Fall Migration Begins

TEWA Portage 09-03-17-4449

Tennessee Warbler

There was no time for birding last weekend. So I decided to visit the Chicago Portage two days in a row this weekend. It’s not a difficult decision to make this time of year. I took my chances that the rain Saturday night might cause a little warbler fallout and I was not disappointed. Not many species but it was still nice to see some activity.

Apart from birds, I saw more Monarch Butterflies the last two days than I have all summer, when I have occasionally seen only one or two. Yesterday I am sure I saw at least 15, which is still nothing compared to previous years.

The other late summer pleasure is spider webs like the huge one on the left below. On the right, the flowers are still laden with the last night’s raindrops.

Cedar Waxwings were everywhere both days, but in particular yesterday. I estimated there could have been a hundred but I reported a conservative 76.

The two robins below seemed to be arguing over the lower bird’s perch.

On the Des Plaines River, one Great Blue Heron and one Great Egret were still present on Saturday, but Sunday morning they were gone.

GBHE and GREG Portage 09-02-17-3862Indigo Buntings were still a presence but getting a bit harder to find. They are likely getting ready to leave.

INBU Portage 09-03-17-4235INBU Portage 09-02-17-3666Likely INBU Portage 09-02-17-3973INBU Portage 09-02-17-3901Also nearly absent are Red-Winged Blackbirds.

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Red-Winged Blackbird

For excitement, on Saturday I focused on the Red-Tailed Hawk below when it landed in a tree across the water, and then got lucky enough to capture its takeoff when it left.

So where are the warbler pictures? I didn’t get them all, but below are a few. The Orange-Crowned was there Saturday. Apparently it is early because I got the “rare” warning from ebird yesterday when I tried to add it before developing my pictures. I hope the image below will be enough proof.

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Orange-Crowned Warbler

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Blackburnian Warbler

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Black-and-White Warbler

I heard several Warbling Vireos and Saturday I managed to photograph one.

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Warbling Vireo

The Carolina Wren below was a surprise. This appears to be a youngster. I fussed over the image for a while but decided it has to be a Carolina, even if the eyebrow isn’t finished-looking, the bill, the reddish color and the upturned tail indicate Carolina Wren. I also heard one sing, likely it was this one trying out its pipes.

Below is how the Portage looked yesterday.

Portage 09-03-17-4557Abundance below, of Pokeweed berries and Jewelweed blooms. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any hummingbirds enjoying the Jewelweed.

The shelf fungus seemed a bit diminished on this visit.

 

Shelf Fungus Portage 09-02-17-3790Below, three first-year birds.

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Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

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European Starling

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Mourning Dove

The cardinal is a likely candidate for first-year status as well.

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Northern Cardinal

Another view of the Portage, showing off all the native wildflower planting done lately.

Portage 09-02-17-4016I couldn’t decide which photograph of the Common Yellowthroat below to include, so here are both.

COYT Portage 09-02-17-3671COYT Portage 09-02-17-3670And one more of a Tennessee Warbler, adorning Giant Ragweed. Tennessees were most numerous yesterday.

TEWA Portage 09-03-17-4459Apologies for being absent of late. My work situation is in flux, which creates a different kind of distraction. But I promise I’ll be back soon with an update from the yard. It’s been cool enough overnight to leave the windows open all weekend. I think Fall is my Favorite Season.

 

Brief Blackburnian Blitz

 

BLWA 5-14-17-2050BLWA 5-13-17-1511

I readily admit to obsession and distraction. Warblers are here. While there has been no definitive all-at-once-get-it-now-or-never rhythm to this spring’s warbler migration, the fits and starts due to divergent weather patterns have made it all the more challenging to find and photograph these elusive creatures.

This is just a quick post devoted to a couple Blackburnian Warblers seen over the weekend. The one in the oak tree directly above was at Jarvis Bird Sanctuary along the lakefront, and the other in what is likely a cottonwood tree, at the Chicago Portage. More of the Portage bird below, showing off striking black and white plumage. This bird was really distant so I apologize for the quality of the photos.

Many more birds to come, just needed to take a breath before diving back in.

BLWA 5-13-17-1519

BLWA 5-13-17-1521

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

Eclectic Mix

Black-Capped Donacobius

Black-Capped Donacobius

I keep coming up with lots of valid excuses for not finishing anything. I seem to have everything half-started and that of course includes the project of going through the pictures from Colombia… But I am including a few pictures here although I am nowhere near done cropping and identifying everyone.

Yellow-Green Vireo

Yellow-Green Vireo

I have succumbed to the addictive distraction of the new BirdsEye app on my phone, which I downloaded before I went to Colombia along with the collection of Colombian bird songs. I added the monthly world-birder subscription (why not?) which automatically tells me where a bird was reported if I have an Internet connection. Another feature of the app is that it allows me to enter my life list without asking all the annoying questions like what day, what time, where were you precisely when you saw this bird…while at the same time syncing with whatever has been entered in ebird…so at last count I was somewhere around 1,236 with 5 or 6 countries to go… I still don’t consider myself a lister but I am just getting curious about the tally.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler, wintering in Colombia, now thinking about Boreal Forest breeding grounds

You will eventually hear more about the home birds, but Blue the Last Budgie died of ripe old age last week and Dudlee Ann the Diamond Dove did not stop talking to me or perhaps to his memory, so I promised to get her a new budgie (not wanting to cross the line and try to find her a mate of her own species…!) and since Saturday we have been getting used to Jer (short for Jeremy or Jerry, we haven’t decided yet what’s going to stick) and he to us. He is a lovely green and yellow youngster. I wanted to go with traditional color even as the PetSmart attendant tried to push a pure white or yet another blue budgie on me.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

While we’re on distraction, how about that weather, huh? Warm one week and cold, raining and windy the next (presently). If I were migrating I wouldn’t be venturing north at the moment.

As you may be able to tell, we ran into some familiar species like the Neotropical migrant warblers above, in addition to those not so familiar.

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

I promise there will be more tanagers when I get them all organized. These just snuck in with the Yellow-Green Vireo when I forgot to change the name as I processed the photos (either before or after I fell asleep?).

I leave you with two more photos of the Black-Capped Donacobius which seemed so thrilled to see us they posed for a lot of pictures, making it that much harder for me to choose!

Black-Capped Donacobius 04-2-15-5511 Black-Capped Donacobius 04-2-15-5505

Hummingbird Moth Migration

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White-Lined Sphynx Moth

Last week for two days in a row in downtown Chicago, I saw Hummingbird Moths, also known as Sphynx Moths, with the first one being on my way to work Thursday morning in the flowering plants at 100 South Wacker Drive. Now that fall warbler migration has begun I have had my camera ready. But I think even if I had to stop and put the lens on the body, this moth would still have waited for me. It seemed to respond to attention.

Hummer Moth IMG_0293_1

If you know the name of this plant please tell me: it’s installed everywhere which makes me think it’s rather common and very hardy.

When I got to 155 N. Wacker Drive a few minutes later, I did manage to see a Nashville Warbler out in the open. I had a female Mourning Warbler too but she was not so cooperative.

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Later in the afternoon, at Lake Shore East Park, I was hearing birds but not seeing them, so I started imitating some call notes and this Blackburnian Warbler emerged to check me out.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Also had a brief encounter with a Swainson’s Thrush.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush

Few and far between are Monarch Butterflies. I can remember only a few years ago seeing scores of them at a time and now I am lucky to see one. I would like to see this species recover; I hope it’s not too late.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

On the way back to work, at the Aon Center, was another hummer moth.

Hummer Moth IMG_0367_1

This one was a bit easier to capture. Click on the pictures for an enlarged view. I think the eyes are fascinating.

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Indeed these moths look to me like some kind of magical made-up creatures that belong in a Pixar movie.

Hummer Moth IMG_0373_1

Not that I’ve ever watched one. I’d rather see the real thing.