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 Warbler Migration Begins…

The anticipation of seeing more birds after the long, hot summer is part of what has driven me to go out every morning. The other part came later – after doing so a few days in a row, it has occurred to me that I need these long, meditative walks every morning to stay sane.

The idea of retirement will be more than just finally having time to do what I want to do. It’s becoming more of a challenge of self-care and survival. I am becoming fiercely protective of what I have carved out to be Time Spent Not Thinking About Work – which to some degree unfortunately still exists and will lurk on the sidelines until I am finally completely done with it.

The Portage had warblers for three days last week and I took way too many pictures. These were all taken on September 6th. In spite of all the ones I discarded there are still too many. I am grateful for the Ovenbird at the top of this post. I have also become familiar with their cute little “blip” calls and I have heard many more than I have seen.

Magnolia Warbler

“Maggies” (Magnolia Warblers) and Redstarts seemed to be everywhere last week. I am beginning to sense the end of that now.

American Redstarts below.

The bright yellow throat of a Blackburnian Warbler is below.

Mixed among the warblers there have been a significant number of Red-Eyed Vireos like the one below.

Below, a far-away Blackpoll Warbler.

A Black-and-White Warbler blending into the tree bark.

Of course there are other birds besides warblers. Below is a young Gray Catbird.

And the woods have been filled with Thrushes. Below is a Gray-Cheeked Thrush.

Swainson’s Thrushes have been everywhere and every day since.

Swainson’s Thrush

The Thrush below looked like a Hermit Thrush to me but it was way too early. I didn’t feel like challenging my sighting with these photos – I suppose it could be another Swainson’s.

As if you needed more glimpses of the forever moving Redstarts…

Though every once in a while they sit still…

More photos of my one cooperative Ovenbird.

I caught the Starling below just after I got out of my car.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

I was really surprised to find a Golden-winged Warbler in my photos. They aren’t great images but this is a bird I don’t see too often, so it’s worth posting it.

Below is a Tennessee Warbler.

Baltimore Orioles should have been gone by this date but I heard one call and then saw this one later.

Maybe my best bird of that day was the Yellow-throated Vireo below. I particularly love how its blue legs came through.

Way too many birds in one day. I am exhausted trying to finish this post, so I think I will be back sooner with shorter ventures before I dive into the next day.

For what it’s worth we are having our second choir rehearsal in the sanctuary tonight, masked, socially-distanced, and dressed in our black choir attire (to show off our custom-made stoles) – to be videotaped singing for insertion into the Sunday service. A step forward. It’s so good to sing in the ensemble again.

Three Days at the Portage – Day 2

There were still some warblers on May 24, but the Bird of the Day for me was Red-Eyed Vireo. I had been wondering where these birds were, and then they all seemed to show up at once. Usually you hear them singing and don’t see them very well as they move through the trees chasing insects. But this time they were more often seen than heard. In some of these photographs you might actually be able to see the red eye for which they are named.

Red-eyed Vireo

Many of the warblers I saw that day were females. The females tend to migrate later than the males who are in a hurry to set up their territories. Spring migration this year seemed strange for many reasons – the pandemic affecting where you could go to find birds, the weather which is always a factor, and I guess the knowledge in the back of your mind that birds are in decline and you wonder just how many you’re going to see anyway.

Below is a Yellow Warbler who likely is on territory for the summer. I recorded him singing, and you can hear him three times in the little clip below his picture. Some people find the mnemonic “sweet sweet sweet I’m so sweet” helpful in distinguishing this song from others they might be hearing.

Yellow Warbler

I feel fortunate to have seen a Canada Warbler more than once this spring. Unfortunately they prefer somewhat shady spots which I guess they blend into better than bright sunlight. I love the steel-gray blue color of their backs. I would support a Pantone color called Canada Warbler Blue.

Northern Cardinals are all around but not seen too often. This one was far away but distinct.

A Blue Jay on the fly.

Baltimore Orioles are getting harder to see now that they are busy rearing families.

Indigo Buntings are busy too but there are so many of them, they are easier to see.

Indigo Bunting (female)

This might have been the last time I saw a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Actually I’m surprised I got to see more than its tail. I still hear them, but only on occasion, certainly not constantly like a few weeks ago when they first arrived.

Even Red-Winged Blackbirds are assuming a lower profile.
Two Mallards navigating the flood waters adjacent to the Des Plaines River which were still quite high that day.
Double-Crested Cormorant – an occasional flyover
The back of a Chipmunk

A couple more warblers – there seemed to be fewer American Redstarts this year, at least where I was. And I just learned something I never bothered to look up before about distinguishing the female Chestnut-sided Warbler from the male – the bright chestnut sides don’t extend as far down the side on the female. So the pictures below are of a female. And since I continue to hear a male singing at the Portage I can only wonder if there might be an actual breeding pair.