I’ve been to the Portage several times lately, and that includes a few times since these photographs which were taken November 26 and 28. I managed to get a few pictures of an American Tree Sparrow, which was my main motivation to go out into the cold the second day. I will likely see more of this species in the coming weeks.In fact I saw three this morning. But it’s also been relatively quiet at the Portage lately.
For whatever reason it was harder to get the bird posing below in focus than the one mired in the stalks.
The usual cast of characters were present on one or both days. I was fortunate enough to have four woodpecker species on the first day: Red-bellied, Downy, Northern Flicker and Hairy.
What’s really interesting about the photos below is that I didn’t realize until I started processing them that next to the Flicker on a separate branch was an Orange-Crowned Warbler. I enlarged the image of the warbler below.
This is Dark-eyed Junco season. I have been encountering flocks usually foraging on the path, along with Northern Cardinals.
There are still some American Goldfinches about all though not as many as I was seeing a couple weeks ago.
It’s always a nice surprise to see a Brown Creeper.
Here’s what the Portage was looking like on those cold, cloudy days.
I think the Fox Sparrow below is the last one I have seen.
There have been one or two Red-tailed Hawks every time I have gone to this location. Sometimes I only hear the hawk, but usually if I am still around by 10:00 I get to see one. This is a particularly dark-colored individual.
More washed-out Portage pics.
I usually see or hear at least one White-breasted Nuthatch.
I hope to be back sooner than later. It’s getting harder and harder to pack a full day into the space of reduced daylight. I have been living with birds for a long time, but now that I spend even more time with them, the consequence could be thinking more and more like a bird!
I was determined to go out this morning after being tricked by the forecast yesterday which predicted rain that did not happen. If I had not awakened with a sore knee, I might have been tempted to go out yesterday, but I spent much of the day without too much exertion, focusing instead on my three-and-a-half hour cleaning chore last night that was made possible with ibuprofen. This morning I woke up to clouds and wind. Clouds i could deal with, but consistent wind gusts made it prohibitive to go out for a walk, because birds aren’t crazy about windy days. I watched the birds in the yard come and go in between gusts.
These pictures are from last Saturday’s visit to McGinnis Slough. Not a lot going on yet, but at least there was some sunshine. I went to the Portage on Sunday and have decided to make that a separate post.
There are plenty of Red-Winged Blackbirds setting up territories. I also saw one or two females but they were not available for photos. Yet.
In addition to the predictable Mallards there were some other ducks but they were too distant to photograph. Likely if I had my scope I might have seen more species.
No Great Egrets yet but there were at least one or two Great Blue Herons.
American Coots are always a presence here. They aren’t numbering in the hundreds yet but they will.
It was particularly rewarding to see a juvenile Bald Eagle fly over. The plumage is at about two and a half years old.
Below, a late, extremely backlit American Tree Sparrow.
Quick flyover Osprey…
Always love to see the American White Pelicans, even if they are distant.
A last glimpse at well-preserved seed heads.
Last year’s oriole nests are easy to spot now.
Just one more Coot – closely cropped and brightened up a bit to show of its red eye.
I’ll be back soon with my Portage visit and with any luck I will be going out next weekend, which promises to be warm, sunny and dry – so far!
It seems like it will never stop snowing. And it’s generally been too cold to stay outside for very long. I am not good with the camera if I’m wearing gloves, let alone mittens. So several of these photographs were taken from the porch through the screened windows.
Two pairs of Northern Cardinals have been hanging out in the yard regularly. It’s always nice to see them. They tend to show up as a group later in the day when they are less visible to predators. Or at least I think that’s their strategy.
I don’t seem to see the woodpeckers as often but was able to capture this Downy through the kitchen window when he showed up on a sunnier day.
The one day last week when it wasn’t prohibitively cold, I went out to take a few pictures and found this American Tree Sparrow in the snow next to the dogwood.
One morning when I was in the kitchen I spotted the reason for the lack of birds in the yard – a Cooper’s Hawk enjoying its meal way down at the end of the fence by the alley. I couldn’t determine what it was eating with my binoculars but it stayed a long time to finish its meal. There is so much snow it wasn’t possible to walk back there after it left to see what the remains looked like either. I had to take pictures through the window as I would have immediately flushed the hawk if I had stepped outside onto the stairs.
My most frequent and numerous visitors are House Sparrows. I think there are often upwards of 50 at a time.
I’ve had more American Goldfinches too since I replaced the old nyjer with a fresh supply. The one sunny day I was out for a few minutes gave me the opportunity to photograph the bird below.
I sometimes see a Black-capped Chickadee in the yard when I go out to fill the feeders, and I have seen some House Finches and Dark-eyed Juncos, but I haven’t been able to photograph them. I haven’t seen Mourning Doves very often. Sadly they are likely victims of the Cooper’s Hawks.
I don’t know when I’ll be going back to the Portage or walking anywhere else for that matter. It may not be for a couple weeks. I have managed to dig out my car in between snowstorms and go swimming twice a week. I have also been walking a mile to the train to go into the office a couple times a week. This schedule will likely continue. I am looking forward to my first dose of the vaccine next Monday. Beyond all that, my next post will feature the birds inside the house as we have some new, cute kids.
From no light to almost too much, this past Saturday! It was clear and cold. The sunshine helped my mood a lot, especially because it wasn’t particularly windy.
It’s always good to see a Red-tailed Hawk, even if you can’t see the red tail – at least I could make out the belly band in the pictures.
Just when you think you know a place by heart, somebody does something to totally disrupt your perception of it. The first thing I noticed were tire tracks leading from the parking lot to a spot where there used to be some nice flat rocks I often sat on to take a break and look over the water. They were accompanied by a large pointy boulder. The rocks and boulder have been removed and this fence put around the area. I can’t imagine what is going in their place. Unfortunately I don’t believe I ever took any pictures of the rocks themselves. The goal was always to sit on them.
My stump was looking well-defined that morning.
A couple White-Throated Sparrows made themselves available on the way out after I answered their calls.
This Black-Capped Chickadee was fascinated by something in the wasp nest.
And a Red-Belled Woodpecker was busy digging around for bugs in tree bark.
Canada Geese were mainly congregating in the Des Plaines. It was impossible for me to get a long shot of them all because there was a freight train parked on the tracks and I didn’t want to get too close to it in case it decided to start moving, so I settled for a few shots through the trees. And two passing over instead of an entire gaggle.
Not much chance for Downy Woodpecker pictures, but I did manage to sort of capture this female.
The sparrows are there, just hard to see. I barely managed to pick out this American Tree Sparrow.
The star of the morning was a Carolina Wren who kept singing and singing… and I did finally manage a couple distant photographs.
The landscape becomes the central feature when all else fails.
Since these were taken we have received a somewhat significant amount of snow. Suffice it to say it required shoveling. I suspect it will be around for a while because we are also quite cold. Maybe with a little sunshine tomorrow I can hang out with the birds in the yard in between work assignments.
I had hoped to manage this post a couple weeks ago but I have been too busy at work. Saying I can only spend so many hours on my laptop no longer seems a valid excuse since we don’t seem to be able to do anything offline these days. So to make it before December is no more, here are photos from my last visit to the Portage on December 5th.
The day started off cloudy and quiet but when the sun came out so did the birds. Some Northern Cardinals hiding out in the open.
Can’t ignore a few Canada Geese flying over.
American Goldfinches will devour everything before they resort to my feeders.
More cardinal photos. Often these guys are skulky but they didn’t seem to mind me that day.
There were a lot of Black-Capped Chickadees that day, and they were not shy.
Sunlit American Tree Sparrow below.
A few shots of how the Portage looks these days.
I would not have paid much attention to the Mallards below, except that after being advised by my two Portage photographer buddies Steve and Mike that the hybrid was a “Manky Duck”, I looked it up, and apparently there are several varieties. This one appears to be an Abacot Ranger Manky Duck. Who knew?
A White-Throated Sparrow and two views of a Song Sparrow…
In the darker moments, all I could get of a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.
A female Downy in the cloud cover.
The bark on this tree caught my eye – and it was distinctive enough to identify as a Hackberry. I wanted a Hackberry in front of my house but my request was declined, I suspect due to too many underground facilities. But now I can admire this one. Time to start learning trees.
Last weekend I participated in the Christmas Bird Count. The weather was cloudy, but it wasn’t brutally cold and it didn’t rain. I may have a few photos to share.
We are beyond The Longest Night – which always reminds me of Peter Mayer’s beautiful song so entitled. I tried included a link to the song but I don’t think it’s allowed. If you are so inclined, do give it a listen on YouTube. There’s a lovely video with lyrics.
Wishing you and yours warm, peaceful holidays. May we look forward to 2021 with better outcomes for all.
I can’t believe another week has gone by already. While it seems like time should be moving slowly, I am finding it to be the opposite as my days at home fill up with work and chores. It’s as if I never left my schedule. And yet because I am home, it sometimes seems like I don’t have a schedule.
Winter returned twice this week and I was going to post a few pictures of birds in the snow but time got away from me and I’m not feeling too nostalgic for snow at the moment. It’s still chilly overnight but I think we are finally going to start warming up. And of course the question lurking right behind that is, Then What?
I went to the Portage last Saturday and Sunday mornings, because both days turned out fairly decent weather-wise. The variety of species differed somewhat between the two days, in that the Yellow-Rumped Warblers who posed for pictures and the one Ruby-Crowned Kinglet were present on Saturday but not detectable on Sunday. That sort of thing. On the other hand, I had the Bluebird on Sunday. So it goes.
I’ve been seeing Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers (I call them “Sappies”) in the neighborhood all week, and had one in my yard last weekend, but this is the only one I’ve been able to sort of capture so far.
There were a lot of White-Throated Sparrows, or at least more of them than the other species. Below this grouping is a short recording of one of them singing. He had a really nice version of their song, which has always been one of my favorites.
I had no idea what was going on with these Red-Winged Blackbirds on the trail as I approached them on Saturday, but on Sunday I noticed that someone has been leaving a little pile of birdseed, so that explains the gathering and likely the behavior. Feeding the animals is a no-no. But I imagine there are more people walking the trails these days than normally do, and I think that’s a good thing. Maybe we will all treasure being outside more after our quarantine subsides.
The Tree Sparrow was seen on Saturday and not on Sunday. I don’t expect to see one again until late fall.
The female Red-Wingeds have now joined the males and everybody’s ready to start working on the next generation. On Saturday I must have had more than 50 Red-Winged Blackbirds at the Portage. I don’t think I ever saw that many last year. It could be some were passing through. It will be interesting to see how many remain to nest.
There was one male Blue-Winged Teal hanging out with a couple of Mallards.
I only got a glimpse of the crown on this Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.
Woodpeckers – there were a lot of Northern Flickers. And Downy Woodpeckers are always present. I always hear a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, but don’t always see one. It was also nice to see a Hairy Woodpecker. I keep hoping I will see a Red-Headed Woodpecker here again.
This looks like a young male Red-Winged Blackbird. He must be a late-bloomer.
Robins are everywhere.
As things are just starting to turn green, mosses were attractive.
People have been reporting Hermit Thrushes so I was happy to see one. I miss seeing half a dozen of them at once downtown in the city, but maybe it’s better to see one in the woods than a lot of them on turf grass.
There were two Turkey Vultures flying around, at then at one point they landed in the trees.
A lovely Mrs. Cowbird. What more can I say?
The trees are starting to bud and this will all burst into green soon.
If you click on the dove pictures you can see nesting material in its bill easier.
There are a lot of Cardinals at the Portage but they’re not always easy to capture, especially this time of year when they’re busy setting up territories.
So here is the Bluebird of Happiness. I don’t get to see Bluebirds too often, so this was a special treat.
I plan to go out this weekend and with any luck, there will be even more birds to see. Migration continues, and I suspect the birds are having a better time of it without so much human interruption.
I have been trying to take advantage of any better weekend weather since I got back from Mexico, specifically just to wander the Portage and see what’s going on. Last weekend, Sunday was beautiful and warm, but I had to spend the morning indoors singing in the choir, but even though I didn’t have high expectations for an afternoon walk, I thought anything might be interesting. As it turned out, I heard only a few birds and saw absolutely nothing save some Canada Geese and a Red-Tailed Hawk. I went out again yesterday morning, to take advantage of the only sunshine this weekend, and after walking for nearly half an hour to only hear a few birds, I finally caught up with a flock of foraging sparrows and the woodpeckers and Blue Jays I had been hearing.
Yesterday’s stars were a couple Red-Bellied Woodpeckers.
The Downies were busy too.
When the flock first appeared it seemed to be mostly Dark-Eyed Juncos and White-Throated Sparrows. They weren’t particularly interested in coming any closer to me. But it was a delight to just stand still and watch the flock forage and move through. And when the sun was shining, it was nearly warm on my back. It was otherwise seasonably cold yesterday, with hardly any open water.
There were likely a few more cardinals around than the two I saw briefly. Below is one of them.
One of a few storyboards along the trail…dressed in snow and ice.
And right behind the storyboard location appeared something I wasn’t expecting so late in the morning – a foraging White-Tailed Deer. I didn’t want to disturb her so after we connected with a few photographs I turned back and made my way out of the preserve.
I was surprised to turn around and see a Brown Creeper busy poking up this tree.
Throughout the morning the Blue Jays were noisily carrying on but they were quite distant when they finally appeared.
In all maybe there were four robins yesterday morning. I’m sure there’s a larger flock somewhere.
I will be back soon with warmer memories from Mexico. As of this moment, it has just started snowing. In the interim, I would like to leave with a quote from Bill Penzey which I read this morning:
“When they do their best to get us to abandon all hope is when we must embrace it more tightly than ever.”
A goal for the last two years has been to get up to Goose Lake Natural Area and the Hebron Trail in October to see Sandhill Cranes. October weekends were flying by with other commitments and I kept hoping for decent weather, should I attempt the trip on the last Sunday of the month. I was rewarded with available sunshine and went to investigate. I saw only 18 Cranes eventually, when there had been a few hundred reported earlier in the week, but I was lucky to have three calling raucously and flying right overhead.
My start down the eastward Hebron Trail, which is a gravel trail built on an old railroad bed, yielded a flurry of Cedar Waxwings, Robins and Starlings at the start.
The more often I visit this place, the more I fall in love with it. But it takes me an hour and a half to drive up there, no matter which way I go. The first time or two I wasn’t sure I was ever going to find it, but now I know the route and the landmarks and it’s easy – just a long haul.
Not long after I reached the end of the tree-lined part of the trail, I saw this male Northern Harrier fly across the field and then maybe twenty minutes later it flew by right in front of me.
Sparrow migration is in full force and I saw plenty of sparrows to prove it. It was especially nice to see the Vesper and Savannah Sparrows. Also this was my first American Tree Sparrow of the season. Since I’m already over seeing Juncos come back, I see no problem welcoming the Tree Sparrows, as both species herald the return of colder months.
There weren’t a lot of birds in the water, mainly American Coots. There were some Pied-Billed Grebes, but they were too far away to capture adequately.
As I went through my photographs last Sunday, I realized I still had photos from my last visit back at the end of July, when I wondered if there were any Yellow-Headed Blackbirds left. I’m including some of those photos below.
A couple more of the Sandhills… My resolution for next year is to visit this place more often, maybe even closer to the peak times for certain species. Either way, it’s a beautiful place and I am happy to share it with you.
The sunshine yesterday made all the difference, even if it was still quite chilly in the morning. The birds were enjoying it: I didn’t have to walk in for half an hour before I started seeing birds. Indeed, the sparrows from last weekend were all feeding just past the first bridge over the creek, and several Red-Winged Blackbirds were busy proclaiming their territories. There were not a lot of waterfowl, but mixed in with the regulars were a couple nice surprises, like the Wood Duck above.
Actually the first ducks I saw were Northern Shovelers. There were two males and one female. I think they’re quite striking.
This pair of Mallards might be staying. I caught the three below flying over the river.