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.

Montrose and My CF Card Snafu

YRWA 4-9-17-0382

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I hadn’t been to Montrose Point – the Magic Hedge – for years, so I thought it was a good idea when my friend Susan suggested we meet there on my one free Sunday morning this month, which turned out to be Palm Sunday on the calendar, for those of you who relate to that. It was a fine day, and not overly crowded with friendly birders or photographers, which can happen later in the season with warbler migration.

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Winter Wren

I was pleased to discover that the paths are now more clearly marked and the natural areas roped off, which likely makes the birds feel more secure.

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Tree Swallow

Unfortunately I only have maybe half the pictures I took, because I neglected to make sure they had all transferred off the camera that takes compact flash (“CF”) cards as well as SD cards.

While I was in Panama I discovered that I could no longer transfer pictures off a CF card reader to the laptop, so I had to wait until I got home to find the patch cord that came with the Mark III 5D and transfer them directly from the camera. Something has apparently changed in the software and I wonder if the plan is to render CF cards obsolete.

SWSP 4-9-17-0397

Swamp Sparrow

All that said, while I was transferring my Montrose pictures, the laptop appeared to be finished ingesting them and I disconnected the camera and wiped the card clean. Only when I went to process did I realize I was missing the last hour or so of photos that I took.

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Common Grackle

I was mourning this loss for days because I had some great shots and they were gone forever. But I also knew the loss would be minimized the sooner I took more pictures, and told myself it was a learning experience. (“What’s your favorite song?” “Uh, I guess the one I just wrote.”)

BHCB and RWBL 4-9-17-0499

Brown-Headed Cowbirds and one female Red-Winged Blackbird

I will never reformat a CF card, or an SD card, for that matter, again before I check to make sure I have transferred everything off of it. (Repeat after me…)

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American Robin

After some deliberation it appears all the thrushes we saw were Hermit Thrushes, below.

One generous individual pointed out to us the female Coyote below, who otherwise faded into her surroundings.

Coyote 4-9-17-0568I won’t elaborate on what is missing from these pictures after we saw the coyote… I’ll be back soon with more from Panama, just needed to put this to rest.

P.S. Three more days until the March For Science!

A Visit to Goose Lake Prairie for the Fourth of July

Young male Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie, 7-4-15

Young male Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie, 7-4-15

To celebrate my fourth year of this blog (my how time flies) I am publishing two posts today, which doesn’t hardly make up for my lack of posting lately but it’s good to be relaxed and sitting in the air conditioning and not afraid of falling asleep over a million photos.

Song Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Song Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Juvenile Song Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Juvenile Song Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

It took me a while to get to this point, I had two months of pictures to go through or remove from my hard drive just so I could download what’s been accumulating on the camera the past two weeks.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

EAME Goose Lake Prairie 7-4-15-6398

I went to Goose Lake Prairie yesterday morning. I didn’t get there early enough to catch the Blue Grosbeak and Bald Eagle seen by another birder, but I was happy enough to find a cooperative Grasshopper Sparrow, lots of Henslow’s Sparrows that eluded my sight, let alone photographs, Sedge Wrens, and of course a plethora of Dickcissels.

Grasshopper Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Grasshopper Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Sedge Wren, Goose Lake Prairie

Sedge Wren, Goose Lake Prairie

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird, Goose Lake Prairie

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird, Goose Lake Prairie

I also believe I took really crummy photographs of an American Bittern flying but I am too shy to edit my ebird report seeing as how I would have to write it in. Maybe I’ll gain courage as the week goes on. Least Bittern is on the list for Goose Lake Prairie but for some reason American Bittern is not.

Juvenile Brown-Headed Cowbird

Juvenile Brown-Headed Cowbird

This is the time of year when the youngsters start to get a bit confusing. Like the Brown-Headed Cowbird above.

Common Yellowthroat, Goose Lake Prairie

Common Yellowthroat, Goose Lake Prairie

Common Yellowthroats are always singing and you never see them, so I was happy to have one finally show himself. Ironically, the recording underneath the picture begins with his song, which gets fainter I suppose as he moved farther away, but a Henslow’s Sparrow can be heard clearly in front of him and these were the birds I couldn’t see anywhere. I must have heard five or six of them singing.

Female Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie

Female Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie

Eastern Phoebe, Goose Lake Prairie

Eastern Phoebe, Goose Lake Prairie

Sedge Wren, Goose Lake Prairie

Sedge Wren, Goose Lake Prairie

Eastern Bluebird, Goose Lake Prairie

Eastern Bluebird, Goose Lake Prairie

The Sedge Wrens were vocal too but I didn’t get a recording of them. And ironically for all the Dickcissels I don’t seem to have them either. I think I just have to start out an hour earlier next time.

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A pair of Dickcissels

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Female or juvenile Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie

Below is that butterfly I was too lazy to take out my other camera that had the closeup lens attached to it.

Mourning Cloak, Goose Lake Prairie

Mourning Cloak, Goose Lake Prairie

On the way back I stopped at the Lake Renwick Heron Rookery, which I was surprised to find open to the public, if only for half an hour. There were three staff on hand to make sure no one lingered in the park, which is normally off limits entirely during the breeding season. I have seen it from the other side but never this view before. I will have to go back now that I know it’s sometimes accessible.

Lake Renwick Heron Rookery

Lake Renwick Heron Rookery

Thanks to all who visit my blog and followers and friends! It’s been a fun four years and I hope to be back soon with many more observations inspired by my feathered friends.

Grasshopper Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Grasshopper Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Return to Kirtland’s Warbler Country

Female Kirtland's Warbler

Female Kirtland’s Warbler

I got back in town Monday night from a Memorial Day weekend excursion with the Chicago Ornithological Society to East Tawas, Michigan and environs for the Kirtland’s Warbler and many, many other birds. I have had hardly any time to review even the first day’s shots but here are a few from the very beginning. We started with our search for the Kirtland’s on Saturday morning and we were successful.

Kirtland's Warbler Female-2869

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is managing significant Jack Pine habitat for Kirtland’s Warblers. Indeed, this is the only way the species can survive on its breeding grounds. While habitat management is working and the numbers of breeding pairs have increased, there is now an effort to delist the Kirtland’s Warbler which will mean significant lack of funding for maintaining habitat, and without management the species will likely be endangered again.

Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

Another species that seems to like this habitat is the Brewer’s Blackbird. We saw several, if not necessarily at close range. They were busy following a tractor that was tilling soil for managed planting of Jack Pine saplings.

Brewer's Blackbird-2855

Not shown are the Brown-Headed Cowbirds which are also “managed” for their predation on Kirtland’s Warbler nests. I will not elaborate here, but you can read all about it at the link to the Michigan DNR webpage.

The male Kirtland’s Warblers could be heard singing but they were a bit cagey about photographs. When I manage to get through my recordings I will add a song to this post.

Male Kirtland's Warbler

Male Kirtland’s Warbler

After visiting the Kirtland’s Warblers we moved on to Tawas Point where the most frequently seen bird of the trip, the Baltimore Oriole, was first to greet us. I hope to continue soon with more pictures from the Point.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Sorry this is a short post. Alas, I must get back to work. See you soon.

Kirtland’s Warbler Tour

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0518_1 - Copy

The Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) trip began on Saturday, May 25, with a guided tour by Michigan Audubon and Michigan Department of Natural Resources that departed from the Ramada Inn in Grayling, Michigan, to the managed, protected habitat of the Kirtland’s Warbler.

DNR Sign IMG_0691_1

The warbler, once nearly extinct, has made a tremendous comeback. We were fortunate enough to spend time with William Rapai whose recently published book on the Kirtland’s Warbler will tell you everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

Brown-Headed Cowbird, selected

Brown-Headed Cowbird, selected

Such as the capture and killing of certain numbers of Brown-Headed Cowbirds. So far, the Kirtland’s has not developed its own defense against cowbird predation.

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Kirtland's Management Sign IMG_1948_1

The above sign depicts how the land and the Jack Pine trees on it are managed for the Kirtland’s to breed. Kirtland’s breed only in stands of young Jack Pine trees. They build their nests on the ground between the low-lying branches of the young trees. When the trees mature enough to have lost their bottom needles, they are no longer suitable habitat for breeding Kirtland’s Warblers. Further, the only way for Jack Pines to reproduce is by fire; their seeds are designed to open and germinate only under the intense heat of a forest fire, which clears the land and gives the Jack Pines room to grow. Remember Smokey the Bear? He and his ilk unfortunately caused the Kirtland’s Warbler nearly to go extinct by preventing forest fires! This gives you a little idea about how specialized the Kirtland’s Warbler is, and why you can hardly see it anywhere else in the country.

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0524_1 - Copy

We were fortunate enough to have at least 3 males sit up and sing for us. I also managed to record one of them. There’s a little background noise, but the unique song repeats here several times.

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0502_1

There are many more photos from the weekend, several of which made it to my flickr page. I hope to update some of the information for those photographs soon.

The last photo for this post was taken at another protected area where new habitat has been created for the Kirtland’s Warbler. Build it, and they will come. And they have.

Kirtland's Endangered Sign IMG_1949_1

After the Flood, Part Two

Flooding at Emiquon

Flooding at Emiquon

So as not to forget the biggest weather event of the year so far, at least around here… here are a few more photos from last weekend’s Emiquon expedition, part of the Illinois Audubon Spring Celebration. In the picture above, the water beyond the first row of trees is the Illinois River, which was at 26.8 feet: flood stage is 14 feet. Normally the depth of water on the near side of the trees would not be there…instead there would be more puddles and shorebird habitat.

Spoon River College Arboretum

Spoon River College Arboretum

So Saturday morning instead of the original plan, we visited Spoon River College Arboretum, which is a beautiful 10-acre tract of natural habitat and wood chip trails. I saw my first-of-year Wood Thrush early on in the walk.

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Brown-Headed Cowbirds, more often heard than seen, but this one was glistening when the sun made it through the clouds for a few moments.

Brown-Headed Cowbird

Brown-Headed Cowbird

One of many Chipping Sparrows…

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

At some point we found a Blue-Headed Vireo, but he was elusive.

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Blue-Headed Vireo

I remember walking through a crop field to get to the parking lot as the walk was winding down, so this must be it.Field IMG_6907_1

After lunch we went out again to see as much of Emiquon as was possible. This road was washed out.Flooded Road IMG_7029_1

Blue-Winged Teal were everywhere.

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal

And invariably some were flushed. But then you get to see the blue on the wing that they’re named for…

Blue-Winged Teal IMG_6925_1

Blue-Winged Teal IMG_7004_1

Not much more than the profile of a Double-Crested Cormorant, but it is distinctive.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

Along the side of a road going back to Dickson Mounds, which if the mounds had not been underwater might have made for interesting photographs…there was a lone Snow Goose.

Snow Goose IMG_7055_1

Snow Goose

On Sunday morning, we decided to head home instead of go farther out of our way for yet more flooding… so we stopped by Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights on the way back home. Tufted Titmouses (Titmice? Titmeese?) were everywhere.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

And although this is out of chronological order, maybe it’s a good place to stop: a perfectly-formed flowering Magnolia tree.

Magnolia IMG_6909_1

Tomorrow morning I am participating in my first Spring Bird Count. Wish me luck getting up at 2:30 a.m. 🙂

From Loons to Parakeets

Common Loon, Saganashkee Slough

Common Loon, Saganashkee Slough

I’d been thinking all week about where to go on Easter Sunday. My friends had been to various haunts all week while I was at work, and I was tempted by their destinations. While I had a general idea where these places were, I had never found some of them on my own before. It was fun to get out the maps Saturday night and plan my “trip.”

My main focus was bodies of water in the Palos area of the Cook County Forest Preserves, where Common Loons had been seen. I started out at Tampier Lake, which is positively sprawling. My first bird there was a Song Sparrow, doing what Song Sparrows do best.

Song Sparrow, Tampier Lake

Song Sparrow, Tampier Lake

There were a couple loons and dozens of other waterfowl, too distant to photograph, so after I got satisfying scoped views, I headed toward my next stop: Saganashkee Slough, where I was close enough to a Common Loon for the opening photo. Ring-Billed Gulls were everywhere; this one caught a fish.

Ring-Billed Gull, Saganashkee Slough

Ring-Billed Gull, Saganashkee Slough

Saganashkee is a long, strung-out body of water that covers a large area. After I counted all the birds I could see, I headed to Maple Lake, a smaller, contained lake surrounded by woods. I saw two more Common Loons there and distant views of Redheads and Scaup. Mentally, I was taking notes for future visits to all these places.

I stopped at The Little Red Schoolhouse which has a nature center. Families were out in the cool but sunny weather. After walking part of a short trail, I found this Red-Headed Woodpecker near the parking lot.

Red-Headed WP Little Red Schoolhouse IMG_3826_1

Though he gave me many excellent poses when he was exposed on the open limb above, I like the way he looks best behind the few twigs below. The twig cover is probably when, and why, he let me get closer to him.

Red-Headed WP Little Red Schoolhouse IMG_3838_1

There were a couple Brown-Headed Cowbirds strutting their stuff too.

Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Little Red Schoolhouse

Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Little Red Schoolhouse

My last destination was a power company substation in northwest DuPage County where Monk Parakeets had taken up residence. We used to have a flock locally but I haven’t seen Monks for quite a while in my neighborhood. Time to see some green birds.

I didn’t find them immediately, so I took a walk into a small section of Churchill Woods that runs next to a nearby open space. Besides a Red-Tailed Hawk,

Red-Tailed Hawk Churchill Woods IMG_3868_1

and a Turkey Vulture,

Turkey Vulture Churchil Woods IMG_3877_1

I had my first-of-year Eastern Phoebe.

Eastern Phoebe Churchill Woods IMG2_3900_1

Eastern Phoebe

The section of Churchill Woods below reminds me a little bit of the Portage.

Churchill Woods IMG_3881_1

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker below reminds me of the first time I ever saw one of them. The scarlet shade of red on its head is so distinctive.

Red-Bellied WP Churchill Woods IMG_3892_1

Churchill Woods had its own number of Song Sparrows, this one foraging in dried stalks.

Song Sparrow Churchill Woods IMG_3940_1

As I headed back toward my car, I heard the Monk Parakeets. They were flying into the trees along a dirt road that runs between the substation and the forest preserve. At first they came to taunt me, and then when I told them my friend had sent me, they flew in closer to check me out.

Monk Parakeet, DuPge County

Monk Parakeet, DuPage County

Except for the guy behind me in a monster SUV–whose foot must have slipped off the brake pedal as we were waiting for the stop light to change, jolting my bumper (except for a little lost paint, car and driver are okay)–it was a pretty perfect day.