The rollercoaster ride continues. Has it been anything else this past year? I seem to be plagued with anxiety over work, technological failures, commitments made, unfinished chores…and then the sun comes out, floods the house with brightness, emergencies subsist or in some cases solve themselves and fade into short-term memory, and life is good again. My iPhone was losing charge drastically this morning…which seemed life-threatening, but now I have so far anyway managed to find a better phone charging cord and it is coming back to battery life.
So since I find myself at relative peace, it being Friday and the middle of the day when the world seems to be focusing on the weekend, here are last Sunday’s photos, few and far between, from a cloudy, cool Portage morning. The White-Throated Sparrow at the top of the post didn’t appear to happy with the weather.
This time I was fortunate enough to see two Eastern Phoebes by the second bridge. I suppose I can assume they are a nesting pair returning. They were sort of tucked away and a bit hard to see.
I have heard a Song Sparrow for weeks but this is the first time I caught a glimpse of one.
Only one Black-capped Chickadee offered itself up on this cloudy day.
I saw this pair of Wood Ducks fly into the trees and then could just barely capture them through the branches.
The woodpeckers were hard to see but I found this one early on.
Cloudy Portage scenes…with emerging green…
On my way out, just when I was wondering if I would see anything new at all, I came across half a dozen Yellow-Rumped Warblers on the paved path, in exactly the same spot as last May, I believe, that a similar number of male Indigo Buntings announced their arrival.
I think this is the first time I have seen the new redbuds blooming. They’re in a nice welcoming spot behind the sculpture, breaking up the lawn that sprawls in front of the woods.
To be sure, the Robins are busy and they will continue to be so.
I hope to be back soon – I know, i always say that, and then weeks go by… but Spring Is Upon Us and it seems I must rise to the occasion. I am grateful for the Seasons – they are still with us!
She’s been visiting my feeders all summer. Except for the few distant pictures I took of this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird when she was perched on a tree branch last month, she has eluded my attention. Indeed it has seemed like every time she sees me lhrough the kitchen window she disappears.
So today with the heat forecast, I decided to stay home and work in the yard early while it was still cool. I had planned to write about my last two visits to the Portage, one yesterday and last Saturday, but after seeing and managing to photograph this little charmer, a morning at home has taken priority.
So of course I have taken way too many pictures of her… At first, I had done some work in the front yard, and then decided it was getting too hot to do very much in the backyard. I had been thinking about reinstating one of my makeshift benches that I used to sit on. But firstI had to remove much of a currant bush that some creature had planted after eating the berries from one of the original planted ones. The bush was practically on top of the bench. It was long past fruiting and I am sure it will try to grow back. But for now I needed a place to sit, so I cut back most of it.
I was sitting comfortably in the shade of my trees for ten minutes or so when the hummingbird arrived. But then I realized there was a small leafy branch from the crabapple tree blocking my view of the entire feeder. I removed that too and sat back down. Hummingbirds tend to return to feeders every 15 minutes or so, and I was hoping that would be the case this morning.
Lo and behold. she came back, and she dipped into the feeder for a good minute or two before flying off. I am sure she saw me, but for whatever reason my presence and the shutter clicks didn’t bother her at all. I apologize for all the photos but I am just so thrilled that she gave them to me and I won’t have to worry about capturing her again.
There have been a few other cooperative birds in the yard this week so I may as well give them some space. I’m also playing around with the new editor, there seem to be more options since I last put together a post.
A young House Sparrow waiting to be fed…
Below on the upper left is what appears to be a juvenile House Finch. The three remaining photos are of an adult female.
Of the two types of squirrels, the Fox Squirrel always seems ready to engage.
I’d like to think the young Robin above is the offspring of the pair that visits my yard everyday.
I will be back with the Portage report soon, I hope. Until then, I hope you have a good week.
It’s all I can do to keep up with migration this spring, let alone the pictures I have taken…So I’m attempting to do this in chronological order but it won’t be easy. This past Saturday started out cool but sunny. I decided to start my walk in the opposite direction of what I normally do. Then I realized that I had forgotten to put my little portable stool in my backpack so I decided to walk back to the car to get it. As I walked, I heard the Great-Crested Flycatcher, and then saw him in one of the Redbud trees bordering the lawn behind the statue. The morning had promise.
Last Saturday was a riot of colorful birds. I counted a dozen male Indigo Buntings. They were everywhere and they were not particularly shy, so I took advantage of their fearlessness. You can see how the light affects the hue of the blueness, when actually their feathers are all black.
I ventured out to the gravel road that runs along the MWRD property and found two male Scarlet Tanagers. They were trading songs.
But I discovered a glimpse at a Summer Tanager later in my pictures.
For all the male Baltimore Orioles singing and displaying these last few weeks, I have seen only one or two females so far. But that’s because they’re busy tending the nest.
Yellow Warblers may stay and breed at the Portage. Invariably I hear them but don’t always see them. So I was glad to capture this one.
White-Breasted Nuthatches are present all year, but are not seen or even heard frequently now.
The female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak below is the last one I have seen. I am not aware of any starting families at the Portage, but it could happen.
We have had a lot of rain, and even more after these pictures were taken. There were two Canada Geese trying out the newly flooded waters.
So this time of year of course I’m looking for warblers wherever I can find them. I just calculated that over the last couple of weeks I have seen 21 species total. I haven’t been able to photograph them all, but most, sometimes discovering them in my photographs. I will try to post as many as possible. They won’t always be textbook-looking photos. For example, the Golden-Winged below I barely captured but it was the details from the photographs that I was able to identify it as a likely female.
Then there are the flycatchers. They can be confusing. I have since seen the Eastern Wood-Pewee again in the same location looking more like himself so I am guessing he was having an off day (typically he would look more pointy-headed).
On this day I saw this Turkey Vulture being escorted away by a Red-Winged Blackbird.
Song Sparrows are present, singing, and likely staying to raise families.
i keep hearing and sometimes seeing Chestnut-Sided Warblers every time I have been to the Portage since my first intimate encounter with one last Tuesday.
There’s a little rapids under the first bridge where the water runs out of the Portage. No water ever runs into the Portage, as far as I can tell, but It’s still nice to see the flow over the rocks.
More often heard than seen, Blue Jays are out and about but rarely available for photos, so it was nice to see this one.
I found this female Common Grackle to be attractive in her own way.
I had noticed this nest before but wasn’t sure anyone was using it until I managed to capture these two Goldfinches. You will probably have to click on the first photo to see the female poking her head out of it. I have since not been able to find the nest, which was not far from the trail, but it could still be there and hidden in all the plant growth that has occurred since.
Sadly, Black-Capped Chickadees are getting harder and harder to find. Long taken for granted, I am convinced they are in decline, at least locally. I caught this one in a hurry.
Here’s my Robin photo of the post.
As the leaves are finally coming out, it’s interesting to see how the spaces change.
Below is one of my favorite birds, a Blue-Headed Vireo. I have seen them a couple times this spring which is surprising to me, as I don’t think I have seen one for years.
Woodpeckers are busy everywhere.
And last for the moment, I finally was able to catch the male Eastern Bluebird in focus. He has a habit of posing in difficult places, but he sat long enough this time. And although I think I heard him this past week, I haven’t seen him since. I hope the pair is still nesting and I will be looking for baby bluebirds this summer.
I have been to the Portage four times since last Saturday! I am beginning to feel like I live there. Every time I have gone, there has been a different species or a special encounter with one I’ve seen so far this spring. As many people have remarked, the cool start has been difficult for the birds migrating to their breeding grounds. I can only hope those who have visited the Portage are finding what they need in this little hotspot and will survive and flourish on the rest of their journey.
I will be back with lots more. Thanks for checking in, and I hope you are safe, well, and able to get out and enjoy this spring.
I thought I’d be returning to this page with pictures from my travels but my plans have been derailed by local distractions. It seems I cannot stand at the kitchen sink and look out the window for more than a minute before a Downy Woodpecker is on the suet feeder that hangs from the sumac tree.
I planned to go to the Portage yesterday, but the weather kept me home with 35 mph winds and gusts of up to 50 miles per hour and also flood warnings along the Des Plaines. I decided not to take the chance of being blown around the trail with the possibility of trees falling on me. The Portage is likely high enough above the Des Plaines River basin not to be affected too much by its flooding but I wasn’t all that curious either. Not sure if fear of catching or spreading a virus is making me more timid to take any chances at all. Combining the weather warnings with cloudy skies and birds predictably hunkered down, I decided it was advisable to stay home. But I would go out for a walk a little later, just to experience the wind at a safe distance.
As it turned out, soon after I was out the front door, three, possibly four, Turkey Vultures appeared, coasting about on the wind. They were sallying around the neighborhood for half an hour at least. Then when I returned to my front door, I heard a nearby Dark-Eyed Junco, and got lucky with one and then another perching in the little apple tree where they posed for a minute or two. I have been trying to take pictures of Juncos for months to no avail, but have managed the past couple days to photograph the ones that visit my yard. I wonder if the birds are more curious about me, now that they are relatively free of constant human activity.
Most of the photographs below are from one sunny day last week, March 25. I went out and sat in the back of the yard soaking up the sunshine. It was midday, not the optimum for light conditions, but outside was the place to be, relatively warm, hanging out with the feeder crowd.
Even the local songster Northern Cardinal made a guest appearance…!
On Saturday afternoon late, when there were no birds in the yard, I saw the reason why. I couldn’t get very good images between the lack of light and the window screens on the porch, but here is a very hungry looking Cooper’s Hawk.
Of course as I tried to sneak out the back door for a better photo, it left.
Below is a little expression inspired by the indoor crowd yesterday. I’ve titled it “Minimalist Zebra Finches” and, of course, they participated enthusiastically.
The Mourning Doves below: I love how the male is “politely” chasing the female. I tried to capture how his neck was lit up in the second photograph.
It must have been the lighting – I was pretty far away – but this is an interesting-looking House Sparrow.
And there are worms to be had for the Robin…
Spring is coming. The days are getting longer. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed.
I think fall must be my favorite season at the Chicago Portage. The birds blend in with the autumn colors, the leaves start to fall from the trees and then every once in a while a bird takes a quick leaf-like descent as well. This past Saturday, after my morning commitment to Thatcher Woods where we had scores of Yellow-Rumped and Palm Warblers, I decided to see what was up at the Portage. Below are two of perhaps 100 Robins…
Directly below, two Common Yellowthroats at Thatcher Woods.
I always take a picture of the water, such as it is, at the Portage to document how it changes from season to season…
There is water enough to bathe in as this female Red-Winged Blackbird was finding out.
Red-Winged Blackbird (male)
The Yellow-Rumped Warbler below was at Thatcher Woods…
And the Palm Warbler below was at the Portage.
Tennessee Warblers and Orange-Crowned Warblers often get confused in the spring but these two made it easier for me.
Orange-Crowneds always looks to me like they have a slight eye-ring.
I missed seeing a flashy male Black-Throated Blue Warbler this year but I’m glad to have found a female of the species, wearing her muted fall clothes.
Black-Throated Blue Warbler (female)
Blackpoll Warblers in their fall plumage are stamped permanently on my brain after a few years ago when there were many for several days at my old stomping grounds, Lake Shore East Park, so I was delighted to find this lovely individual.
At one point I encountered some workers who were taking down a tree. I spent some time talking to one while another was driving wedges into what was soon to be the stump. It turns out the trees were not birch but white poplar, which is an invasive species and that is why they were removing it. Come to think of it I don’t recall ever seeing a bird in those trees although they had become a landmark and I thought they were rather attractive. After I was given clearance to go beyond the workers, I grabbed two quick clicks in the distance as the tree fell.
For all the Robin activity there were only a few Cedar Waxwings…
My view from the first bridge at the Portage yielded a Mourning Dove and a House Wren.
I almost thought I had missed all the Indigo Buntings but there were still a few youngsters left.
Northern Cardinal (female)
I was delighted to see a Swainson’s Thrush if only for a moment…
Just starting to see Dark-Eyed Juncos, the harbinger of colder weather coming, I suppose. But after not seeing them all summer I am glad to have them back.
Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are coming through as well.
The Des Plaines was so low, this Great Egret was wading out into it quite a ways from the shoreline.
We had a lot of Northern Flickers at Thatcher Woods. Here’s one of them checking out a future home, perhaps.
Yes I am a Yellow-Rumped Warbler
And Monarch Butterflies are still migrating. I love the way the Poke Weed looks this time of year. I knew the birds were attracted to it but I guess the Monarchs like it too.
After hearing and rarely seeing Eastern Wood-Pewees all summer, it was nice to get good looks at this one.
This last photograph is of a Downy Woodpecker who was foraging low and obscured by the vegetation but I like the pastel colors.
More to come, I have three more Saturday bird walks, weather permitting. We seem to be entering a rainy spell but from the looks of the Des Plaines last week we can use it.
I took today off. It was a bit difficult getting up early this morning after swimming last night but I managed to get over to the Portage a little after 8:00 a.m. and took note of how deserted the place was on a weekday. No dog-walkers or cyclists. Only one runner, who was probably as amazed to see me as I was him.
A long shot of the duckweedy water above and just below it, an untrimmed path I decided not to take.
The robins are back, and the waxwings are still numerous. Literally nobody in the mucky water. I was treated to American Redstarts and a couple Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds early on, which gave me hope to find a few more migrants.
American Redstart (First Year Male)
Ruby-Throated Hummers above, an adult male American Redstart below.
The only other warblers I could barely photograph were the Chestnut-Sided below left and the Black-Throated Green on the right. I missed the Ovenbird that landed briefly in the tree I later found them in.
In the beginning with the immature male Redstarts was a chattering young House Wren.
Butterflies were out for the sunshine today. Red Admiral, Pearl Crescent and Monarch butterflies.
I saw a few White-Breasted Nuthatches too.
I heard the Eastern Wood-Pewee long before I saw the one below.
This time of year I expect to see lots of Indigo Bunting children and I did, but they were playing hard to get with the camera.
Yellow is the predominant color this time of year and I found a bumblebee and a goldfinch taking advantage of it.
One Eastern Kingbird…
There was a lot of chatter from catbirds but I only barely saw the youngster below.
A couple more Cedar Waxwings. The one on the left is an immature.
The last photograph I took was of this stunning little Silvery Checkerspot.
My walk tomorrow will take place if we are not totally rained out. Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast. We shall see… This evening as I write this I have just heard the rumble of thunder. And now it is starting to pour.
By the way it feels nice to have the time to do a same-day blog post. Perhaps if I – no, let’s say when I retire – I will be up to the task more often.
The heat is here and now more than ever the object of the game is to get up and out as early as possible, before it becomes unbearable. Birds are uniquely qualified to hide in the trees and stay cool that way. But it seemed like I was at last seeing numbers of American Robins and Red-Winged Blackbirds the last time I visited the Portage.
I didn’t see any adult Baltimore Orioles but there were a couple youngsters like the one below, who was busy trying to take care of all those feathers.
And in the same color scheme, there were a few Monarch Butterflies making their way through the patches of milkweed.
A young rabbit paused on the trail.
And the Indigo Buntings are quite numerous, even if it’s hard to find them. The hen below is showing off her prize which I’m sure she delivered to hungry nestlings.
I heard more males singing than I saw but I did manage to pluck this image out of the backlighting. The bird on the right looks more like a juvenile than a female.
The Great Egret was more visible this time, if still at quite a distance.
I followed this Green Heron when it landed in the tree, only to realize its partner had been there hiding in plain sight all the time as two herons took off a moment later.
Perhaps my best find was an Orchard Oriole I could photograph. I have been seeing one or two but never long enough to take a picture. This bird was busy preening as well. Sorry to take advantage of the bird’s down-time but it seems like the only way to spend time with the summer residents.
The male and female Brown-Headed Cowbirds below were in the same tree but too far away from each other to catch together. On the way out of the parking lot later I saw four more cowbirds foraging in the grass.
Neither one of the photographs below, of a Great-Crested Flycatcher, are very good since he was partially hidden behind a twig, but I was glad to hear him and see him after I walked over by the railroad tracks to see if there was anything going on at all on the Des Plaines River.
An inadvertent flying robin.
And the Orchard Oriole taking off.
I have tentative plans to go out early on the 4th if possible, but rain and thunderstorms seem to be in the forecast and that might stop me. It’s awkward to have a day off in the middle of the week, but a day off is a day off. Rain might actually be good enough to quell local firecracker explosions.
I’m not quite up to more adventurous birding spots yet, or so I’ve been telling myself, so I went back to the Portage again last Sunday morning. One of my first most delightful encounters was the Sphinx Moth above. It might also be called a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. I didn’t see any hummingbirds, although I keep looking for them ever since one zipped by one of my feeders a couple weeks ago.
Great Blue Heron
All the herons that have been hanging out were present, if difficult to get close to. The Great Egret in particular has been trying to stay as far from the trails as possible.
Great Egret, at a distance
One of the Green Herons landed in a nearby tree, and then took off for another location. The other one stayed glued to a small stump in the water and was barely visible.
So much for the one Red-Winged Blackbird that was temporarily available.
Even though I know there are many Indigo Buntings on site, I was only able to see the male below who looks like he had just taken a bath, compromising his ability to reflect very much blue. Below him, a well hidden female, who I found only after hearing her persistent chip note.
Summer sun is just what the painted turtles crave. At least I think they were all painted turtles.
Even the robins were hunkered down somewhat. Below, one serious adult and a couple youngsters.