Last of the Late Fall Warblers

YRWA 09-30-17-9009

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I haven’t seen many warblers this fall for various reasons but from what I can gather numbers have been down, if not sightings of individuals. So it’s not just my itinerant schedule but factors like weather and habitat changes play in.

So right about now the “last” warblers are most visible, led by the Yellow-Rumped (Myrtle) (above) and Palm Warblers. Below are a couple pictures of my most cooperative Palm Warbler at the Chicago Portage last weekend.

Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to join Chicago Ornithological Society’s walk at Humboldt Park, a location I had always wondered about but never gotten to, and we were fortunate enough to have a little flurry of Black-Throated Green Warblers. I have missed seeing this favorite of mine for a couple years or more. They were always easy to find when my most-frequented haunt was Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

Below is a Blackpoll Warbler I managed to capture Thursday afternoon at the Boeing garden down by the Chicago River, only a few blocks away from my new office location. While I am not wildly ecstatic about the limited opportunity offered at this place, it gives me hope for the future if I can manage to take a walk after noon. The garden was less congested with lunchers than it would have been under the noonday sun, and my little flurry of warblers happened just as I turned around to head back to the office.

Often confused with the Blackpoll above this time of year is the Bay-Breasted Warbler below, thus the name “Baypoll”. This Bay-Breasted I managed to see the one early morning I paid a visit to Lake Shore East Park before work.

BBWA 09-25-2017-5704Except for the bird perched in the oak tree below, this Nashville Warbler was foraging radiantly at the Chicago Portage on September 30.

And the Wilson’s Warbler below was not in the best of light that early morning at Lake Shore East Park, but I have consistently seen Wilson’s down there for a couple years so I have to wonder if it is one of the same individuals.

WIWA 09-25-2017-5678The last of the American Redstarts to come through were girls.

Still a Magnolia Warbler here and there, also a likely female.

Not a warbler, below, but when the flocks of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets start coming through, it’s a sure sign of the end of fall warbler migration. This one was also down by the river at the Boeing garden.

A couple more photos…not very sharp but lingering like the birds.

BTGW 09-23-17-8375YRWA Portage 09-30-17-8620We’ve had some rain now, temperatures are still warm during the day although falling blissfully at night, doesn’t look like we’ll be hitting the 80’s again as the days are getting shorter… But the sunshine was surprisingly warm yesterday around 10:00 AM. I’ll be back soon with new discoveries from the Chicago Portage.

Secrets of the Chicago Portage

Portage 5-1-2016-8019The fact that this place always looks like it may have started on another planet never escapes me, and now I may have some insight into why.

BAOR Portage 5-1-2016-7997

Baltimore Oriole

But first I’d like to share a few photos from last Sunday, just as the rain was stopping. I managed to count 40 species, some of which I never saw but recognized by their vocalizations. So spring migration, in spite of whatever weather challenges the birds face, goes on regardless.

Spoted Sandpiper Portage 5-1-2016-7644

Spotted Sandpiper

My first bird willing to pose was this Spotted Sandpiper. I can’t recall ever seeing one so true to its name. Later I encountered two other common shorebird species, the Killdeer and Solitary Sandpipers below.

Waterfowl was present but not much worthy of a photo except for a solitary Blue-Winged Teal.

Blue-Winged Teal Portage 5-1-2016-7661The only warblers willing to engage with the camera were Yellow-Rumped and Black-Throated Green Warblers. All the warblers I saw were in the same tree. I had a Blackburnian Warbler which is always a treat, but the poor light just wouldn’t do him justice.

Still here’s the Blackburnian on the left and a Palm Warbler on the right.

And for a blue-gray day, a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.

Below is a Brown Thrasher who was singing enthusiastically. I neglected to take my recorder with me but shot the video beneath his picture which recorded some of his song. This is a mimid species, which means he imitates other calls and recites them, singing each call twice. Toward the end of the video a Red-Winged Blackbird sings.

BRTH Portage 5-1-2016-7945

So I have to hand it to the woodpeckers for keeping things lively.

DOWP Portage 5-1-2016-8273

I was a bit surprised to see a male Belted Kingfisher land and sit still.

BEKIPortage 5-1-2016-8052And this Red-Tailed Hawk became a bit annoyed with me when I noticed him sitting very still and trying to blend in with the tree.

Close to the end of my outing I found the female Scarlet Tanager below.

SCTA Portage 5-1-2016-8444

But now for the surprise. As I was almost leaving, a cyclist stopped on the bridge where I stood to talk about the Portage. He said he had been visiting this place for 40 years. He didn’t look a day over 52 so I guess he’s been visiting since he was a youngster. Anyway, he told me years ago companies were dumping chemicals here and the water turned numerous bright colors. He also said he had talked to some of the Cook County foresters who were removing trees and they told him they had never seen such strange decay in some of the trunks.

I tried to find some documentation about what he told me but so far I have been unable to find anything specific to the Chicago Portage. I suspect the Environmental Protection Agency postdates the dumping, of course. This explains a lot to me about this strange little oasis in development. It’s sad, but then it’s also encouraging to see how nature rebounds, I guess.

It remains to be seen what the county’s plans are for this place. The cyclist also mentioned something about a commuter train going all the way to Joliet running along I-55 and a transportation hub at Harlem. Just a stone’s throw from the Portage. I can wait.

YRWA Portage 5-1-2016-7891

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

 

Right in My Own Backyard

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, LaBagh Woods

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, LaBagh Woods

Thanks to all for the good wishes as I set out for Texas with the rest of the Four Elles. I am back, but still succumbing to Migration Madness.

The weather was too good this weekend to sit around in front of the computer, so I paid attention to spring migration and went birding Saturday and Sunday…only to spend hours Sunday evening clearing space on my hard drive so I could download the weekend’s pictures. I will get back to the pictures from the Texas trip which will fill several posts, but it will take a little while longer.

Chicago Portage 5-3-14

Chicago Portage 5-3-14

In this brief post I am featuring what seem to be the most numerous species this spring. Every year is different, and you never know which species will seem omnipresent. So I began Saturday morning at the Chicago Portage.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Chicago Portage

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Chicago Portage

Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers seemed to be everywhere. There were also numerous Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Palm Warblers and more predictably, Yellow-Rumped Warblers. I then moved on to Ottawa Trail Woods. (More about that experience in a subsequent post.)

Ottawa Trail Woods

Ottawa Trail Woods

Very much the same situation there bird-wise, at least with Palm Warblers and American Goldfinches. These pictures are individuals from the Portage, but the two areas are right next to each other, and I had plenty of these birds at Ottawa Trail too. More about that experience in a later post, perhaps.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Yesterday morning I went to LaBagh Woods, which is a little over half an hour away. I am determined to drive more now that I have the new car, in part because the car needs its exercise too. Noticed yesterday that it is so quiet I have to be sure squirrels in the road see me…

LaBagh Woods

LaBagh Woods

LaBagh was covered with little yellow flowers underfoot. I have to figure these out as I have some in my backyard too. Whatever it is, this year’s crazy weather seems to have provided perfect conditions for it.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

In addition to scores of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, LaBagh had incredible numbers of Black-Throated Green and Black-and-White Warblers.

Black-and-White Warbler

Black-and-White Warbler

There was a Clay-Colored Sparrow at LaBagh hanging out with three Chipping Sparrows, but I did not get the camera on it. Then later in the afternoon I looked out the kitchen window and saw a Clay-Colored Sparrow foraging in my not-yet-planted vegetable patch. I grabbed the camera and took some awful pictures through the windows, then went outside a few moments later and sat for half an hour or so, until I managed to get a few clearer photos, like the one below. This is a new bird for my yard!

Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow

The week promises to be insane but I will try to be back soon. More to come from destinations both near and far.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

There are so many beautiful warblers, it’s hard to pick a favorite, or even five or ten favorites, and yet the Black-Throated Green has to be on the list somewhere.

Black-Throated Green IMG_8933_1

I used to see these birds often, every spring, but the last couple of years they haven’t been so easy to come by, at least not wherever I was, so imagine my delight to happen upon maybe as many as ten yesterday afternoon at Ottawa Trail Woods.

Black-Throated Green IMG_8927_1

And I got lucky enough on the way out to record one singing. One mnemonic for this buzzy little melody is “trees, trees, beautiful trees.”

Black-Throated Green IMG_8925_1

Black-Throated Green IMG_9051_1

I’m still recovering from my early rise Saturday morning, but one thing is certain: the quest continues. As the days grow longer, with so much available light, it’s hard to think about anything else except looking for migrants. I believe the term is Migration Madness, a temporary but incurable condition.

Not a Confusing Fall Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Sometimes birds are named to describe what they look like, and the male Black-Throated Green Warbler is one of them. This is the time of year when a lot of birds don’t look like they did in the spring, but I could not have confused this fellow with anyone else. I was lucky enough to spend time with him this morning shortly before I had to head into work. I’d been walking around looking for migrants almost an hour and a half, and then he appeared, almost at eye level.

I got to thinking later about how it was when I first discovered birds and they began to let me into their secret world. I had never noticed them before, and suddenly, they were everywhere, unidentified. And because no one else seemed to be paying attention to them, I felt as if I had the key to a secret society.

Now I think about it: how many absolutely gorgeous birds there are on earth that we hardly ever see? Indeed, there are species yet undiscovered. And even when they do show up, how often do we really get to see them well? I’m not too interested in just checking a bird off my list. I want to feel as if we shared a mutual encounter. And that was how it was with this bird. I was special again: graced by his presence, by the moment just between us. No other birds, no other humans. It’s as if I, too, became magical, momentarily protected by his invisible shield. I don’t know what it’s like to be a Black-Throated Green Warbler. But for a moment I inhabited the same space on the planet with one.

Later this afternoon when I went out again, I encountered the same bird in the same location and let him be. But elsewhere in the park, I found another male, and managed to get a picture of him. You can see the “green” he is named for.