Quick Portage Check-up

I have been trying to take advantage of any better weekend weather since I got back from Mexico, specifically just to wander the Portage and see what’s going on. Last weekend, Sunday was beautiful and warm, but I had to spend the morning indoors singing in the choir, but even though I didn’t have high expectations for an afternoon walk, I thought anything might be interesting. As it turned out, I heard only a few birds and saw absolutely nothing save some Canada Geese and a Red-Tailed Hawk. I went out again yesterday morning, to take advantage of the only sunshine this weekend, and after walking for nearly half an hour to only hear a few birds, I finally caught up with a flock of foraging sparrows and the woodpeckers and Blue Jays I had been hearing.

Canada Geese – when there was open water

Yesterday’s stars were a couple Red-Bellied Woodpeckers.

The Downies were busy too.

When the flock first appeared it seemed to be mostly Dark-Eyed Juncos and White-Throated Sparrows. They weren’t particularly interested in coming any closer to me. But it was a delight to just stand still and watch the flock forage and move through. And when the sun was shining, it was nearly warm on my back. It was otherwise seasonably cold yesterday, with hardly any open water.

White-Throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
American Tree Sparrow – found in my photographs later

There were likely a few more cardinals around than the two I saw briefly. Below is one of them.

Northern Cardinal

One of a few storyboards along the trail…dressed in snow and ice.

And right behind the storyboard location appeared something I wasn’t expecting so late in the morning – a foraging White-Tailed Deer. I didn’t want to disturb her so after we connected with a few photographs I turned back and made my way out of the preserve.

I was surprised to turn around and see a Brown Creeper busy poking up this tree.

Throughout the morning the Blue Jays were noisily carrying on but they were quite distant when they finally appeared.

In all maybe there were four robins yesterday morning. I’m sure there’s a larger flock somewhere.

Grey Squirrel…
Song Sparrow – as at the very top of this post

I will be back soon with warmer memories from Mexico. As of this moment, it has just started snowing. In the interim, I would like to leave with a quote from Bill Penzey which I read this morning:

“When they do their best to get us to abandon all hope is when we must embrace it more tightly than ever.”

Flight of the Equinox

Shoveler followed by Wigeon McGinnis 09-17-17-8293

8 American Wigeon following a Northern Shoveler

Getting up earlier now for work, so it should be a little easier to convince myself to continue getting up early on the weekend and look for migrating birds. I still curse the alarm clock – it’s quite dark at 4:15 A.M. and it won’t be getting any lighter for a while. But even my Zebra Finches have gotten into the new routine. They start in with their morning chorus call well before sunrise.

I have yet to record the morning Zebra Finch reveille, but the week I was off in between jobs, I did manage to get a clip or two of Arturo T., and so I have finally added his arpeggio song to the sidebar. He has more songs I will try to publish soon.

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Double-Crested Cormorant

It was officially fall sometime Friday afternoon, but we have been trapped in the middle of a hot spell longer than anything we had during the summer. Even worse, the forecast for rain keeps diminishing. But I guess compared to other parts of the planet our weather woes are mild by comparison.

These miscellaneous flight shots are primarily from a visit to McGinnis Slough the weekend before last.

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Blue Jay

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Great Egret

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Wood Ducks

The two Great Egrets below were flying over the Des Plaines River near the Portage the day before.

GREG Portage 09-09-17-7938I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves…

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Downy Woodpecker

Below a little sign that the trees are getting ready for a long winter’s nap even if the weather won’t cooperate.

Fall Color McGinnis 09-17-17-8172I went into the city an hour earlier this morning to see if it was possible to see any birds before getting to the office. It wasn’t easy. The light wasn’t good until I had to leave Lake Shore East Park, after it took me half an hour to get there. I will simply have to find birds close to the river. I will miss the lakefront parks, and particularly my crows. I may have to go downtown a few weekends to see if I can find the crows, because I miss them terribly. I refuse to believe they aren’t around as much because I have been absent, I still think it’s the hot weather. I hope I’m right.

GREG McGinnis 09-17-17-8178I will try to be back sooner. Still getting used to the new regime. I hope the autumnal equinox finds you safe and sound, wherever you are.

 

Remnants from the 4th of July Weekend

Here are a few remnant pictures from the Cook County Forest Preserves I visited over the weekend. We’re enduring a hot spell right now with high humidity and while rain looms in the forecast, it’s pretty unpredictable. As much as we could use the rain, I also expect the timing of it might interfere with any as-yet-unformed weekend plans to go birding Sunday. I might just swing by the Schoolhouse and look for the Prairie Warbler again tomorrow.

Below is a Tufted Titmouse from last weekend’s visit to the Little Red Schoolhouse.

Actually the first sound to greet me was that of Bullfrogs. I’ve included a recording below the pictures.

And below, a couple Eastern Towhees – a youngster barely visible on the left, and an adult male on the right.

American Robins are everywhere, but predominately at the Chicago Portage which is where I dropped in a bit late on Tuesday morning.

Also at the Portage, a fly-by Killdeer.

Blue Jays were everywhere too, normally heard but not seen, but they were unusually visible at McGinnis Slough.

Yes, below is another Red-Winged Blackbird chasing, this time, a Red-Tailed Hawk, but the hawk has a snake of some sort in its talons.

Enjoying the low water levels at McGinnis were several Great Blue Herons.

Also finding things to do, a Gray Catbird and one of two Raccoons swimming in the shallow water.

At the Chicago Portage, where the week before I had no trace of Green Herons, I saw this one, although I doubt they are nesting here.

The Caspian Tern below was over the water at the Little Red Schoolhouse. I also saw a tern at McGinnis but not as clearly.

At the Portage, Baltimore Orioles feeding young.

Below, an interesting grass and a female Brown-Headed Cowbird at the Little Red Schoolhouse.

And another Baltimore Oriole, this one a female, with food for her brood.BAOR 07-04-17-5338If you’ve made it all the way down to the end of this post, you deserve a reward. I invite you to enjoy the beautiful song of a Wood Thrush recorded at the Little Red Schoolhouse.

Thank you to all of you reading and following my blog! Wednesday was the anniversary of my 6th year doing this thing and was also my birthday. This is convenient for me as I have a hard time remembering dates in general so the more things I can associate with my date of birth, which I have to remember, the better.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Hangin’ Out in the Yard

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Blue Jay through the window

This grey, chilly day produced a few flurries and later in the afternoon, perhaps a sixteenth of an inch of snow. Whatever. I decided to stay home and see who came to the yard, instead of birding elsewhere.

I had to stand out in the cold for what seemed like a long time, I don’t know, maybe it was only 10 minutes but it felt longer, waiting for the birds to come back. Funny how the birds downtown will rush out to greet me, but the ones at home prefer to avoid me at all costs if possible.

But when they did finally come back, I counted at least 46 House Sparrows. Well, I didn’t count them all individually, I thought there were probably 50, but I decided to be conservative and enter the number “46” for ebird. Which makes it look like you did count them individually, I guess.

The cardinals were in the yard, which was nice of them, but the male didn’t want to show himself, so the best I could do was sneak a peek of him hiding behind a branch. The female was more accommodating. Or maybe hungry.

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A Blue Jay has been coming to the yard since I cut down my big tree. And this Blue Jay surprised me by showing up while I was still outside, but the light was so poor (below, left) I couldn’t get a good picture of him or her. Luckily it came back later in the afternoon when I was sneaking pictures through the windows (below, right).

A female Downy Woodpecker was easy to see outside, but the male pretty much eluded me until later I caught the back of his head through the window.

Not seeing so many Dark-Eyed Juncos this week, but there was one, below.

deju-yard-1-29-17-7176I put a new feeder up this week, and it’s apparent I didn’t assemble it too tightly so I’ll have to take it down one of these nights and see if I can make it more secure, but the House Finches seem to be enjoying it.

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House Finches

Doesn’t look like there’s going to be a change in the weather for a while so we may as well get used to this.

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Black-Capped Chickadee and Downy Woodpecker

I’ll be back in a few with some photos from the wilds of Chicago’s lakefront parks.

Birding the Hood

AMRO Berwyn 5-24-15-3391A combination of unpredictable weekend weather and outright curiosity caused me to spend some time in the last few weeks walking around the block, so to speak, to see what birds were present. Other factors also pushed me over the edge: reading John Marzluff’s Welcome to Subirdia (still reading it but like three or four other books I’ve started who knows when I’ll finish it), hearing Red-Eyed Vireos singing on my way to work, seeing Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks at my feeder, and not wanting particularly to get up in the middle of the night so I could arrive somewhere farther by daybreak.

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American Robin, 5-24-15

Of course the Robins have been on territory for quite a while, and they pretty much act like they own the place, but they’re still fun to watch.

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Wood Ducks, April 27, 2015

One evening I got home from work and saw the two Wood Ducks in the picture above when they landed on top of a chimney across the street. They looked as surprised to be there as I was to see them.

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Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks on the feeder 5-10-15

RBGR Berwyn 5-10-15-9736The three Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks sampling sunflower seeds above appeared to be an adult male, a female and a somewhat immature male (the guy sitting on top of the feeder in the first picture). Maybe the pair were showing junior his first trip north.

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Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak 5-16-15

A week later there was still a male in the neighborhood. Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks breed in this area, but I think they still prefer the forest preserves.

On May 16 I found two Red-Eyed Vireos but they wouldn’t pose for pictures. However I did manage to engage the cooperative, hungry female Black-and-White Warbler below. She was just down the street from my house.

Black and White Warbler Berwyn 5-16-15-1993

Black-and-White Warbler, 5-16-15

Black and White Warbler Berwyn 5-16-15-1975

Also not far away was the Yellow Warbler below. These are not unusual species but to see them not far from the house is unusual for me, since it never occurred to me that if I was just patient and looked a little harder, I could likely find some warblers in the neighborhood.

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Yellow Warbler, 5-16-15

Blue Jays tend to be heard and rarely seen, but I did get good looks at this one. He probably thought I was a curious sight, walking around with binoculars and a camera.

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Blue Jay, 5-16-15

BLJA Berwyn 5-16-15-2017

Maybe most surprising was seeing a Hermit Thrush dash out from underneath a parked car. I had been seeing one in my neighbor’s yard, so it’s likely the same individual.

HETH Berwyn 5-16-15-2113

Hermit Thrush, 5-16-15

The flowers are all gone now from my Horse Chestnut but that day the bees were enjoying the bounty.

Bee on Horse Chestnut Berwyn 5-10-15-2154Now I’m looking forward to fall migration to see if I can repeat the experiment on those iffy mornings when I don’t necessarily feel like going “somewhere.” It’s certainly easier to take a stroll around the block, and I don’t have to worry about finding my way back to where I started.

RBGR Berwyn 5-16-15-2084Spring migration is pretty much over, although late-comers and late-leavers are still surfacing here and there. Now my focus will turn to breeding birds and, whenever possible, finishing my review of photographs from trips I’ve already taken before I set off for somewhere else…

Shivering in the Snow and Sunshine

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Yesterday three of the Four Elles joined the DuPage Birding Club outing to Starved Rock in LaSalle County, Illinois. Although the fourth Elle could not join us, she participated in the same field trip with two of us last year. We met a large group of birders at the Lock and Dam across the river from the main entrance to Starved Rock State Park, where we watched birds on the Illinois River from the comfort and convenience of the deck behind the visitor’s center.

Common Mergansers flying on the Illinois River

Common Mergansers flying on the Illinois River

Common Mergansers L&D 1-19-14 1753.jpg-1753The Bald Eagle pictures are from this location. The birds were not always close enough, but they were active and in general viewing them turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

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There were not many species of waterfowl, but we did have a couple Great Blue Herons, one of which is flying below.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

We then caravanned across the river to the visitor’s center adjacent to the lodge at the state park, where they have well-stocked bird feeders. There were many Blue Jays, not willing to sit still for the most part; this one looks pretty cold.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

On and around the feeders, White-Breasted Nuthatches were common, like the one below.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch

And invariably, we saw Downy Woodpeckers. And Tufted Titmouse, Dark-Eyed Junco, American Tree Sparrow and Black-Capped Chickadees, although less available for good shots.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

After lunch, the field trip took off for Lee County instead of further down the river this year, a change driven as much by the weather as the opportunity to search for a previously reported Snowy Owl. We scanned field after field like the one below. Unable to keep up with the 4-wheel drive vehicles in the blowing snow on the roads, after an hour or two we turned homeward and did not see the eventual Snowy. Luckily there are still opportunities closer to home.

Lee County farm field

Lee County farm field

(Last weekend on another field trip, I saw a Snowy in Bolingbrook but could not get a decent picture. Three individual birds have been spotted near this location, so there may yet be a chance to return and try again.)

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Bolingbrook Snowy Owl

Kinglets Rule

Ruby-Crpwned Kinglet

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

On the way home from Miller Meadow last Sunday, I stopped to explore a very small portion of the Cook County Forest Preserves called White Eagle Woods, of all things. This is a name that would not bother anyone except a birder, in that there is no such thing as a White Eagle, but apparently it’s a common name that has been used for a lot of other things. Whatever the reason, White Eagle Woods is not far from my house, and also not far from the Des Plaines River, so it seemed worth checking out even in the middle of the day.

Golden-Crowned Kinglet on a throne of thorns

Golden-Crowned Kinglet on a throne of thorns

There were not many species of birds present but there were a few cooperative individuals. In particular there were a dozen or more kinglets, mainly Golden-Crowned but also a couple Ruby-Crowned Kinglets as well. The one Ruby-Crowned Kinglet who posed at the top of this post was not showing the feathers for which it is named.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

And for all the Blue Jays I have heard and caught glimpses of all year, none have been relaxed enough to let me take a picture until this one.

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For whatever reason he flew down to the curb, where he was at least unobstructed.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Also present on my short visit was a Hermit Thrush, which could not seem to decide whether to be seen or not. So although kinglets outnumbered all the other species at this location, the ubiquity of migrating Hermit Thrushes continues.