Fall Colors of Sorts

I got out early this morning to beat the heat. It was a delightful 64 degrees F. when I woke up and I opened the windows for a short period of time while performing the birds’ breakfast service, but the predicted high for today is 91 although we may fall a couple degrees short of it. In any event I wanted to avoid the heat.

It was a very slow walk on my part. I predicted I would be “paying” for my walk and swim yesterday as my right knee is not very happy lately. Back to the drawing board. I will manage.

I took that photograph of all the Milkweed Beetles at the head of the post because I began to realize I was missing them in my yard after I removed all the seed pods early from the Common Milkweed. There’s some kind of symbiotic relationship going here, I suspect. So next year if I want to see these guys I will have to leave the seed pods on the plants until they are gone. I do remember seeing hundreds of little bright orange eggs on the leaves of the plants so I would have had the beetles had I not removed the seed pods. The beetles are harmless to the plant and apparently to monarch eggs or caterpillars, if I had them. as they are only herbivores. They have few natural predators as their consumption of the common milkweed plants makes them toxic except to deer or rabbits. I don’t think I screwed up the ecosystem too much by removing the seed pods early but maybe I will leave them be a while longer next year and just be pulling out as many if not more common milkweed shoots.

I managed to find a few birds this morning. A Nashville Warbler was foraging in the plants by the break in the fence.

I somehow managed a slight photo of a Black-throated Green Warbler.

A distant Blackpoll Warbler was perched out in the wide open.

Maybe my most surprising bird was a juvenile male Indigo Bunting. I had been thinking I somehow missed all the juveniles this year that must have fledged at the Chicago Portage. This one could be a migrant from somewhere else.

One of several busy, noisy American Goldfinches.

Also in those plants by the break in the fence were a few young House Wrens. This one was fine with having its picture taken.

I didn’t realize this butterfly was upside down until I processed the photos…

Question Mark Butterfly

I zoomed in on a distant Hairy Woodpecker.

And that is it for this morning. Well. If I’m going to be off my feet for a while – just long enough to give my knee the idea that I might let it try to heal a bit if it’s so inclined – I may as well go back to those earlier photos I promised. It’s just been kind of fun and easy to write in real time over the last few days. Sort of a feeling of trying to preserve the moment – in the moment.

P.S. I’ll never make it with AI. I love how when I like what I’ve written, the plugin tells me my content “needs improvement.”

Oh, I almost forgot what seems like the obligatory Gray-cheeked Thrush!

Riverside Morning

I managed to get out of the house before the kid rush this morning. I should explain. There’s an elementary school at the end of my block and now that classes have resumed and I am retired, the parade of cars and parents walking their kids to school every morning is a phenomenon I rarely witnessed when I was working and already out the door for my commute.

Blue Jays rarely sit still long enough to be photographed but they were very active and noisy this morning and when one flew right into my warbler tree, well, you see what happened.

It was perfect timing to arrive at the Hofmann Tower, to see all the herons getting their morning together. I counted 8 Great Egrets and there were 2 Great Blue Herons at one point. A couple Great Egrets got into a bit of a disagreement. I think the Great Blue Heron in the last photo below may have broken up the fight.

One Great Blue Heron stood its ground.

While another decided it had enough.

After all that excitement I wondered what if anything I would see. We had a little thunderstorm activity last night which might have shaken things up a wee bit.

The Des Plaines River is full of water…

I crossed the Joliet Avenue bridge to the Riverside paved trail and walked slowly, staring up into the tall trees toward warbler calls I could hear. And sure enough there were some warblers. Not many, but a variety, so to speak. Unfortunately they were so far away and so active it was hard to capture them well but I managed some photographs of them and other migrants.

Blackpoll Warbler

A few fleeting photos of a Bay-breasted Warbler were welcome.

Barely captured was a Cape May Warbler.

An American Redstart…

And a Magnolia Warbler.

Other birds appeared.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Gray Catbird
Northern Cardinal

The Mourning Doves were statuesque.

And a first-of-season species was represented by this Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Gray-cheeked Thrushes continue to be a presence this fall.

And one little Mallard by the footbridge caught my attention.

That’s my quick report from this morning. I will go to the Portage tomorrow to see if there are any new birds there. I just met with my arborist who is going to take care of my tree issues Thursday morning, so I will probably miss that day on the trail. Wednesday night is predicted to be a high-migration night, so missing Thursday could be disappointing, but tonight is also a very high migration forecast, which could mean tomorrow will be a busy bird morning. If I can hold onto that thought before I fall asleep I should be able to get up good and early tomorrow.

Two Quiet Days at the Portage

Fall migration seems to have slowed down a bit over the last few days – at least for birds on the ground. The forecast or “birdcast” looks like a lot of birds will be traveling over my area on Tuesday night which might be good for Wednesday morning. In any event, I will keep going out for a look.

These photographs are from the Chicago Portage last Thursday and today. I went out quite late today after spending the earlier quite cloudy morning hours, while it was nicely cool, trying to clean up my backyard to get it ready for repairs. I will be getting estimates on replacing most of the fence, half of which fell into the alley yesterday (I managed to prop it up on an angle hoping it will not fall again) and also removing my beloved but quite dead staghorn sumac tree which is about to fall. The birds and I will miss that tree a lot. I have to figure out where else, if anywhere, to hang the two feeders on it.

So it was around 10:00 AM and I decided to go for a walk at the Chicago Portage anyway even if I expected nothing. The sun was shining. I got to the Portage, then realized I had forgotten the camera, went back home for it and returned. So much for messing with my routine.

Toward the end of my walk this morning, there was the Gray-cheeked Thrush below. The bird at the top of the post is a Swainson’s Thrush from Thursday morning.

Gray-cheeked Thrush

There were barely a few warblers this morning. I was following anything that was moving, most at quite a distance, so these are not great photographs.

I think this is a Pine Warbler

A fungus on a dead log caught my eye.

For sure one species migrating – Monarch Butterflies. They are everywhere and I think I am seeing a few more than I did last year at this time.

A grasshopper wanted its picture taken,

Now the photos from Thursday. I believe the bird below to be a Philadelphia Vireo. It is more yellow underneath overall and there’s a little darkness around the lores.

Another Monarch Butterfly.

Thursday’s best warbler was a Blackpoll.

There was also a nice-looking Red-eyed Vireo.

Most confusing bird of the year is below. It looks like a warbler but likely one you may never see as it appears to be all wet. I was stumped because the feathers make the bird look all different shades of gray. So I asked Merlin for its opinion and it suggested a Cape May Warbler based on the bill shape. After I looked harder at what appears to be yellow in the throat and the general gizz of the bird, I am going with Cape May. I have no idea how the bird got so wet.

Here are some more shots of the Swainson’s Thrush.

And there was a Gray-cheeked Thrush on Thursday too.

Every now and then I see a Northern Cardinal.

And Black-capped Chickadees are usually up to something.

A little flock of Cedar Waxwings was present.

Here’s what the water looked like on Thursday. It’s still duckweed all the way.

And one more Monarch Butterfly…

I hope to be back with some photos from the Columbus Park walks and more warblers from last month when the migrants were first noticeable… unless something unexpected happens the next day or so.

Riverside Wednesday and Today

Well, it looks like warbler migration has slowed down for the moment. I am hopeful that this is just a temporary blip on the radar, so to speak, but our “birdcast” has been uninspiring and it’s pretty quiet on the ground.

I was seeing a few warblers on Wednesday but practically none today. Indeed I had so few species today I have decided to combine both days into one post.

I was very happy to find a Chestnut-sided Warbler in my photos on Wednesday as I hadn’t seen one yet this fall.

And perhaps best of all for its confirming orange toes, a beautiful Blackpoll Warbler posed for several photographs. Indeed it could have been two different individuals or the same one, depending on the light.

A few more of the Blackpoll.

And now, for the More Confusing than Ever Fall Warbler, another Blackpoll.

After much deliberation, I have concluded this is indeed a Blackpoll Warbler

The only other warbler I was able to capture was a distant Magnolia Warbler.

I tend to think I will see Magnolia Warblers more regularly than I have this fall. Here’s one that was the only warbler I saw today. And not well, either.

There weren’t even Tennessee Warblers today, but I had them on Wednesday, however briefly.

The rest of them…

Red-eyed Vireos have been abundant the past week or two as well, and I got lucky again on Wednesday.

A scruffy-looking Red-eyed Vireo

So why did I start out with a female Northern Flicker? She was close enough to photograph well and she was preoccupied enough not to mind me clicking away.

The abundance of American Goldfinches seems to have calmed down.

This Rose-breasted Grosbeak was sitting still atop a tree.

Cedar Waxwings are moving around in flocks. Unfortunately all these individuals were quite backlit.

This is my favorite light on a Swainson’s Thrush.

An American Robin commanded attention

After weeks of shallow waters, the Des Plaines River is quite full again.

There was one Great Egret available for a photograph on Wednesday.

But this morning when I got out of my car and walked south of the Hofmann Tower to see if the Great Blue Egret was holding its ground, I found seven (yes, 7) Great Egrets.

As I started my walk in Riverside, I encountered more Great Egrets.

No. 8
No. 9
Could this be No. 10?

On land, there were Mourning Doves holding their perches.

Blue Jays were noisy and visible this morning.

And a Belted Kingfisher sat perched over the river not far from the Joliet Avenue bridge when I first started out.

Looking up into the trees for birds, I found a well-attended wasp nest.

The search for birds resumes tomorrow morning in Columbus Park, where I am responsible for showing up. I am going to turn in for the night so I can get up early enough to meet whoever else shows up.

Cool and Cloudy at the Portage

It was so cool on Tuesday morning I wore jeans and a sweatshirt to accommodate the clouds and cool breezes. There was just enough light to barely see well enough to photograph anything. For a brief moment my phone weather app predicted rain, but I decided to walk anyway. The rain didn’t occur, but it was still cloudy for quite a while. That changed by the time I left the Chicago Portage for the sun had emerged from behind the clouds and with it came warmth, but I was going to return home after procuring a flu shot anyway so I wasn’t too warm for long.

It is always nice to see Tennessee Warblers at eye level and these seem to be more common this season.

And a few more captures

The “birdcast” from Cornell indicated heavy migration over the last couple days but that has not been reflected on the ground. So although I am finding migrants, it’s a slow, hit-or-miss situation lately. No reason to give up. Actually it makes the number of photographs more manageable.

Palm Warblers have been showing up here and there, if sparsely.

And I managed to barely capture a couple Cape May Warblers.

The light was such a challenge early on, I barely captured this distant Downy Woodpecker.

Later I managed a closer Hairy Woodpecker.

I spotted a perched Ruby-throated Hummingbird but only captured its imminent departure.

Here’s what the Portage looks like lately. A lot of goldenrod is in bloom.