes, and then the Bald Eagle eventually headed south, after the Peregrine gave up the chase and sat on top of a utility pole. It’s something to consider, that both these species were endangered not all that long ago and now there are enough of them to spill over into the suburban sprawl.

So it’s been quite a week for raptor action with this going on Monday morning and then the Red-tailed Hawk rescue on Tuesday. Yesterday and today were much quieter mornings. Tomorrow we are due for rain mixed with snow so I won’t be going for a walk but if I can drive, I will go for my swim in the middle of the day.

I’ll try to be back soon with some earlier encounters. Next week will be busy with choir singing and the Christmas Bird Count on the 17th, so blogging may have to wait for a while. ‘Tis the season.

Three Portage Visits

There has been a Lesser Scaup at the Chicago Portage for over a week. I first saw him on March 4 and have seen him on every visit since, including this morning. He seems to be content to hang out and has managed to evade predation. I find him an irresistible subject, even if most of the time he is somewhat far away.

This is a rather long post encapsulating what transpired on my walks at the Portage on the 4th, the 8th and the 10th of March. Immediately below are more photos of the Lesser Scaup from March 4 when I first discovered him.

The 4th was the first time I heard and saw male Red-winged Blackbirds here.

European Starlings are usually way at the top of the trees across the stream from where I am standing, but these two surprised me by being on my side for a change.

Robins are starting to return to the Portage and my neighborhood. They just started singing.

There wasn’t a lot happening on March 4, but it was a sunny day at least.

This young deer was too close and fearless.

Then on March 8, things were a bit more interesting. It started with Downy Woodpeckers chasing around.

I hadn’t gone too far before I saw what I believe to be the local pair of Bald Eagles perched on the electric utility structure. I can’t remember the last time I saw them here but it seems like at least two years.

When I got a bit closer, there was only one eagle perched. I then saw the other flying close by.

It was a beautiful morning.

I kept taking photos of this Red-winged Blackbird as he sang. I don’t know why I have them all here, he didn’t change his position much. But you can hear what he sounded like below.

Song Sparrows could be seen foraging on the ground near the trail.

The Lesser Scaup was present.

On my way out, I encountered three young, lost-looking deer.

And then out on the front lawn, a dead doe that had been ravaged by some beast, likely a coyote. I suspect it was the parent of the three youngsters. I decided to spare you the gorier photos on my cell phone.

As I walked to my car I encountered two Cook County Forest Preserves workers who had come to investigate and clean up. When I drove by about twenty minutes later after running an errand close by, the lawn had been cleared of the carcass.

I began making a connection in my mind between the feeding of the deer and this terrible incident and decided to talk to the man who has been distributing peanuts the next time I saw him.

So I went back to the Portage on March 10. It was a cloudy day and pretty cold.

Sometimes an American Robin will just stare me down.

The Lesser Scaup was still there.

The views that always catch my eye, looking pretty much the same two days later.

An adult Bald Eagle flew over in the distance.

Everybody was down on the ground looking for food, including two White-breasted Nuthatches. I think the one on the tree is a female and the one on the path the male. I wonder if he was going after what looked to me like part of a peanut on the trail.

I was still able to see a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

And a distant Common Merganser was in the Des Plaines River when I walked through the hole in the fence for a quick look.

There’s a grassy area that leads to the parking lot straight off the trail, but I rarely walk through there. I stood and watched from a distance as several American Tree Sparrows and Song Sparrows foraged. The American Tree Sparrows are directly below.

And here are some Song Sparrows.

For a direct comparison, below is an American Tree Sparrow on the left and two Song Sparrows. Whenever I start to confuse Song Sparrows with other streaky sparrows, I always look for the noticeable dark malar which is in the cheek-throat area.

Squirrels don’t often tempt me to photograph them but this one was available, so I did.

On the way out, the orphans again seemed too close.

One more of the singing Red-winged Blackbird.

As it happens, I did run into the man feeding wildlife on March 10, and talked with him. He did not appear to be feeding at that moment, his hands were in his jacket pockets. He said he was aware of the rules and that once even the Forest Preserve police said to him, “You’re not feeding wildlife, are you? Because if you are I will give you a ticket.” Obviously that didn’t stop him. In fact, he told me he was the one who called the police about the dead doe. He also told me that she had had a broken leg, which he surmised may have been from an automobile encounter. I told him that he wasn’t helping the deer but in fact might be harming them as they have lost their wariness of humans and perhaps other dangers. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders and said he was only feeding for the next couple weeks, it was going to warm up and they would have new growth to eat. Plus he was running out of peanuts. He also went off on some inane tangent about there being too many deer and wondered if “they” cull them.

So there doesn’t seem to be much one can do about him. If I see a Forest Preserve police I can approach, I will talk try to ask about it, just to enquire, but I suspect they don’t seem to think there’s anything they can do either. The police do not stay long at any location but move around from one to the next, and I don’t think they are interested in sitting around waiting for the peanut feedr to give him a ticket.

Spring presses on. I will be back soon.

Fall Again

It’s going to take me a day or two to recover from yesterday’s Gull Frolic and make sense of those images, so in the meantime I am back with more from late September at the Chicago Portage where I spent the bulk of my time following warblers feeding in the Hackberry leaves. Although it has been nice to look at these birds in anticipation of their return. my goal this spring will be to publish daily if possible.

These photos were taken on September 24. There were even more respectable images from September 26 so I will be back with those too. My laptop hard drive appreciates your indulgence in these housekeeping matters.

Black-throated Green Warblers were good subjects this past fall.

Just as cooperative, maybe even more so, were Blackpoll Warblers.