First Fall Warblers – and Green Ballerinas

I have seen some fall warblers, if sparingly, over the past week, so I have pulled the best images from birds seen at the Chicago Portage or Riverside Lawn, just to get a little warbler anticipation going here. Tomorrow morning might actually be a good day because we are experiencing a little storm activity tonight. And since I can’t swim this week – the pool is being cleaned – I will likely be walking a little farther and seeing more birds.

Right off the bat, the bird at the top of the post is a female Cape May Warbler seen at Riverside Lawn on August 24. The bird below, I am not sure but I think is a Blackburnian Warbler seen at the Chicago Portage on August 27. I didn’t get any other shots, oddly enough, to help me identify it.

It’s been a good year all around for Bay-breasted Warblers. They are coming through. And I think I’m getting used to their contact calls. This Bay-breasted Warbler was at Riverside Lawn on August 26.

I don’t remember taking the photos of these two Tennessee Warblers, oddly enough, the same day at Riverside Lawn, but it’s likely I was just too mesmerized by them.

Here’s another Bay-breasted Warbler from that day at Riverside Lawn.

And another Cape May female-type or juvenile, on August 24 at Riverside Lawn.

Yet another Cape May from the same day and location.

Not a great photo, but definitely a Bay-breasted Warbler I saw on the 24th. There have been many more warblers seen along the lakefront, but I will be out a lot this week and I expect to see more around here.

Meanwhile back in my yard, I have two female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that usually show up individually but sometimes make chases through the yard together. I have taken to calling them my Green Ballerinas.

Over the past couple weeks I have been fortunate enough to capture them…somewhat.

But what really became fascinating to me was seeing them attracted to the Tall Ironweed – of all things. I can’t figure out why, exactly – it doesn’t look like a flower a hummingbird would enjoy – but they keep revisiting it and I can’t imagine it’s for nothing.

A view of the Tall Ironweed in the backyard jungle

So I set out trying to capture one of the birds in the Tall Ironweed.

At first, where I can sit in the middle of the yard, I was close to a hummingbird at the flowers but could barely see the bird on the other side. I decided to stand by the front gate instead and see if one would come to the flowers right by the back steps. Within a moment or two of standing there with the camera, a hummingbird obliged (the second and third photos below).

I am enjoying these little birds so much more now that I have the time to engage with them. Yesterday as I was refilling the birdbaths, the two of them flew right over my head, clicking away, in greeting. The other day when it was cool enough to have the windows open, one came and sat on a branch outside the kitchen window and we discussed refilling the feeders with fresh sugar water. I believe it was later that day, early evening, when I went out to clean and refill the feeders one by one. No sooner did I bring out the freshly refilled one that hangs from the dead Staghorn Sumac tree right by the kitchen window than one of these little charmers came to check it out. I am thrilled to be of service to such a grateful customer.

Now that fall warbler migration has begun, I expect to be back soon – not to mention all those other birds that are emerging, such as juvenile birds that are barely recognizable Needless to say, I am putting the book on hold for a while. But I am learning so much these days from the birds, it’s addicting. Well, something has to fill the swimming void for a week.

Warbler Overload – Part II

Few warblers are as exciting to observe as the male Blackburnian Warbler in springtime. I keep asking myself why I took so many pictures of at least three individuals on Tuesday, but the only answer I can come up with is “because I could.”

I mean, this is truly a good reason to give in to obsession.

And with so many opportunities, I kept taking them…

Another beautiful bird is the Bay-breasted Warbler. If you remember my fall posts at all, I had several of these birds represented and they looked almost nothing like they do now.

The thing that made it so relatively easy to keep clicking away was the combination of hungry birds in numbers. I really think the birds were less concerned about me than they were with fueling up for their flights north. Also, the leaves were just starting to appear, so it was easier to see the birds than even a day or two later.

A few more of the Bay-breasted…

If you have made it this far, let’s go for a third species.

Black-and-white Warblers I had already seen and photographed this spring, but it’s always a challenge to get a good image.

Just to let you know I did not ignore the Robins…

I will be back with yet more warblers from Tuesday and other birds observed. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

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.

Falling Back

Blizzard conditions are keeping me inside and I am tired of winter, so now I have some photographs from last September 16 at the Chicago Portage.

Before I continue, here’s what it looked like yesterday late afternoon in my yard. The birds quickly got over their spring fever and came back to the feeders in the driving snow.

The sun is shining almost too brightly this morning and the freshly-fallen snow is reflecting it. After putting the feeders back out and shoveling the accumulation that was left, I was not eager to go out for a walk in the bitter cold. I will get enough cold tomorrow at the Gull Frolic.

Back in September, there were some fall warblers, like the Nashville Warbler below complementing the Goldenrod.

Even the “regulars” looked better in September.

Cedar Waxwings were all over the pokeberries.

Looking forward to the transformation back into this below.

I was a bit amused by this Red-eyed Vireo who seemed to be contemplating making lunch out of what I think was a spider.

Indigo Buntings below – a female, and then what appears to be a transforming male.

I am curious to see what warbler species will predominate this year. There were a lot of Bay-breasted Warblers last fall.

I can expect to see American Redstarts this spring.

Swainson’s Thrush

After trying to no avail to convince myself that I should be feeling better, go out, brave the sunshine for a brief walk and maybe swim earlier, something seemed to be pulling me back. A few aches and pains? Maybe, but that hardly ever stops me. I sat down on the futon with some coffee to assess my mood and continue with this post. Then I heard a thud as a Zebra Finch fell out of a hut onto the top of a cage. This is not normal. Birds don’t fall. It was a hen who seems to be unwell and she will likely go quickly. It didn’t take the males long to figure out she was compromised and they tried to take advantage of her. I jumped up to rescue her and scooped her up easily enough by hand as she wasn’t really able to fly. I held her close to my heart for a moment and then put the poor girl in the bottom of the former budgie cage which is a smaller space for her to rest in peace, so to speak. Maybe my lack of resolve this morning was a response to her waning energy. Whatever it is, I was glad to save her from torture in her last hours. She has since left the cage but is defending herself against assault: I will keep my eye on her. My coffee is getting cold.

Leading Myself

I had been envisioning all week what it would be like, yesterday, to get out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and go through my normal routine of waking up my body, preparing and serving breakfast to my indoor flock, filling the feeders and changing water in the bird baths for the outdoor flock, and then getting ready to leave in time to arrive at Columbus Park and lead a walk that was to start at 7:00 a.m. I don’t organize the walks. I have been asked to “lead” this and other Saturday walks that alternatively go to Thatcher Woods in River Forest through the first Saturday in November. Leading basically means showing up, in case the organizer can’t make it. That will be the end of the “fall migration walks” and the same schedule will restart in April for spring migration.

I made several discoveries yesterday. Perhaps most important was the conclusion that I managed to arrive on time after the organizer had already advised me he couldn’t make it, I had a few moments to spare, which means I might be able to sleep maybe 20 more minutes before Saturday morning’s visit to Thatcher Woods.

So I arrived on time. And started talking to one of the golfers who use the same parking lot for access to the adjacent golf course. And I waited. I watched for cars with people getting out of them bearing binoculars. But all the cars arriving produced golf clubs. I soon came to the conclusion that I was the only person showing up for the walk. Below is a picture of what the sky looked like at that time. Maybe with the combination of clouds and no organizer, I was not enough of a draw.

Those little black dots in the clouds are Chimney Swifts.

I figured I may as well check out the park for birds anyway, all dressed up with my gear as I was, so I started walking across the lawn to the water where there were only a few Mallards. It was still quite cloudy and beyond my desire to compensate for the lack of light.

I confess I was a little leery of walking through the park so early alone. Although it has always been a safe place with others, I was not familiar enough with the spot to feel entirely confident. But then it started to lighten up, and I was hearing birds, and I figured well, I could see what was there. And I’m glad I did, because instead of following a group around – some “leader” I am – I now feel like I actually could lead a walk through Columbus Park.

Below is a video I took with my phone of Chimney Swifts flying over – it starts out mainly hearing them but then when I realized I could zoom in a bit you can actually see them. There’s also a Red-winged Blackbird singing in the beginning, for good measure.

Chimney Swifts

It began to brighten up a little, which helped the photo taking situation. It was difficult capturing the Blackpoll Warbler below in the shady portion of the park, however, but I kept trying.

I agonized over the pictures below as I was sure it was a Bay-breasted Warbler but for some reason ebird insisted it was a rare sighting for this date. I submitted my photographs and so far they have not challenged me.

I wasn’t seeing a lot of birds in the water, so I looked forward to going to the native plant garden next to a portion of it where I would likely see more birds, and I did.

Palm Warblers like the one below were expected.

I haven’t seen a lot of Tennessee Warblers this year – so it was nice to find this one.

And below, a very young-looking American Goldfinch.

On the way out I managed to capture a sneaky picture of a Wood Duck drake through some tangled branches. Also saw the resident Great Blue Heron in a well-camouflaged spot.

One more of the Tennessee Warbler

At 8:30 a.m. I felt as if I had covered the area – even though I missed a raptor I barely saw flying over. I encountered a birder who was waiting on someone to start her walk through, and we exchanged notes. Columbus Park is her go-to spot, like the Portage is mine. She may join us at Thatcher next week. I am no longer dreading these early Saturday morning rises.

I was tired, especially after having gone swimming the night before, so I took a long nap when I got home. But I am glad I managed the early start and stayed for the birds. I’m sure I would have seen more birds if I had company, but I encountered some nice, smiling runners and walkers and felt more connected to Columbus Park, which is really a beautiful place.