October at the Portage

Fox Sparrow

A brief but driving squall of freezing rain in the yard yesterday morning supported my decision to not go for a walk. More snow and wind on the way today. A good day to take stock of my indoor life.

Yesterday morning also produced a brief sighting of a Cooper’s Hawk and the appearance of the large gray tomcat I scolded out of the yard as I was refilling the birdbaths before the rain started. I have perhaps 30 or more gallons of water stored in the basement and my rain barrels are still quite full. But we are due for more serious overnight freezing temperatures so I have made this my outdoor project for the weekend, draining the rest of the water and covering up the rain barrels for the winter. If predictions prove correct, we will be getting a little preliminary snow that won’t accumulate but will get us in the mood for winter.

These photographs are from October 17. I was not too surprised to discover I hadn’t processed many of them. I did find another confusing fall warbler which I didn’t report. It appears to be a first-year likely female Black-throated Blue Warbler (below).

Much easier to recognize and still pretty plentiful were Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The bird immediately below appears to have fused with the hackberry leaves.

Then there were the tree-climbing Yellow-rumpeds…

I don’t know why it’s been so hard to get a decent picture of a White-throated Sparrow, but I keep trying.

The Song Sparrow below was a more accommodating.

And another Song Sparrows popping up from the vegetation…

A reminder of how dry it still was in mid-October.

In general, Ruby-crowned Kingets were less prevalent than the Golden-crowned this fall.

Then House Finches started to emerge…

A well-seen Hermit Thrush below…

A momentarily present Northern Cardinal…

Below is an Orange-crowned Warbler… I have yet to see the orange crown on any of these but from what I understand it is barely visible.

Woodpeckers!

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

It was not easy to get a picture of the Brown Creeper below but this is just further testament to how often I saw at least one almost every time I went out.

And then there were the almost daily White-tailed Deer…

European Starlings were exceptionally striking in the light that day.

I finally broke down and started cleaning up my second bedroom yesterday. It will likely take me the rest of the year – but it’s a wonderfully freeing thought as I plow through an accumulation of treasures and junk. The first and most important motivation seems to be organizing and having one place for all the camera equipment. But hot chocolate seems more important at the moment…

Bemis Woods Twice

I decided to visit Bemis Woods a couple times two weeks ago as it is on the way to the grocery store where buy my organic veggies and then I wouldn’t be wasting a trip running all the way over to the store just for a couple items the first time, and my weekly groceries the next. I have now changed my shopping day to Friday instead of Saturday, so… visiting Bemis could become a weekly event.

I wasn’t sure if I would ever visit Bemis after the installation of a “Go Ape” Zipline feature a couple years ago. It’s right off the parking lot. but I thought I would see how it was to walk the trails, figuring the pandemic had probably put a damper on Go Ape for a while. While it doesn’t take up the whole preserve, that much human activity, in addition to plenty of bike riders, walkers and runners…well, you get the picture for a slow-moving quiet person like me. Bemis is also huge and there are trails sprawled out leading to oblivion, or so it seems, but luckily the GPS on my phone confirms I am going back in the right direction.

Black-throated Green Warblers have been everywhere this season. Period.

I was delighted to find the female Black-throated Blue Warbler below in my photos.

I could not resist documenting this Blackpoll Warbler’s struggle with its prey.

Not to be outdone by the warblers chasing bugs, this Black-capped Chickadee showed me there are other interesting things to eat.

I have no idea what the plant below is but I liked the way it has gone to seed.

Another view of part of Bemis that is not woods.

Bemis is otherwise thick with tall trees like the view below, which makes seeing anything a challenge.

The Salt Creek runs through the preserve and there were Mallards at least one morning. It was nice to see some water still deep enough to afford waterfowl.

The asters below caught my eye. There are so many different types of asters, the more I learn the more confused I become. I’m glad the bee in the right-hand photo has figured it out.

Two more views of the Northern Flicker at the top of the post.

Below is a confusing fall warbler that has to be a Bay-Breasted but looks almost nothing like the ones below it in different light.

I have not seen many Chestnut-Sided Warblers this fall but am always glad when I do see one.

Below, some type of phlox and then golf-ball-sized galls that are found on Staghorn Sumac trees.

There’s always room for a Downy Woodpecker in my estimation.

This is still just the tip of the iceberg. However I have to use up more photographs soon or I won’t have room on my hard drive for the ones I have yet to take. Or something like that. I did get a bit of a reprieve last week when we had a string of rainy, cloudy mornings – which I devoted to projects I’m starting in my yard. We had cool weather and then we went back to hot and dry – and now we seem to be somewhere in between, but I am really hoping for some more rain, again.

Fall Migration Continues

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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

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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