Fall Migration Continues

RBNU Portage 9-29-18-1399

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

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…

Portage 9-29-18-1268There is water enough to bathe in as this female Red-Winged Blackbird was finding out.

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Red-Winged Blackbird (male)

The Yellow-Rumped Warbler below was at Thatcher Woods…

And the Palm Warbler below was at the Portage.

PAWA Portage 9-29-18-1565Tennessee Warblers and Orange-Crowned Warblers often get confused in the spring but these two made it easier for me.

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Tennessee Warbler

Orange-Crowneds always looks to me like they have a slight eye-ring.

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

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.

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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.

MODO Portage 9-29-18-1265HOWR Portage 9-29-18-1255I almost thought I had missed all the Indigo Buntings but there were still a few youngsters left.

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Indigo Bunting

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Northern Cardinal (female)

I was delighted to see a Swainson’s Thrush if only for a moment…

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Swainson’s Thrush

Eastern Phoebes…

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.

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Dark-Eyed Junco

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are coming through as well.

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Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

GREG Portage 9-29-18-1318The 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.

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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.

Monarch Portage 9-29-18-1497After hearing and rarely seeing Eastern Wood-Pewees all summer, it was nice to get good looks at this one.

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Eastern Wood-Pewee

DOWP Portage 9-29-18-1550

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.

City Migrants – Fall Migration 2016

If I’d been thinking clearly I probably would have postponed the cataract removal until after fall migration, but I ventured anyway into the wilds of downtown Chicago after I convinced myself that with patience and practice I could temporarily look through the view finder on the Canon with my left eye… Anyway, I managed to find quite a few cooperative birds to photograph and have decided to share them now before I invite you back to the Galapagos. A couple more shots of the Chestnut-Sided Warbler below. Responding to my thoughts, as I’m taking pictures of him, of “what a beautiful bird you are.”

First-year male American Redstarts are always welcome.

Things didn’t seem to get really active until last week. There’s probably a whole lot more I could have done if I put my mind to it, but I’ll get my new prescription lens in a few days and with luck, all my kvetching will fade away. (Don’t hold me to it!)

Red-Winged Blackbirds breed in Millennium Park so these birds below likely hatched this year.

Below, a Canada Warbler on the left and a Wilson’s Warbler on the right, both at Lake Shore East Park a couple weeks ago. The Canada was shy.

Juvenile European Starlings in their in-between plumage, which I find fascinating. They look more like “Star”-lings to me. They’re not exactly migrants…unless they’re from another planet?

starlings-9-9-2016-lse-park-0604I wonder if the Common Grackle below could be a molting adult, without its long tail.

cogr-9-16-2016-lse-molting-1005Magnolia Warblers have been coming through for weeks.

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Not a lot of thrushes this year – sometimes they show up in large groups. A Gray-Cheeked Thrush that was at 155 N. Wacker on the left, and a Hermit Thrush on the right and below.

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Hermit Thrush

Two views of an Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Boeing garden, below.

Two Blackpoll Warblers…

Similar to the Blackpoll but a bit different this time of year, a Bay-Breasted Warbler. I think! Confusing Fall Warblers redux.

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Bay-Breasted Warbler…?

Two more Blackpolls below.

And now, signalling the tail end of warbler migration, Palm Warblers, below…

and Yellow-Rumped Warblers (Myrtle subspecies).

And the same two species in flight, Palm on the left, Yellow-Rumped (with the yellow rump showing), below. Note the similarities…and differences.

My prize discovery last week was a beautiful male Black-Throated Blue Warbler. I think we have been seeing more of this species the last couple years but it’s still not common and always special. Luckily this one liked to show off.

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Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Golden-Crowned Kinglets are coming through but hard to capture in cloudy light. Or at least that’s my excuse.

gcki-9-29-2016-lse-park-1873On the 29th I saw this presumably female Wilson’s Warbler, below, at Lake Shore East Park, and am glad I had pictures to prove it to ebird – apparently it’s late in the season to see a Wilson’s. Others reported seeing them too, in the area.

I always look forward to the return of the White-Throated Sparrows. I have seen a couple other species too and I’m hoping to take some pictures of them this week.

The Black-and-White below appears to be a female.

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Black-and-White Warbler

A late Magnolia.

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Magnolia Warbler

Red-Breasted Nuthatches are visible this year.

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Red-Breasted Nuthatch

I have a new crop of juvenile Crows that look for me. We will hang out more over the winter months when there are no more migrants.

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I had to run an errand on Friday all the way over to the river, and on the way back into the office, as I crossed the street at Wells and Madison, I heard a loud “caw-caw-caw.” I stopped and looked up but saw nothing. “Caw-caw-caw” again. I waited. People streamed by me on their way to wherever, I’m sure they did not hear the crow, and no one was curious about why I had stopped to look. Then, in the top branches of a locust tree planted in the sidewalk across the street, the crow moved. After we acknowledged each other’s presence, he was silent. I crossed the street to get a better look and he appeared to be fiddling with something dark but I can’t say what it was, a bat, shoe leather, hard to tell without binoculars. But how nice to be recognized by this super-intelligent creature. Made my day. 🙂

Jewels Hidden in the Trees

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

I think I have finally been through all the pictures from the Memorial Day Kirtland’s Warbler weekend with the Chicago Ornithological Society. While I want to put a more representative selection up on my flickr page, for the moment I am sharing some warbler pictures here. Most of the birds were far enough away that I had to use manual focus to follow them around as they flitted through pine needles.

What bird, where?

What bird, where?

With some photographs it was like reliving getting on the bird in the first place – where is it?

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

After our visit to the Kirtland’s Warbler on Saturday morning, we drove to Tawas Point State Park and spent the afternoon hours wandering the trails for migrants. These pictures are from that outing as well as other locations in Iosco County, Michigan, visited on the weekend. Some species were the first I saw this year. Indeed by Memorial Day it was almost “Now or Never.”

Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Black-Throated Blue Warbler

A Black-Throated Blue male was definitely on my list of must-sees and although he proved a bit difficult to photograph in the bright light against the sky, he stuck around for more photographs than I care to admit.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

The female Cape May Warbler above caused a little confusion until we could be sure all her markings were in the right place. Here is a picture to prove it.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warblers abounded, even windblown ones.

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

It seems increasingly difficult to find Golden-Winged Warblers, and the sunlight proved to be a challenge, but if you click on the second picture above you might be able to see the golden wing field mark a little better.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolias and Redstarts are common enough but each individual has something different to offer. I like the way there is a hint of black coming in on the first-year American Redstart below. Next year he will be all black except for the orange on his breast, like the male below him.

American Redstart - First Year Male

American Redstart – First Year Male

American Redstart

American Redstart

I have never seen a Pine Warbler well enough before, which makes me think until this trip I never really saw one. Now I can add it to my list!

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warblers are always welcome.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

As are Blackburnian Warblers.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

And another species that had eluded me this spring finally came to light: the male Canada Warbler. I did not break into the “Oh, Canada” refrain from “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell as is my wont whenever I see one of these birds, but he might have heard me anyway.

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler

 

Birds on the Brain

Mourning Warbler, LaBagh Woods

Mourning Warbler, LaBagh Woods

All the research done lately points to people finally discovering that birds are indeed a lot smarter than we ever gave them credit for. My personal theory is that somewhere along the line people realized certain birds were smarter than they were and started on that “bird-brain” campaign to make them appear inferior. Now if somebody calls you Bird Brain, take it as a compliment!

Magnolia Warbler, LaBagh

Magnolia Warbler, LaBagh

For all the attention I’ve been paying to birds lately I’d like to think some of their smarts have rubbed off on me… But it’s hard to think about anything else, so I don’t know how that computes.

Female Black-Throated Blue Warbler, LaBagh

Female Black-Throated Blue Warbler, LaBagh

This post features photographs of warblers taken late last week downtown and at LaBagh Woods Forest Preserve on Sunday. The Black-Throated Blue above came as a surprise when I was going through the photos last night, as it was in a small flock containing Wilson’s and Magnolias and I was just trying to capture anything that moved.

Wilson's Warbler, LaBagh

Wilson’s Warbler, LaBagh

The morning started out very slow at LaBagh, it was cool and cloudy, but I stuck it out and later as the sun came out the birds did too.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler, LaBagh

Chestnut-Sided Warbler, LaBagh

We had two days of hot spring and now we’re having cold, almost March-like weather. So I’m trying to cheer myself up a little bit with brightly-colored birds.

Cape May Warbler, Aon Building

Cape May Warbler, Aon Building

Perhaps two of the best were downtown last Thursday at the Aon Building.

Blackpoll Warbler, Aon Building

Blackpoll Warbler, Aon Building

Some of these guys don’t appear fully molted out into their brightest colors, but it has been a long time since I’ve seen a Golden-Winged Warbler.

Golden-Winged Warbler, LaBagh

Female Golden-Winged Warbler, LaBagh

The flowers are all gone from these trees now, but for a moment we had spring.

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There are more photos to discover, and I hope to be back with them soon. In a way it’s good the weather is so awful I’m not out taking more pictures, so I get a little catch-up time.

 

Follow the Sap…suckers

Juvenile Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

The last couple weeks of fall migration, warblers and others have been following the sapsuckers as they drilled holes in the rows of homestead elms lining either side of the center “naturally planted” section of Daley Bicentennial Plaza. The birds are drinking sap from the wells drilled by the woodpeckers.

Orange-Crowned Warbler

We are still seeing Orange-Crowned Warblers and Yellow-Rumped Warblers. The Yellow-Rump below was putting on quite a show when I took this picture last week: he kept hovering around his favorite saphole like a hummingbird.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

The Tennessee Warblers like the one below are sometimes confused with Orange-Crowned, especially this time of year.

Tennessee Warbler

There have been a lot of Red-Breasted Nuthatches this fall, and the one below, drinking sap, is no exception.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Some of the first warblers noticed were Black-Throated Blues. Here’s a female, and below her, a male – although I did not get a picture of him drinking, it’s almost a wonder he let me photograph him at all. He behaved like a celebrity tired of paparazzi.

Female Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Male Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Cape Mays aren’t always cooperative either.

Cape May Warbler

I took several pictures of this Ruby-Crowned Kinglet yesterday, but the midday sun was brutal and I discarded most of them.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

There could still be a lot of sapsuckers coming through…and following them, their fans of many colors and configurations.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

But as the leaves disappear…so will these migrants.

Snow set

The minute it started to snow, I wanted to get a picture of the Black-Throated Blue Warbler downtown if he was still around, against the snow, my imagination seeing his slate-blueness dramatically incongruous against the white background, but it was not meant to be. The last time I saw him was Thursday when the storm started – he darted out from the bush hideout for a second or two and vanished. But while I was waited for  him to show up again, there were other birds.

White-Throated Sparrow

Indeed, the sparrows are making a killing on the food donations, intended for them but also intended to keep the Black-Throated Blue from starving to death. I had brought him dried caterpillars the first day but I think they got buried under the snow. The sparrows didn’t seem to know what to make of them.

another White-Throated Sparrow

So the question now is whether BT Blue took off for warmer climes, deciding correctly that snow was not part of his heritage, or if he is digging for bugsicles down in his bunker underneath a bush somewhere, ready to venture out only when the weather turns more hospitable.

Downy Woodpeckers don’t migrate, no matter how inclement the weather. They’re equipped to find food and they don’t feel threatened by a photographer.

Male Downy Woodpecker, Millennium Park

Friday when I got off the train after most of the snow had fallen, my attention was drawn to these bicycles.

Saturday I put up the last new feeder in the yard – my final response to the warning from the city that I am allowed only two feeders. Let’s see, with the peanut feeder, the hopper, the woodpecker suet feeder, the thistle feeder and three thistle socks, that makes 8 feeders. Perfect!

platform feeder - black oil sunflower seeds only

The Black-Capped Chickadee was the first bird to discover the platform feeder, followed by the House Finches. But here he is endorsing the Audubon feeder.

Black-Capped Chickadee

The House Finches are more numerous this year. I have four pairs, at least.

House Finches, two males and a female

This beautiful male is also endorsing the Audubon feeder.

Male House Finch

I haven’t seen any goldfinches all weekend, I don’t know what happened to them. I wish someone had told me there wouldn’t be very many this year, I would not have stocked up on thistle seed at the Chicago Audubon sale. I’ll have to find a cool, dry place to store it in the spring. In previous years it was all I could do to keep the goldfinch hoards happy.

American Goldfinches

The cardinals visit but they elude my camera. This was the best I could come up with last week, before the snow.

Male Northern Cardinal

There are four juncos who visit regularly. This is the first time I’ve seen one on the roof. Usually they’re foraging on the ground, but they were visiting the platform feeder too.

Dark-Eyed Junco

Here are four of the 23 Mourning Doves on the ground with a Grey Squirrel.

Mourning Doves and Grey Squirrel

And Lady Downy, as I call her, visits the new peanut feeder that is too small for the squirrels to hang on (hooray!). I think I’ll have to leave it out for her and Lord Downy this week, albeit in defiance of the city’s regulations, as we are promised more cold and snow. I’ll bring in the platform feeder and clean it, and maybe take down some of those less used thistle socks. But let’s hope the inspectors have something better to do than count the feeders in my yard. If only I could get them interested in counting birds (citizen science)!

Female Downy Woodpecker

Winter in Chicago, then and now

Aside

This has been the warmest La Nina ever, and I have to wonder if this hasn’t been the warmest January in Chicago. Of course it’s early yet. Last year on January 13 we had snow and the lake had a think layer of ice on it.

Snowcrow 01-13-2011

Lake birds, 01-13-2011

But the prediction this coming Friday is for above-normal temperatures to continue.

The lakefront sunrise Wednesday morning was earlier, the days are getting ever so slightly longer.

The crows, of course, were in attendance.

A now very famous Black-Throated Blue Warbler hanging out by the bicycle rental at Millennium Park…

has been sipping sap from the trees the Sapsuckers have drilled into.

The Sapsuckers themselves are late to leave.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

There was also a Cooper’s Hawk at Millennium Park that morning, and I annoyed him enough by taking his picture. He eventually moved on, leaving the warbler safe.

I woke up this morning with the prelude to the Bach A minor English Suite playing in my head. Only the purest silence eventually makes me aware. There was a little frost last night, but by the time I left the house it had melted off. I went to the Chicago Portage to see what exists. The tangled web of bare trees and dried vegetation offered winter views. All quiet, asleep, but potential lurks in that dormancy.

I did not get pictures of all 11 species that I saw. The first bird was a flyover Mallard duck. A little later I heard a constant sound that resembled a murmuring quack, or perhaps it was a squirrel sound. It turned out to be a Downy Woodpecker pecking away at the dried stems of Phragmites that grow by the water. I can’t imagine if the stems harbor dead bugs or some other delicacy but the Downy was persistent, until he flew up into the tree and gave me this nice photograph, one of several.

There were Mourning Doves sitting quietly in a tree.

Music in my head at the Portage was Albeniz, since I recently decided to revive the few pieces I once knew. The birds complied and remained in C#.

Female Northern Cardinal

On the path ahead there were several cardinals and goldfinches foraging.

American Goldfinches

It has been so warm, lichens are growing on this dead log.

I left the Portage and went to the grocery store, where by this time my head was playing the Tango by Albeniz which is in D major. I only remember this because the woman in line behind me thanked me for giving her my “tickets” – there’s some kind of promotion going on that I don’t have time for – and our conversation was in D. What would she think if I told her I had made her talk to me in the key of the music playing in my head? Was it worth the tickets I gave her?

I saw a Junco at the Portage but didn’t get a picture of one until I got home. This one is through the porch window.

Dark-Eyed Junco

Later this evening I counted 23 Mourning Doves under my feeder. It was too dark to take a picture, but I counted them three times to be sure. I had thought they were in decline because I wasn’t seeing them. I have never seen that many in my yard, ever! The new feeder must be doing a good job.

With a little luck I’ll have some musical excerpts coming up soon. So you won’t have to try so hard to hear the music playing in my head…