In Spite of the Clouds

I haven’t been out for a walk the past two days, due to snow of one sort or another. I did manage a few visits last week in the gloom. These photos are all from Riverside, starting with January 18.

it was warmer last week and from time to time there were Canada Geese.

Any bird who sits still long enough to be photographed gets my attention.

There were geese on the lawn by the library.

And then I noticed a lot of American Tree Sparrows in the grass as well.

But then after I crossed the footbridge and started to walk the trail nearest the river in Riverside Lawn, I spotted a Winter Wren.

Seeing I was paying attention to the Winter Wren, a Carolina Wren came out to pose for me. This happened the last time I saw these two characters. I was also happy to hear a vocalization from the Carolina Wren that was new for me. I hope I remember it next time I hear it.

Fitting in with all the brown birds, a Mallard hen standing in a shallow spot.

And I saw 64H again. That may have been the last time I saw him.

My next visit on January 20 was much gloomier.

But there was a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in the river that made up for the gloom.

I barely caught the Belted Kingfisher in flight and then managed to find it perched later with its back to me.

Backlit gloom did no favors for this White-breasted Nuthatch.

On January 23, there were at least 100 Canada Geese by the footbridge. I couldn’t stuff them all into one frame.

The light wasn’t good enough to capture a Downy Woodpecker in focus, but he brightened up the gloom anyway.

I saw the Belted Kingfisher again. He was quite far away.

A Northern Cardinal was my consolation prize.

It’s been quiet, getting colder, and we are about to dip into the deep freeze. The snow so far hasn’t been too much of a problem as the temperature has been just above freezing most of the time, but it looks like the next few days we will have more snow to deal with in addition to the cold. Such is winter.

Looking forward to singing Sunday morning. It will be just sopranos and altos. We’re singing a lovely little song in Italian and I am looking forward to rolling my r’s.

More winter birds on the way. Hard to believe we’re almost done with January.

Portage Recently

After two days of inclement weather earlier in the week, I couldn’t stand the thought of not walking, so I put on my long underwear and all the other necessary layers to endure a very cold walk Thursday morning at the Chicago Portage. I didn’t see a lot of birds, but I was happy to catch up with the flock, such as it was, eventually. Most of the birds were quite far away and the cloud cover made it that much harder to capture their images.

The last time I was there before that was last Sunday, the 13th, when at first the sky proved more interesting than anything on the ground.

But then I saw a deer.

The sun came out and made it quite pleasant.

American Robin

House Finches have been more noticeable lately as they move around with the sparrow and cardinal groups. For the most part, any birds I am seeing lately have been part of a larger mixed flock.

I managed to capture a Fox Sparrow that day. They are larger than other sparrows and they tend to sit still for a while, making the only challenge how far away they have decided to perch.

I have been seeing American Tree Sparrows at the Portage for weeks now. I don’t think I have seen any in Riverside yet although there are likely some there. Their arrival always verifies winter. Although the bird below had its back to me I think I found the feather pattern attractive.

Of course Dark-eyed Juncos spend their winters here too.

And Black-capped Chickadees are a year-round delight.

So this was how the Portage looked on the 13th.

Some more American Tree Sparrow photos from that day. This bird was perched at quite a distance.

Below might be the same bird in the earlier photos. I just found it interesting to see how well it blended in with the foliage, especially in the middle photo below. Hard to tell where the bird begins and the brush ends.

It was much colder on Thursday, but at least there was sunshine for a while.

Here’s how the sky looked when I stepped out my front door.

But by the time I got to the Portage, the scene was much gloomier.

I see Mourning Doves more often in my backyard lately, but this one was present at the Portage on Thursday morning.

The Northern Cardinals stand out now that all the leaves are gone.

As long as there is open water, there will be Mallards. This water is pretty shallow though. I suspect it could be frozen over by now after the second day of extreme cold.

I heard a Fox Sparrow chirp – which the Merlin App confirmed – but didn’t realize I had probably seen it until I found this barely captured bird in my photos later.

Fox Sparrow

Here are a few more images from Thursday’s outing. There weren’t many. But I’m glad I went. Yesterday and today have proved too cold, blowy and somewhat snowy for my taste. Maybe I’ll reacquaint myself with the mirrorless camera as it would be a lot less to carry around and manipulate with gloved fingers.

House Finch
Gray Squirrel
American Robin

Going for a walk every morning has become an integral part of my daily routine, so I don’t intend to stay inside for long. I did go swimming yesterday and it was rejuvenating. My greatest joy every day is to play piano for the birds when they join in with such enthusiasm. I hope to manage posting a few recordings in the not-too-distant future. After all, that’s how this whole thing started.

I may spend a little time in the yard this morning. If I had been outside long enough yesterday I might have caught the sound and sight of tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes flying over. Of course they were. They always take advantage of that push from the north, and we certainly have had that. I am sorry I missed them, and I haven’t traveled far enough lately to see them up close. Oh well. Tomorrow will be sunny, if cold, but I will be in the choir and with any luck doing the line dance with others at the end of the service. I look forward to being back on the trail Monday.

Thanks to all for checking in.

Three Visits to Columbus Park

Two weeks after the last formal walk at Columbus Park on May 14, I joined the two Eds from those walks to see what was up after it seemed all the warblers were gone. Suffice it to say that the water birds made up for the lack of passerine diversity. In spite of an event going on at the park, two Great Blue Herons and two Black-crowned Night Herons tolerated all the noise and our attention and gave us some great looks.

There’s invariably a Great Blue Heron here but I’ve never seen one up in a tree like the one in the series below.

These photos are from April 16, May 14 and May 28 so the vegetation keeps changing.

On April 16 we were lucky to see an early Northern Parula.

Although I saw this species on a few other occasions these were the best looks I had all spring.

Also in the old reeds left over from last year was an American Tree Sparrow.

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow posed over the water

There was one little Field Sparrow back on the April visit.

There’s usually at least a pair of Wood Ducks but they don’t always offer such great photo opportunities.

Below from the last visit, a Wood Duck hen with six ducklings.

Once the Red-winged Blackbirds show up, they stay for the summer.

On the last visit there were some more grown up goslings than an on earlier visit.

Back in April, two Double-crested Cormorants swimming together.

The Black-crowned Night Herons are sometimes so well camouflaged.

Back in April I followed this Great Blue Heron in flight.

On May 14, there was a visible Red-eyed Vireo.

And on the last visit two weeks later, a Warbling Vireo made itself known.

Here’s an earlier photo of a Great Blue Heron.

The Black-crowned Night Herons are simply photogenic.

But I’ll let the Wood Duck have the last word.

A rainy forecast for today gave me the time to sit here and put this together. I’ll be back out on the trail tomorrow morning. There will likely be more photographs of dragonflies coming, like the female Eastern Forktail Damselfly below – if that is indeed what this is. I noticed it at Columbus Park on the last visit.

Feeling Warmer in the Sun

I went to the Chicago Portage on Monday morning, the last time we had full sunshine, and I met a lot of birds and some people too. It was cold, but the sunshine gave a little bit more than the illusion of warmth. In all it was good to go slowly and watch the birds, but I took way too many photographs. I wonder how I will manage to get through warbler migration at this rate.

After stopping and talking to some people on the trail and mentioning that Golden-crowned Kinglets had started showing up when they asked me if there was anything new, I encountered about half a dozen of the birds and managed to capture one who volunteered for a lot of clicks.

It was almost worth it to memorialize the blue sky background.

Somewhere next to the trail by some spindly young hackberry trees I saw this very thorny plant that had the only green leaves in the entire preserve. I am not familiar with this at all. I welcome identification from any botanists out there.

I kept waiting for this Northern Flicker to fly so I might capture its golden shafts but it was definitely not going anywhere.

I never know when I will see a pair of Northern Cardinals. In this case I think she was waiting for him.

I spent the longest time behind this bird photographing it without identifying it. Backlit and alone on the path in front of me, it seemed unfamiliar. I have now decided it’s a Brown-headed Cowbird. I think I have never seen one in the cold before – in other words, it was so fluffed up I couldn’t recognize it.

There are a few American Goldfinches at the Portage. Here’s one, early on in my walk, looking rather cold.

If you stood in the right spot on the trail where I suspect asphalt will be going in, it was possible to see American Tree Sparrows everywhere. At some point one sat and started singing, and I tried to record him over a lot of noise. I did manage to get a couple recordings, as faint as they are, and they are below this photograph. I heard one singing earlier this year and compared it to the recording on my Sibley cell phone app which was made in Alaska, where they breed.

I did manage to take too many pictures of American Tree Sparrows fading into their surroundings.

I almost forgot, a Killdeer landed in the marsh and this was the best I could do through the vegetation.

I was delighted to find a Fox Sparrow in my photographs. I don’t remember taking these pictures. My camera remembered well, though.

I couldn’t help but notice the duckweed staging a comeback.

Messing around in the marshy area were a few female Red-winged Blackbirds.

And I was taken with this pretty little Song Sparrow.

On the way out, I saw the pair of Eastern Bluebirds again, only this time there was better light. They were quite far away for the most part but I tried to at least capture some of that blue.

The closer photos were of the female who is drabber in plumage but I think she is lovely nonetheless.

Perhaps the birds of the day were the American Tree Sparrows. I suspect that with the warmer winds we are now experiencing, they will be moving up north and this could have been the last time to see them.

I was going to add some photographs from March 15 – but other than the fact that it was not a sunny day, which clashes with the theme, this seems like quite enough for now. It’s rainy today and we have one more rainy day tomorrow, so I am going to try to finish taking care of some things that I keep putting off and I will be back as soon as I can get it together.

One more of the Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Sunshine Returns

It’s very cold today and it looks like tomorrow will be the same – below freezing in the morning – but the sun is shining and it’s not too windy, so that makes up for almost everything. I haven’t put my long underwear away quite yet. And it was good to be wearing more substantial boots this morning as they are warmer than the hikers.

The view from the bridge