Montrose and My CF Card Snafu

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I hadn’t been to Montrose Point – the Magic Hedge – for years, so I thought it was a good idea when my friend Susan suggested we meet there on my one free Sunday morning this month, which turned out to be Palm Sunday on the calendar, for those of you who relate to that. It was a fine day, and not overly crowded with friendly birders or photographers, which can happen later in the season with warbler migration.

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Winter Wren

I was pleased to discover that the paths are now more clearly marked and the natural areas roped off, which likely makes the birds feel more secure.

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Tree Swallow

Unfortunately I only have maybe half the pictures I took, because I neglected to make sure they had all transferred off the camera that takes compact flash (“CF”) cards as well as SD cards.

While I was in Panama I discovered that I could no longer transfer pictures off a CF card reader to the laptop, so I had to wait until I got home to find the patch cord that came with the Mark III 5D and transfer them directly from the camera. Something has apparently changed in the software and I wonder if the plan is to render CF cards obsolete.

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Swamp Sparrow

All that said, while I was transferring my Montrose pictures, the laptop appeared to be finished ingesting them and I disconnected the camera and wiped the card clean. Only when I went to process did I realize I was missing the last hour or so of photos that I took.

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Common Grackle

I was mourning this loss for days because I had some great shots and they were gone forever. But I also knew the loss would be minimized the sooner I took more pictures, and told myself it was a learning experience. (“What’s your favorite song?” “Uh, I guess the one I just wrote.”)

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Brown-Headed Cowbirds and one female Red-Winged Blackbird

I will never reformat a CF card, or an SD card, for that matter, again before I check to make sure I have transferred everything off of it. (Repeat after me…)

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American Robin

After some deliberation it appears all the thrushes we saw were Hermit Thrushes, below.

One generous individual pointed out to us the female Coyote below, who otherwise faded into her surroundings.

Coyote 4-9-17-0568I won’t elaborate on what is missing from these pictures after we saw the coyote… I’ll be back soon with more from Panama, just needed to put this to rest.

P.S. Three more days until the March For Science!

Where to Start? The Panama Pictures

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Keel-Billed Toucan

Finally getting around to those Panama Pictures! Life keeps getting in the way, and of course with spring migration just starting there have been other distractions. But I keep thinking there’s a better solution to my madness somewhere. Maybe that’s what keeps me going. The madness, I mean. If I find the solution, it might all come to a halt.

Ah the Tanagers. Above, probably one of the most common we saw, the Crimson-Backed Tanager, with the male lower left and the female on the right, showing her crimson back. Lucky for me there were only a few possibilities to worry about. The tanagers in some places, especially if they are traveling in a flock, can be confounding.

From gaudy to drab – below, the Plain-Colored Tanager on the left and the Palm Tanager on the right. But I think they have their own subtle beauty.

And below, a White-Shouldered Tanager and the ubiquitous Blue-Gray Tanager which always makes me have to decide whether to spell it Gray or Grey.

All these photos were from the first full day of the trip. Which means there are more days to come (and for me, more pictures to process). We did not travel far from either lodging location, spending four nights at the Canopy Tower and another two nights at the Canopy Lodge in El Valle, the days and locales having blended into a continuum in my head by now, so I won’t have a lot of commentary to contribute. Now that I’ve decided to leave the monster lens at home next time I travel, maybe my dream companion would be a scribe instead of a sherpa.

Both locations had feeders which made it easier to see some of the birds, particularly hummingbirds. White-Necked Jacobins dominated the feeders but you don’t always see the white neck they were named for, so there it is in the picture below. The hummingbird on the lower right is a White-Vented Plumeleteer. Unfortunately the white vent isn’t very easily distinguishable but I like the illumination on the throat.

Elusive antbirds are always a challenge to see. We got lucky with the two below. A Fasciated Antshrike and a Dot-Winged Antwren.

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Black-Crowned Antshrike

The two puffbirds below look almost identical except on very close inspection, which likely kept me poring over the field guide for several minutes. On the left is the Pied Puffbird which I saw last year in the Amazon in Ecuador, and on the right, Black-Breasted Puffbird.

Two flycatchers, the Black-Headed Tody Flycatcher, which is a new one for me, and the Dusky-Capped Flycatcher.

Below is a Streaked Flycatcher, not usually seen from the back, but after 20 or more shots he still wouldn’t turn around so I gave up.

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Streaked Flycatcher

The Rusty-Margined Flycatcher below can be confused with Greater Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, until you get the hang of telling them apart.

Back to the elusive with a fairly common but hard-to-get-a-good-photo Squirrel Cuckoo. The picture on the lower right gives you more of an idea of how far away it was.

Green Honeycreepers below.

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Green Honeycreeper

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Green Honeycreeper Female

Below, a Red-Legged Honeycreeper is the bright blue guy, and the green bird is a Blue Dacnis female.  I’m starting to get these guys confused!

Below, a Pale-Vented Pigeon and a Gray-Headed Chachalaca. Click on the pictures if you want a better view, especially of pigeon colors. I love this pigeon. You will see it again in a later post.

Two more for the trying-to-be-elusive list. Cocoa Woodcreeper on the left and Cinnamon Woodpecker on the right.

There’s a lot more but I think I better give us all a break. Which means I can be back that much sooner! Thanks for stopping by!

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Night Monkey

A Walk in the Woods

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Northern Shoveler

I’ve been back from Panama for two weeks and I’m still not done going through my pictures. Even staying home instead of going swimming a few times hasn’t gotten it done between software updates…

So I went for a walk at the Portage yesterday even though it was cloudy, because spring migration is upon us, and I wanted to get out with the camera, especially after I forgot to take it with me on Saturday when I joined Illinois Ornithological Society’s trip to lakes in Lake County looking for Common Loons and other waterfowl, named “Loonapalooza” by my friend and the organizer and leader of the trip, David Johnson. I drove for an hour to get to the meeting place only to discover that I had remembered everything (scope, tripod, water bottle, binoculars, backpack, and I thought my brain) but left my best camera with its new lens at home. It never made it out the door. Next time I’m leaving that early in the morning I suppose I should write a list and put “brain” first, camera second… I’m blaming it on my medication, but there’s no need to go there now.

Above all this useless information is a young deer that appeared across the water, came across the bridge and walked almost toward me, very unusual for after-nine-ish in the morning.

Below, a Red-Tailed Hawk flying over.

The good news is I am in love with the new lens, which until recently I didn’t even know existed because there are times when I quit looking for any more camera stuff, but the two guys with cameras on the Panama trip informed me that Canon had finally come out with a new, improved 100-400mm lens. I had stopped using the old one, which I still have, but had hardly any use for. Instead I have been struggling with the monster Tamron lens for the last two years, which was getting harder and harder to carry around and focus. I think that lens might be going on the recycle list too. Because the new Canon 100-400mm lens and my Mark III 5D are really happy together, and an extra 200mm doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a decent picture, especially if you can’t hold the equipment still.

CAGO 4-2-17-0090That said, there’s still only so much you can do with anything in poor light. Like the very cooperative and friendly Golden-Crowned Kinglet below, he was pretty dull and drab yesterday.

GCKI 4-2-17-0263The dead wood in the water was perhaps more suited for the weather. It is transforming into…I’m not sure what bird that resembles on the right, below.

I was happy to see a Belted Kingfisher on the water. Although even he looks gray.

BEKI 4-2-17-0006Sparrows were abundant. White-Throated Sparrows, which are a dime a dozen on the lakefront, seem special here. There were lots and lots of Song Sparrows singing like crazy, even though I managed to capture a silent one. Below these two, a couple hidden shots of a fairly distant Fox Sparrow, whose rufous caught my eye and brightened up the surrounding gloom. And the final sparrow at the bottom, a Chipping Sparrow, is my first one of the season, although I’m sure I heard one in neighborhood last week.

CHSP 4-2-17-0154Lots of woodpeckers but they were hard to get on. Below is a Red-Bellied on the left. The little bird on the right is a Brown Creeper, not a woodpecker, but spends as much time on trees as woodpeckers if not more, and it’s also the first one for me this spring. Click on the pictures to enlarge, and look at how beautifully the creeper blends in.

There was a bench at one end of the water but it has disappeared. However, there are a few other places to sit. I stopped to rest on a boulder that is near one of the information boards, and watched five Canada Geese flying in together and then starting to squabble over positions.

I don’t think I saw Wood Ducks last year, so it was nice to see a pair yesterday. Here’s the guy, his mate was less accommodating.

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Couldn’t resist one more of the Shoveler.

Northern Shoveler 4-2-17-0036Okay, well, tonight I’m going swimming unless there are thunderstorms, and I promise I will finish The Panama Pictures so I can start sharing them with you.

Thanks to everybody for stopping by, for following my inconstant blog. Happy Monday.

March On

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Great Horned Owl on nest, Salt Creek Forest Preserve, Cook County

I started writing this post on March 1. WFMT’s Carl Grapentine kicked off March 1’s morning program by playing, what else? Various marches. I was just getting over February.

The end of February was sufficiently balmy to lock  it into the record books with January as being the first time both months went without snow in Chicago.

I birded with my friend Susan last Sunday. We went to Bemis Woods South and the Salt Creek Forest Preserve. It was so quiet I didn’t bother to do a list. We were about to give up on the Salt Creek portion when a man walking in the opposite direction told us to look for an owl, so we continued. The Great Horned Owl at the top of this post made the day. Its nest was easily seen from the trail, and it sat and watched as people went by.

Two more birds from Bemis below, a White-Breasted Nuthatch and Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

March came in like the proverbial lion, returning to chilly, windy temperatures. My reward for venturing out of the office last week was to see my first Yellow-Rumped Warbler in Millennium Park. Nothing rare, but an earliest first for me.

It’s a busy time of year for the birds, as they prepare for spring. Today I visited the Chicago Portage, and although by the time I got there the sunny start was disappearing, and the number of Canada Geese and Mallards was increasing, and there were some more unusual visitors in the air, like the Bald Eagle below with nesting material and a small flock of Sandhill Cranes. The Sandhills were oddly quiet.

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The Bald Eagle was flying east, but I have no idea where the nest might be. That direction was industrial, with the Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Saw and heard my first male Red-Winged Blackbirds today at the Portage, where they have come to establish territories.

There were maybe 40 Mallards spread out wherever there was water, and 5 pair of Canada Geese were checking out nesting spots. I haven’t seen any banded geese this year.

Other than the Red-Winged Blackbirds there were very few passerines, with the exception of a few American Robins and European Starlings. I heard a Song Sparrow, Chickadees, Killdeer, and a couple Downy Woodpeckers were flitting about.

The last Downy Woodpecker I photographed was last week in Millennium Park.

Also present that day, a couple Northern Cardinals and the White-Throated Sparrows who literally yelled their calls from the bushes when they saw me approach our favorite spot.

More Portage views…

cago-and-mallards-portage-2-26-17-9953I hope to be back once more if possible, with an update on my indoor crowd – before I leave for a quick trip to Panama. I’ve been planning this trip for months and unbelievably, all of a sudden it’s here.

noca-millennium-3-2-17-0390Thanks to you all for checking in. Until next time… Peace and Think Spring.

Gull Frolic 2017 – More Frolic than Gulls

find-the-thayers-challenge-gull-frolic-2-11-17-8476Quipped attempts to describe Illinois Ornithological Society‘s Saturday’s 16th Annual Gull Frolic were “Duck Frolic” and perhaps “Herring Gull Frolic.” To paraphrase the observation of Amar Ayyash, our local gull expert extraordinaire who organizes the event, when the weather is good for people, it’s bad for gulls. In other words, there wasn’t enough ice on the lake to draw the gulls in to the shore. We can be fairly positive the rarities were somewhere out in the middle of Lake Michigan, if not totally on the other side of it.

Even with only a few species present, I have to review and refresh my sparse knowledge of gulls again because often this is my only chance to see anything other than a Herring or a Ring-Billed.

So disinterested were the birds in us, at one point there was more bread floating around in the water than gulls.

The first bird I photographed was a male Common Goldeneye, below.

goldeneye-gull-frolic-2-11-17-8084And as for other ducks, there were a few here and there, although none too close.

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Female Greater Scaup and Redhead

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Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye

Above, a female Bufflehead on the left and more Bufflehead and a Greater Scaup on the right. Below, Mallard and Bufflehead flying.

The Common Mergansers were perhaps the most numerous. Two shots of a close female below and more flying.

Other waterfowl present but not photographed were American Coots, a few Long-Tailed Ducks I did not see, and a very distant group of White-Winged Scoters.

Gulls were quick to seize the opportunity to stand on whatever little ice there was. Among the Herring Gulls below there is one Thayer’s, if you like a challenge.

hegu-gull-frolic-2-11-17-8684Of the two Thayer’s Gulls spotted, I was fortunate to get a shot of the one below when it finally decided soggy bread was worth bothering with. There was a flyover Great Black-Backed Gull I did not see because I was inside attending one of two lectures given by Jean Rice regarding her study of shorebirds in St. James Bay. At some point a Kumlien’s Gull appeared, but I was not seeing it. Maybe the camera saw the Kumlien’s but if I’m not aware of it, I prefer not to go back over all my pictures to find one. Perhaps an expert can spot this gull in the grouping at the very top of my post, but I suspect there is not enough information in a static shot.

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Below is one of only a few Ring-Billed Gulls.

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So I decided to survey the gulls present and make it an exercise in photographing different Herring Gull plumages. The darker they are, the younger.

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First Year Herring Gull

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Adult Herring Gulls

I was happy to see this shot of a female and male Common Merganser in my pictures.

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We appear to be continuing with warmer weather, which is neither here nor there as far as birds are concerned, but the wintering avians are starting to think and sound a lot like spring. And no matter how bad things seem to get, spring will always feel like renewal.

Espanola Island: July 16, 2016

blue-footed-booby-07-16-2016-7489Espanola Island is a small island in the southernmost tip of the Galapagos Archipelago. As one of the oldest islands, it is estimated to be between two and three million years old, and was where we spent our last full day of the trip. In the morning, on the rocky, windswept Punta Suarez side of the island, we were greeted by nesting seabirds, and fortunate enough to see the courtship rituals of Waved Albatross and to some extent the Blue-Footed Boobies, although most of the latter’s nesting seemed to be over.

If you click on the pictures below you can see some of the “waved” pattern on the Waved Albatross’s breast. The bird in the second photo has a band with a number on it.

Below is one of several videos I took of the courtship behavior. It was impossible to capture any one entire interaction as they seemed to go on and on for a long time!

Some Blue-Footed Boobies were displaying but were too far away to capture on video. I suspect we were several weeks too late.

Nazca Boobies also nest here.

There was a Wandering Tattler in this tidal pool, along with a Sea Lion.

Beautiful Swallow-Tailed Gulls were present too. Below is a close-up of the red skin that forms a ring around the eye.

swallow-tailed-gull-07-16-2016-7277swallow-tailed-gull-07-16-2016-7750This was my last opportunity to try and capture a Red-Billed Tropicbird.

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And the Galapagos Hawk made an appearance.

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Nothing like another Magnificent Frigatebird.

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Espanola has its own species of lava lizard.

And the finch find of the day was the Large Cactus Finch.

Also present, the Marine Iguanas, a Hermit Crab and a Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron

In the afternoon we visited the other side of the island, Gardner Bay, which has a wide stretch of beach and a lot of Espanola Mockingbirds begging for water. It was hard to resist them but we were not allowed to give in to their demands. You can see and hear them begging from my roommate in the video below.

A couple more Blue-Footed Boobies.

blue-footed-booby-07-16-2016-7934I love the blue accents on the rest of this bird.

blue-footed-booby-07-16-2016-7358Below, our last dinner sculpture and the final day’s plan to visit Santa Cruz Island in the morning before our flight back to the mainland.

I am going to the Gull Frolic on Saturday and will likely report back from that with some photos. The forecast is for warmer temperatures than last year, but it is always windy and somewhat chilly on the lakefront near the Wisconsin border. I am thankful the forecast for rain has been postponed until Sunday.

We Pause for a Brief Message from…The Crows

crow-cancer-survivors-2-6-17-7464Today may be Monday, but it was also a beautiful day, with ample sunshine at least in the morning and early afternoon hours, and we warmed up to 54 degrees, which is downright balmy. So I went for a walk this afternoon in search of…birds.

Unlike my most recent visits, there were no Cardinals or White-Throated Sparrows to be seen, although I heard one or two. The Black-Capped Chickadees were more vocal but hiding.

I checked the two usual places in Millennium Park before I set off for the Cancer Survivors Garden and then as I approached. I thought I saw four large black birds perched in a tree down at the southeast end. Could it be…?

crows-cancer-survivors-2-6-17-7427Yes, they were Crows. And there they sat, silent and still. I wondered if maybe one of them was the individual that had flown by on Thursday and since today was such a nice day, it gathered friends to hang out with to see if I was for real.

I put peanuts and some pretty-stale-by-now Birdz cookies at the base of the tree they were in. And the Crows just sat there in the tree, still, silent.

I went to a far bench where I could sit and watch them, and they remained stone-faced. After a minute or two I decided I should probably go back to work. It was only as I started walking away, they all followed me.

I didn’t mind being tricked out of more treats. I put peanuts and the rest of the stale cookies at the base of one of the trees where we used to hang out, and sat down and watched them party. Two Chickadees showed up and also got to work on some birdseed. The Crows started to call a little bit. It was like seeing old friends and picking up right where we left off.

All I can hope for is that this is not a singular occurrence and that we meet again on a regular basis. I realize I have to hold up my end too: it’s up to me to show up more often as well.

Spring is coming.

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t talk politics. In fact it occurred to me later that the Crows really don’t like crowds, and maybe the protests and marches kept them away, so it was only fitting they had me to themselves for our reunion.

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