End of September at the Chicago Portage – Part I

I am trying to take advantage of a rainy day to get caught up with fall photos and give my laptop some space. It’s almost a daily challenge to manage enough room for photographs and now that the oscillating fans have been relegated to the basement for storage until next summer, it’s quiet enough to record the inside birds with music again, which means inevitably taking up more digital space somewhere.

I realized that there were leftovers from the end of September which was not all that long ago, but before the cold snap and the leaves changing. These photos are from September 27. I will follow very shortly with those from two days later. I just couldn’t manage them all in one post.

Below is a native plant, White Snakeroot or Ageratina altissima, which began to suddenly explode everywhere. It took me a while to stop confusing it with Boneset. If nothing else, the broad, heart-shaped leaves set it apart from Boneset.

White Snakeroot

The clouds were interesting that morning.

Bay-breasted Warblers come in a variety of subtle color variations in the fall and this year was no exception.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglets were higher up in the trees.

Black-capped Chickadees always announce their presence to me, whether they make themselves visible or not. This visit I had a couple opportunities to photograph them.

Here are two more Bay-breasted Warblers.

A brief look at a Rose-breasted Grosbeak gave me two images I can’t decide between.

Perhaps the highlight of that morning was hearing and then seeing a Red-shouldered Hawk. Actually, the Red-shouldered was in the sky at the same time two Red-tailed Hawks were flying around as well, and the Red-shouldered was interacting with one of them, which gave me an opportunity to compare. The Red-shouldered is smaller and darker-appearing of the two in the photos below. But perspective is everything as in the last photograph where the Red-shouldered is somewhat in the foreground it appears to be the same size.

I’ll be back very soon with photos from two days later – September 29. Gotta be good to my hard drive and give it space for everything else it does.

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.

Fox Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Hermit Thrush
Squabbling Canada Geese

It could be that the birds were also quiet because of this Cooper’s Hawk who sat in a thicket close to the Joliet Avenue beginning of the trail the entire time I was there.

Fall color on October 14

I have been back to Riverside twice since the 17th and then there’s visits to the Chicago Portage and a little beyond. I volunteered to help fulfill orders in River Forest for the Chicago Audubon Birdseed Sale tomorrow morning, so I won’t be going out again until Sunday. They requested extra help, and I figured if I was picking up my own order, the morning was spoken for anyway, so I may as well help them out. I used to volunteer years ago. It will be fun to see everyone again.

Last Thursday at the Chicago Portage

I had just been thinking about Orange-crowned Warblers, wondering if and when I might see them, and then there they were at the Chicago Portage on October 13. I saw two different individuals. And I took way, way too many photographs – again! – but how could I resist?

Orange-crowned Warblers tend to show up later in the fall, if you haven’t guessed that already.

The arrival of migrating birds in the fall is concurrent with things like leaves changing colors, starting to cover the ground and crackle under my feet. The birds have often changed their colors too. Fall sparrow migration is something I look forward to in particular. It always seems to start with White-throated Sparrows.

White-throated Sparrows are like my special friends. I spent years hanging out with them around the train station downtown, in the parks and outside office buildings that had park-like areas. I found myself responding with my lame imitation to their little contact calls. I guess you might say they are my Spirit Sparrows. Here are a few more photos.

The bird below is a Swamp Sparrow, noted for its rufous color in the wings and gray nape.

I also had a young Lincoln’s Sparrow that day. They tend to be on the dark side, which this one was. Confirmation of the ID is in the buffy malar.

Two more sparrows revealed themselves that day. I apologize for the fact that the young White-crowned Sparrow below is barely visible. But I promise to post a better photo or two of this species soon, as I have encountered more individuals.

I had read someone’s post on IBET (Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts) about seeing a Clay-colored Sparrow and I thought that would be nice. And so it was. Below is a Clay-colored Sparrow.

There was a Downy Woodpecker to photograph that day.

I don’t know why, but I am always happy to see a Turkey Vulture. They are so graceful in flight.

My focus isn’t on Yellow-rumped Warblers by now but I really liked the look of this one in the leaves.

I managed to find a Palm Warbler again. Just barely.

Golden-crowned Kinglets have been a little harder to capture this season but I still managed here and there.

A group of American Goldfinches perched among these sparsely-leafed oak branches look like a wallpaper pattern to me. Or maybe a silk scarf would be nice.

And it’s the time of year to see foraging flocks of House Finches. This one male emerged from the tangles.

So. There’s been a little excitement on my visits last week to Riverside, so maybe that’s where the next post is coming from. I ventured there again this morning as well – cold, windy, cloudy. Hints of winter are doubling down on us lately…

Earlier in October at the Portage

Here are way too many photographs from two October visits to the Chicago Portage – October 4, and October 6. I was going to include even more photos from October 13, but I would never be able to finish the post, so that event with too many photos will follow. And then, I was there again this morning and had 29 species. Just trying to keep up with October has been a challenge!

At the Portage lately, I have been changing my strategy and have started birding the inside dirt trail first because there seem to be more birds available in there. The month started off with plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers and both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets to try and follow with the camera. Fall wood-warbler migration is slowing down, but there are still a few other species here and there.

A preening Song Sparrow was pretty much making it difficult to come up with a definitive photograph of it.

An Indigo Bunting was present on the 4th of October. I can’t tell you if this is a bird passing through or one that was still lingering here. I had yet another Indigo Bunting this morning.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet was somewhat available. Up until the past few days the Golden-crowned Kinglets seemed to be more prevalent, but now the Ruby-crowneds are catching up with them.

A House Wren was briefly available on the 4th. I think I have still heard one or two recently.

A very pale Red-breasted Nuthatch appeared in my photographs, however briefly. This reminds me that earlier, somewhere, I have a better representation of one and I will have to find it…

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak was perched up high. This is likely a female.

This Yellow-rumped Warbler was too close to ignore.

Also on the 4th, American Goldfinches were causing a ruckus up in a tree – I realized that there was a full-grown youngster still begging for handouts but was unable to capture it clearly.

Some photos of what appears to be a young Golden-crowned Kinglet with its streakiness…

And another Golden-crowned Kinglet in a pensive moment…

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Room for a Downy Woodpecker…

Here’s one of the last Magnolia Warblers I’ve barely seen this fall.

Yellow-rumped Warblers were everywhere, of course.

I’ve been complaining about Not Enough Palm Warblers for weeks and it still rings true. They must have picked another route back to the southern states. It’s just so unusual to see only one of them.

A couple more Yellow-rumped Warbler photos, just for fun.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

So I will be back very soon with October 13 and then maybe even today’s haul – although there’s still a lot going on elsewhere and in my backlog… It seems like a lot anyway, when even as the weather is getting colder and the days are shorter, there are still plenty of birds to see.

Thatcher Wrap-up

Yesterday’s last walk at Thatcher Woods began very cool and cloudy. We saw several birds but not all that well. And then by the time we reached the open meadow, the sun had emerged from the clouds and it was easier to see whatever birds came to the edge. The best part of the walk was perhaps the very end when first one very dark Merlin flew right over us and then another flew in and perched atop a dead tree. I kept expecting it to leave, but it didn’t, so I took way, way too many photographs of it as it changed its viewpoint.

This post is a celebration of a few more or less unusual birds that appeared yesterday and on September 1 when I participated in another walk led by Henry Griffin. On that day, the grand finale bird, if you will, was a Black-billed Cuckoo.

That day also started off with a bang when we spotted a distant Red-headed Woodpecker.

And September 1 was also a good day for flycatchers.

Eastern Wood-Pewee