Back to September

In defiance of dreary days, I started going back to revisit photographs taken on September 1 of this year. Now I wish I could time-travel back to September 1 as we are sliding deeper and deeper into an Arctic Blast that will be with us through Christmas. Please bear with me while I reminisce.

Fall passerine migration was in full swing that Saturday. I went to Thatcher Woods with some of the Oak Park Bird Walkers led by Henry Griffin, and then continued on to the Chicago Portage. The photos are arranged by location if not exact chronological order.

Right off the bat Henry spotted a Red-headed Woodpecker perched at a distance and I managed to get some faraway photographs.

The other exciting bird later that morning was a Black-billed Cuckoo which came to the edge of the forest to check us out.

Below may be the only Chipping Sparrow I saw last fall. On a picnic bench.

There are bluebird boxes at this location and in the spring we saw Eastern Bluebirds (and Tree Swallows) around the boxes. On time visit, we saw a juvenile Eastern Bluebird, below.

Flycatchers ruled the day. Below is an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

Then there was a Least Flycatcher.

And in my photos much later, I discovered an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Just a couple other birds were available for identifiable photos. Below is a juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

I didn’t capture any warblers at Thatcher save the one below. It’s a distant Palm Warbler.

After we parted at Thatcher Woods, I continued on to visit the Chicago Portage. A juvenile American Goldfinch caught my eye.

American Goldfinch (juvenile)

In the nuthatch department, I was fortunate enough to see both White-breasted and Red-breasted nuthatches, the latter being less frequently seen and more elusive.

I managed to grab a few images of what looks to be a juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker.

I puzzled over the identification of the Confusing Fall Warbler (CFW) below until I finally settle on a Pine Warbler.

The bird below could also be a CFW if it had not confirmed in the very last photograph with its orange feet that it was indeed a Blackpoll.

Here are a few more Cedar Waxwing shots.

And as you may know by now if you follow this blog, I never turn down a Northern Cardinal.

Also considered a warbler species, I had a Northern Waterthrush that day.

Below is what little I managed to capture of an elusive Magnolia Warbler.

This hoverfly would not go unnoticed.

Either I saw a lot of thrushes this fall or it was just because I was out more often. Or maybe a little of both.

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson’s Thrush

Three more warblers. Below is a Bay-breasted Warbler.

Then below, an American Redstart.

And below, a Yellow Warbler. I don’t think I saw very many this fall.

One more of the immature American Goldfinch.

As I go back to reality and the cold: we had fun singing in the choir this morning, and we managed to coax the sun to come out after it has been behind the clouds all week. It was shining through the clerestory windows once we sang “Hail o Sun”.

At home with the birds this afternoon I am resting up before I undertake afternoon and evening activities. Since Saturdays are so busy this month I’ve moved the big cleanup to Sunday night, so we will celebrate by vacuuming, swapping out dirty cages for clean ones and putting clean papers on the floors. In the meantime, some birds are taking advantage of my quieter moments. Greetings from the Hand-warmer Finch.

I’ll be back in a little while with a little recap of my participation in a Very Cold Christmas Bird Count yesterday.

Wherever you are, I hope you are safe, warm and comfortable heading into the Winter Solstice.

Prelude to the Deep Freeze

It’s snowing this evening, as I write this. I stepped outside to bring in bird feeders from the backyard earlier, and the humidity made it feel pleasantly warm. But we are plunging into cold tomorrow (the high will be 30 degrees Fahrenheit) and will continue to plummet to single digits by next Friday if the forecast is credible.

I was working on a lovely, bright, colorful post of a lot of birds seen on September 1 that I never got around to sharing, but decided to postpone that just a little longer because this morning, after disappointing outings all week, I went to the Chicago Portage, expecting to see nothing but up for the walk before my scheduled grocery run, and I was pleasantly surprised by a few birds beyond any expectations.

The first surprise: I heard, and then saw, a male Belted Kingfisher over the water. I can’t remember the last time I saw this bird here. More usually I see Kingfishers over by the Des Plaines River.

Things were looking a lot like this, at best, when I finally found most of the passerine flock just beyond the hill and the opening in the fence. The birds were pretty far away and it was hard to find them, let alone focus, in such poor light.

American Goldfinch

But then another surprise was seeing this Ruby-crowned Kinglet foraging on the ground to the left of the trail. I apologize for the lack of clarity in some of the photos, but the best ones I got were when the bird had its back to me. Of course.

Dark-eyed Juncos outnumbered every other species, but were hard to capture. I might have gotten some more photos except for a man walking through with his dog. Predictably the flock scattered to some unknown location and I never saw it again.

Enjoying the open water after yesterday’s rain were several Mallards.

And there were Canada Geese as well. No surprise there.

I was heading back out of the inside trail in my usual fashion, not expecting to see anything, and paused to look over the water. That was when I saw a distant Great Blue Heron. Surprise number 3! It won’t take long for the water to freeze the next day or two, so I don’t expect to see another one of these birds for quite a while.

I won’t know until tomorrow morning whether I want to walk in Riverside before I go swimming. But I am getting mentally ready for a long, cold but convivial Christmas Bird Count on Saturday by the Fox River. Sunday will be even colder, but the sun will be shining. I will be indoors singing in the choir. There are more sunny days in the forecast – but even colder. Glad I still have some earlier, warmer-looking photos to revive.

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.