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.