Fall Migration Continues…

It’s been a busy birding week and fall warbler migration is only getting started, but I’m already having a hard time keeping up. To add to my confusion, with the pool closed, the break in my routine is making it harder to figure out what day it is. But I have started getting up earlier to join bird walks and I will start leading Saturday walks tomorrow through the second week in October. It’s beginning to look like fall, even if it doesn’t feel like it just yet.

These photographs are from August 31st at Riverside, and I have also added the rest of the birds from August 26th at the same location.

I was happy to see a very cooperative Northern Waterthrush on Wednesday.

American Redstarts are the most numerous and well-distributed fall warbler species so far. I have seen them every day. The one immediately below looks like a first-year male.

Also fairly common are Magnolia Warblers like the one at the top of the post and below.

I discovered something about Blackpoll Warblers I never realized before. Apparently they all have orange toes – so when stumped by a decision between whether you are looking at a Blackpoll or a Bay-breasted, if you can see orange toes, that solves the problem. I was delighted to find photos showing beautiful orange toes. This is nearly impossible to see in the field, however.

I have also seen Golden-winged Warblers all week, starting on Tuesday morning at Columbus Park with Henry G.’s walk. They seem to have all come into the area at once and I have seen them everywhere I have been. I’m sneaking this photo in from Tuesday as it is the best one I have of the whole bird.

Below is another Golden-winged I just barely captured the next morning at Riverside.

Cape May Warblers seem to be numerous this season.

And not a day goes by without a Tennessee Warbler.

Below is a barely-captured Black-and-white Warbler

Thrushes are starting to appear as well. This is a Swainson’s Thrush.

Juvenile Gray Catbirds can’t get enough of the camera. They demand attention.

I don’t think this molting Northern Cardinal wanted to be seen like this but I couldn’t help myself.

In answer to the question, “Where have all the blackbirds gone?”, I have seen huge flocks all week at Riverside.

And Cedar Waxwings are on the move in flocks as well.

I have a feeling House Wrens will be gone soon but the youngsters are still around.

And Great Egrets are busy fishing. The water level has improved in the river.

I will try to come back sooner and more frequently, as the birds just keep coming. I also have some stored surprises still to share. We are starting out very warm going into the Labor Day weekend, with a promise of cooler weather after tomorrow. We could see a lot more warblers with winds from the north.

Warbler Overload – Part III

Warbler migration always seems to be defined by the appearance of “Maggies” and Redstarts. Magnolia Warblers are generally abundant in migration, and they always seem to cheerfully accept their fate as lens subjects.

The male Magnolia Warbler has that big bright white wing patch. The female Magnolias do not have the wing patch and their black streaks don’t form a “necklace” or thick black streaks.

More male Magnolias…

And some females…with one paler male snuck in below.

Just a couple more…

The American Redstarts are somewhat harder to capture. This is at least a two-year male. The first year males look a lot like the females in that they do not have the bold orange and black coloring.

These birds tend to forage more frenetically than some other species.

I think this is a first-year male. It’s sometime hard to tell, but the yellow on the breast is a bit orangey-er than the yellow on the females.

These birds may appear dull but they make up for it with their active foraging. Two days later when the leaves filled out on the trees, it was much harder to see them.

This bird lost its tail!

A few more of what I think is a first-year male American Redstart, sometimes affectionately referred to as a “yellowstart.”

There are still a few Yellow-rumped Warbers around and they have the same colors as the Magnolias, just arranged differently.

Wilson’s Warblers are among my favorites. But as of this outing they managed to hide their trademark black caps almost entirely.

If you click on the photos in the gallery below you might be able to see only a hint of a black cap in one or two of them.

So there are a few more warblers I have yet to cover – not as many photos of each species (whew!) – and some other birds seen as well, and then plenty more migration madness to continue. I am convinced the male Northern Cardinals are enjoying being basically ignored by us warbler-hungry photographers.

I am very tired from going out to hear a friend perform last night and then getting up early to do the spring migration walk in Columbus Park, so I may not have much to say for a little while. But I will be back with the review of Tuesday’s birds, and there are so many more I have seen since then.

Fall Warblers – Getting Ready for Spring

I had planned on this post days if not a week ago… This could be my last ancient fall warbler photos post. Even though we will still have some cold weather to deal with, spring and the longer days are gaining attention from the birds. It won’t be long before the trees leaf out and warblers start to arrive. Red-winged Blackbirds have already started setting up territories as of March 1.

So here are a few reminders of what the warblers looked like in the fall. Below and at the top of the post is a Bay-breasted Warbler.

Below is one quick capture I managed of a Northern Parula.

Yellow-rumped Warblers like the ones below will look quite different in the spring.

Male Nashville Warblers have a tiny red spot sometimes visible at the crown. If you click on the first image below you might be able to see a hint of red on this one.

One sought-after warbler that I saw a few times but didn’t manage to photograph until a later visit in October was this male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

There were a lot of Black-throated Green Warblers this past fall.

And many Blackpoll Warblers were available for observation.

I will never tire of Magnolia Warblers although they were ubiquitous this past fall. I really think they like to flirt with the camera lens.

Not a warbler, but there was a very well seen Cooper’s Hawk that day.

Things are getting a bit more interesting as spring approaches and I will be back as soon as I can with more photos and reflections. Life goes on. Sometimes surprisingly so.

Oops, I almost forgot the obligatory American Redstart.

Looking Back to Late August – Part I

It’s another cold, cloudy day with snow in the forecast. The birds have not been flocking to the feeders this morning so much as I expect they are anticipating weather. The thaw was brief and if the ice at the bottom of my back porch stairs is any indication, it’s likely still quite icy at the Portage, so I sat through today’s half-planned walk, sifted through some late summer photographs and will go swimming later.

Late August at the Portage was full of immature birds and a few early fall migrants. These photos are from August 28. Below are two American Redstarts. The paler one could very well be a first-year male, or a female. I tend to forget that some American Redstarts breed in Illinois, they don’t all go farther north, because I have only seen them in migration. But then it’s logical to see them before the other warblers start making their way south. In any event I look forward to seeing them again in the spring.

Juvenile American Robins like the one at the top of the post come in spotty plumage,

American Robin and a Chimney Swift

August is the time of year for spider webs like the one below.

The deer were a lot younger…

and the Portage was lush and green everywhere…

The Yellow Coneflowers were in full bloom, and the Blue Dancer Damselfly was not in a very photogenic location.

I must have gone to the backyard after I got home to see if I could capture any of the birds there. So I managed a shy female Northern Cardinal, a Mourning Dove and what appears to be a Hairy Woodpecker.

But most frustrating of all was trying to capture a Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting a feeder from too far away. I look forward to more opportunities this year. It might be a little easier to see them now that I’ve had the trees trimmed, but it also might be a little more difficult to hang the feeders!

I will have to decide in the spring how much of this Tall Ironweed I can handle before it takes over the entire backyard.

I have one more post of photos from late August and then there’s still a lot of fall warbler pictures that I took in September – when I had just begun testing the retirement waters with my toe. The days are getting longer…

A Walk in the Neighborhood

There’s a huge park in Berwyn — it takes up several blocks! — that I always thought was much farther away than it actually is. I have not been walking as much as I used to the past five years, and definitely feel the need to get out and walk without having to drive somewhere first. So I walked over to Proksa Park a couple times last month and found a few birds to photograph. The round trip is about three-and-a-half miles which only half a mile less than the total mileage I used to walk every day when I worked closer to the lakefront.

I was happy to see a crow flying over on my first visit. I keep hoping to see more crows at home.

There are a lot of native plants and you can always count on American Goldfinches to take advantage of them.

The park has some nice water features that attract Mallards.

And the occasional heron, like this Great Blue Heron in the distance on my first visit.

Spacious, paved paths for walking and running…

I saw a few Magnolia Warblers here as I did almost everywhere last month.

And an American Redstart or two.

Below is a Blackpoll Warbler.

I almost forgot this lovely Gray-Cheeked Thrush. I have corrected the identification thanks to Vera’s comment – I thought it was a Gray-Cheeked to begin with but it was late and I was tired (or that’s my excuse for now). The heavy spotting gives it away and I don’t think the eye-ring is Swainsony enough.

This is a very pleasant destination and I will be visiting off and on throughout the year when I feel like getting out for a good walk.

One more of a Magnolia Warbler.

We just had a downpour, with more rain to come. This is very welcome indeed since I have been removing plants and planting new ones around the yard and the house. We are long overdue for a good soaking. I’ll have to check the river later in the week and see if it made any difference.

More Portage Warblers and Friends

I’m taking advantage of the rainy forecast – we’re not getting much rain yet but it is quite cloudy and we could get more. I needed a morning off from birding anyway as my left foot was complaining about something of unknown origin yesterday. It’s better this morning, but I’ll defer the walking part of my day and swim a mile in the pool later this evening.

These photographs are from my second visit to the Portage now almost two weeks ago – on September 8th. The clear skies gave way to intense light which made for some interesting contrasts when I found a cooperative Black-throated Green Warbler.

I found it hard to resist taking one photo of my favorite shelf fungus which is conveniently located close to the trail.

Two-year male American Redstarts have been few and far between and avoiding me, but I sort of managed a furtive representation of this one. The first-year males have been plentiful, but I think that’s a female below as the flank color isn’t quite orangey enough.

Female American Redstart

I have seen a good number of Blackpoll Warblers this fall, like the one below.

Here’s one of my favorite combinations – Canada Goldenrod and Boneset seem to have an affinity for each other. A closeup of the Boneset is below.

Here’s a European Starling in the Pokeweed berries.

I had a nice look at a light morph Red-tailed Hawk.

Certain birds tend to stand out and the number of Eastern Wood-Pewees I have seen well fall into this category.

Swainson’s Thrushes have been everywhere. Period. But sometimes they look like Gray-Cheeked Thrushes and vice versa…