American Redstart Returns

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American Redstart (male, 2nd year or older) at 155 N. Wacker

I heard a bird in my yard the other morning that didn’t sound like any of the regulars. Rather, it reminded me of the American Redstart I heard at 155 N. Wacker about a week ago – all along thinking there was a Common Yellowthroat hiding somewhere, until I realized it was the Redstart singing.

The bird downtown was pretty insistent – I think he was trying to get me to pay attention to him. The next day when I stopped by the little park at 155 N. Wacker, he was gone. So he was probably telling me to get a photo before he left, which I did.

Below, some badly lit shots of another adult male…

American Redstarts have a reputation for being hard to identify by song because they have so many different songs, or different dialects, and I have never really paid that much attention to their singing because they’re usually easy to identify with one flash of the tail.

AMRE 5-18-17-9221But after hearing the bird in my yard, which unfortunately I did not see and because I had to go to work I couldn’t hang out long enough to look for it, I wondered if perhaps Redstarts might pass around a  new “hit song” every spring – sort of like the Humpback Whales that come up with new songs they spread around, or like European Starlings that decide their new “hit” is to imitate a Killdeer, for instance, which was a phenomenon I observed a few years ago.

Below, some first-year males in transition. It’s interesting to see how the black and orange coloring is slowly coming in.

So I guess now I will be paying more attention to this bird’s vocalizations. It’s a reminder that I really should buckle down and learn to recognize more warbler songs anyway since half the time I am struggling to see them and don’t get a view worth noting otherwise.

Below is a female American Redstart. A bit duller in color than the first-year males.

Lots more birds to think about lurk in pictures I have taken through this peripatetic migration season. I will be back with more after the Memorial Day weekend.

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City Migrants – Fall Migration 2016

If I’d been thinking clearly I probably would have postponed the cataract removal until after fall migration, but I ventured anyway into the wilds of downtown Chicago after I convinced myself that with patience and practice I could temporarily look through the view finder on the Canon with my left eye… Anyway, I managed to find quite a few cooperative birds to photograph and have decided to share them now before I invite you back to the Galapagos. A couple more shots of the Chestnut-Sided Warbler below. Responding to my thoughts, as I’m taking pictures of him, of “what a beautiful bird you are.”

First-year male American Redstarts are always welcome.

Things didn’t seem to get really active until last week. There’s probably a whole lot more I could have done if I put my mind to it, but I’ll get my new prescription lens in a few days and with luck, all my kvetching will fade away. (Don’t hold me to it!)

Red-Winged Blackbirds breed in Millennium Park so these birds below likely hatched this year.

Below, a Canada Warbler on the left and a Wilson’s Warbler on the right, both at Lake Shore East Park a couple weeks ago. The Canada was shy.

Juvenile European Starlings in their in-between plumage, which I find fascinating. They look more like “Star”-lings to me. They’re not exactly migrants…unless they’re from another planet?

starlings-9-9-2016-lse-park-0604I wonder if the Common Grackle below could be a molting adult, without its long tail.

cogr-9-16-2016-lse-molting-1005Magnolia Warblers have been coming through for weeks.

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Not a lot of thrushes this year – sometimes they show up in large groups. A Gray-Cheeked Thrush that was at 155 N. Wacker on the left, and a Hermit Thrush on the right and below.

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Hermit Thrush

Two views of an Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Boeing garden, below.

Two Blackpoll Warblers…

Similar to the Blackpoll but a bit different this time of year, a Bay-Breasted Warbler. I think! Confusing Fall Warblers redux.

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Bay-Breasted Warbler…?

Two more Blackpolls below.

And now, signalling the tail end of warbler migration, Palm Warblers, below…

and Yellow-Rumped Warblers (Myrtle subspecies).

And the same two species in flight, Palm on the left, Yellow-Rumped (with the yellow rump showing), below. Note the similarities…and differences.

My prize discovery last week was a beautiful male Black-Throated Blue Warbler. I think we have been seeing more of this species the last couple years but it’s still not common and always special. Luckily this one liked to show off.

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Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Golden-Crowned Kinglets are coming through but hard to capture in cloudy light. Or at least that’s my excuse.

gcki-9-29-2016-lse-park-1873On the 29th I saw this presumably female Wilson’s Warbler, below, at Lake Shore East Park, and am glad I had pictures to prove it to ebird – apparently it’s late in the season to see a Wilson’s. Others reported seeing them too, in the area.

I always look forward to the return of the White-Throated Sparrows. I have seen a couple other species too and I’m hoping to take some pictures of them this week.

The Black-and-White below appears to be a female.

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Black-and-White Warbler

A late Magnolia.

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Magnolia Warbler

Red-Breasted Nuthatches are visible this year.

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Red-Breasted Nuthatch

I have a new crop of juvenile Crows that look for me. We will hang out more over the winter months when there are no more migrants.

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I had to run an errand on Friday all the way over to the river, and on the way back into the office, as I crossed the street at Wells and Madison, I heard a loud “caw-caw-caw.” I stopped and looked up but saw nothing. “Caw-caw-caw” again. I waited. People streamed by me on their way to wherever, I’m sure they did not hear the crow, and no one was curious about why I had stopped to look. Then, in the top branches of a locust tree planted in the sidewalk across the street, the crow moved. After we acknowledged each other’s presence, he was silent. I crossed the street to get a better look and he appeared to be fiddling with something dark but I can’t say what it was, a bat, shoe leather, hard to tell without binoculars. But how nice to be recognized by this super-intelligent creature. Made my day. 🙂

Where Have All The Birds Gone?

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, scaling a building wall next to 155 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago

I could just as easily re-title this post to “Where Has All The Time Gone?” since I’m still trying to make adjustments to my ever-changing schedule. But this will be a brief tribute to some of the birds I have seen passing through downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. (There will be still more photographs from the rest of the month in a future post.)

The following warblers were present at Lake Shore East Park on September 28. This was probably the last “peak” of warbler migration along the lakefront.

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American Redstart

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Blackpoll Warbler

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Tennessee Warbler

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Magnolia Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warblers tend to come through and hang around a bit later, so I was not surprised to see this one the following week.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler, October 6, 2015

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

But I was surprised to find the Connecticut Warbler below poking around in the grass as I was walking through Millennium Park on my way to Lake Shore East. There wasn’t much light and the bird was under some trees so this was the best I could do with the photograph.

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Connecticut Warbler, Millennium Park, October 5, 2015

I have seen only a few White-Crowned Sparrows this fall, like the one below which popped out at 100 N. Riverside Plaza.

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White-Crowned Sparrow, October 2, 2015

I think the White-Throated Sparrow below was also from this new location. I will have more pictures and more to say about this newly discovered green space area along the Chicago River in a future post.

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White-Throated Sparrow, October 5, 2015

There have been a lot of Brown Creepers this fall migration.

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Brown Creeper, Lake Shore East Park, October 6, 2015

And Ruby-Crowned Kinglets…

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Lake Shore East Park, October 7, 2015

For a couple weeks, almost, the most ubiquitous bird seemed to be Hermit Thrushes. I am still seeing an individual here and there.

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Hermit Thrush, Lake Shore East Park, October 7, 2015

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are now all gone.

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Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, October 6, 2015

At first I thought the bird below was yet another Hermit Thrush but on closer inspection I have decided it’s probably a Gray-Cheeked Thrush. Light can be tricky, but the heavy spotting on the breast and the darker flanks give him away almost more than his facial pattern.

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Gray-Cheeked Thrush, Lake Shore East Park, September 28, 2015

And for the longer view, here he is again sharing tree space with a shy Lincoln’s Sparrow.

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So the warblers are all gone until spring. I did have a late Black-Throated Green Warbler on October 22nd which I posted on my flickr page before I realized I could now just upload it directly into ebird. It was my last “rare bird” sighting.

Below is another picture of the beautiful Blackpoll Warbler from September 28.

BPWA LSE Park 9-28-15 -3013I have more posts in mind and am just working on finding the time and mind space!

Thanks for your patience and indulgence!

City Visitors, or Where the Birds Are

Black-and-White Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Black-and-White Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Apologies to all my followers for not posting sooner (and all those I follow for not showing up), but I have been busy with work and trying to spend every free moment paying attention to birds indoors and out, so by the time I get around to reviewing photos I fall asleep. So there have been about 10 potential blog posts running out of my head over the last two weeks before I could hang onto them.

American Redstart, 155 N. Wacker Drive

American Redstart, 155 N. Wacker Drive

So before I fell asleep again last night as it was past my bed time, I decided to simply share with you some of my favorite subjects over the past week from a couple city parks and green spaces. Except for the Least Flycatcher, I have limited this post to warbler species.

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

The first day I found the Black-Throated Green Warbler at Union Station, there was also a Black-Throated Blue Warbler singing and a Baltimore Oriole singing as well. Actually it was the Baltimore Oriole’s song that drew my attention to the now-fenced-in-for-no-obvious-reason garden area. The fact that the garden area was inaccessible to me and the smokers who like to sit on the benches probably made it more attractive to the bugs and the birds who were eating them. I did not get a great picture of the Black-Throated Blue, but was glad to see him. The Oriole was coy but uncooperative.

Common Yellowthroat, Lake Shore East Park

Male Common Yellowthroat, Lake Shore East Park

Lake Shore East Park has been my most constant afternoon destination, and there were a couple good days, but it doesn’t seem as birdy as last year or the year before. The weather has been a factor all spring too, with alternating warm fronts and cold fronts confusing everything. We are presently about thirty degrees cooler than we were on Monday. Monday was hot.

Least Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Least Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Least Flycatchers were fairly common for a couple days. Catbirds have been regular sightings in every nook and cranny.

Gray Catbird, Lake Shore East Park

Gray Catbird, Lake Shore East Park

Male American Redstarts come in two plumages. The first-year males still look a bit like the females, only orangey instead of a paler yellow. The after-first-year males are black and orange-red.

American Redstart

American Redstart

American Redstart, first-year male

American Redstart, first-year male

Hardly a day has gone by that I have not seen or heard a Northern Waterthrush. I usually see them on the lawn, so it was nice to catch one resting on a branch.

Northern Waterthrush, Lake Shore East Park

Northern Waterthrush, Lake Shore East Park

Ovenbirds are still around, too.

Ovenbird, Lake Shore East Park

Ovenbird, Millennium Park

Spring would not be spring without male Magnolia Warblers.

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Redstarts are everywhere now. The adult males seem to like to show off.

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Below is a first-year male, looking eager to start his first breeding season.

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I hope to get another post or two in order over the Memorial Day weekend (thunderstorms are predicted for Memorial Day). As always I think I will be able to conquer my entire to-do list because I have an extra day. So far Saturday’s weather looks best, so that will be a birding day. Passerine migration is nearly over, but I need proof.

Bye, Bye Birdies

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

It’s so hard to leave, but preparation for it has also made it hard to do anything else. I’m leaving for the airport in less than 3 hours and I still have to buy fresh veggies for the indoor crowd and finish packing. So this will be a very, very quick post. The Cooper’s was in Grant Park last Friday when I managed to go down early before work.

Crows in Millennium Park

Crows in Millennium Park

These pictures were taken over the last few days on my way to work or on a very brief lunch break. I managed to say goodbye to my crows in Millennium (there were about 20 overall) and on the way in to work, to my little friend Lincoln’s Sparrow who was still there as of yesterday. But I fully expect everyone at 155 N. Wacker to disappear over the next three weeks when I don’t show up to shower them with birdseed.

Crows with peanuts

Crows with peanuts

The Hermit Thrush below was last seen a few days ago, but there were still some in Millennium Park as of Thursday.

Hermit Thrush, 155 N. Wacker Drive

Hermit Thrush, 155 N. Wacker Drive

Goodbye, little Lincoln’s. He’s been such a good friend. And he gave me an excuse to try out and learn how to use the flash attachment, bless his heart.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

The crows in Millennium have settled in as the crowds are dissipating. I hope I haven’t made them too tame.

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I know the crows will be there for me when I return. I look forward to posting all about my trip when I get back.

Thanks to everyone for reading and following my blog!! I’m off on safari…!

“Rare” Late Migrants!

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

Yesterday on my way in to the office I stopped by 155 N. Wacker Drive, as usual, to visit with the White-Throated Sparrows, see if the Hermit Thrush was still around… and to my surprise, a Gray Catbird jumped right out onto the cement edge of the elevated berm, looked me in the eye, and took off for the trees hugging the brick building. Whenever birds fly to those trees I can hardly ever see them and give up on any thoughts of getting pictures.

I heard the Hermit Thrush but did not see it. Incidentally, I hope to record this sound some day because this year is the first time I’ve become aware of it with Hermit Thrushes: it’s a whirry call that almost sounds like a purr, which I first identified by process of elimination a few weeks ago when I found a Hermit Thrush in my yard, then later checked on my Bird Tunes app and confirmed it.

So yesterday morning I figured I had a list of birds to submit to ebird and was not surprised when I had to write in the Gray Catbird. But I was later asked to prove it, at least by description if not a picture, and since I didn’t have a picture, I thought well, maybe I should go back and to see if it was still around on my lunch hour.

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

The White-Throated Sparrows were happy to see me again, and I stood still almost at the edge of the sidewalk so they would not feel pressured by me and my camera. While I was waiting to see who else might show up, the Hermit Thrush dashed out below me.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

And then the Catbird came out – cautiously at first – but then got used to me and let me get several pictures in the ever-darkening light. The clouds were moving in fast yesterday afternoon!

Gray Catbird IMG_1044_1Gray Catbird IMG_1039_1

Just amazed to stand there and visit with the birdies, alone except for one woman sitting off to the side with her cell phone and cigarette.

And then suddenly I saw a Lincoln’s Sparrow and I knew this was probably going to be another rare sighting.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

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The funny thing about the Lincoln’s was after I had taken several pictures of him, he flew up into the tree to my left to give me a better view. Or to check me out, or to say thank you, because by now I had scattered some more bird seed. It was the least I could do for such a cooperative bunch.

When I got back to the office I submitted another ebird report and I had to justify the Lincoln’s Sparrow because yes, it too was a rare sighting at this date. And then last night at the suggestion of the submission monitor, I discovered how to embed photos into my ebird reports, so I added the two rare sightings to support my observations. Now I feel like a citizen scientist…

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Hard to let go of the locals just yet. But a picture is still worth a 1,000 words, heh.

Running Out of Bugs

White-Throated Sparrow, Lurie Garden

White-Throated Sparrow, Lurie Garden

The White-Throated Sparrows and their allies have adjusted their diet to berries and seeds as a result of the drop in temperatures. While I still see them scratching around for bugs buried in the dirt, they are getting hungrier. I started feeding the White-Throated Sparrows at 155 N. Wacker Drive the past week and after a couple days they all came flying over to meet me on Friday.

Here’s a little video of one happy customer.

I was also trying to get footage or whatever you call video output of them getting into little arguments over whose birdseed it was. This video’s a bit longer and not terribly clear, given the light limitations I guess. Anyway I put it on YouTube if you’re curious. Yes, there’s a House Sparrow in there too, looking beaten at his own game.

Last week I managed to get photos of one White-Throated Sparrow eating berries which look just like the berries on the hawthorn tree in my backyard. I am still waiting for someone to discover them.

WT Sparrow with Berries IMG_0098_1WT Sparrow Berry Eater IMG_0106_1WT Sparrow Berry Eater IMG_0101_1

In among all the White-Throated Sparrows every once in a while there is a Song Sparrow or a juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow

Juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow

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Song Sparrow

Now that we’ve flirted with freezing, it’s warming up a bit again. It will be interesting to see if the fluctuating temperatures cause migrants to linger a bit longer.