Inertia (aka Summer Doldrums)

Female Tiger Swallowtail Yard 7-19-15-1137Spoiled by earlier dramatic fluctuations in temperature which at times were chilly, I find myself now wiped out by the heat and humidity, albeit expected weather but nonetheless daunting. The only way to avoid overheating is to remain motionless. I did as much of that as possible on Saturday.

However Sunday morning was sunny, so I felt compelled to see how things are going at the Chicago Portage. Construction persists. Access to the trail entrance that heads west is still blocked, but both bridges are open again, which made it easier to take the loop on the other side of the creek back to where I started. On the way out, my eye caught a sign that referred to construction of a “new” shelter being among the improvements. I am unaware of there ever having been an old shelter, so this will be interesting. Maybe I’m reading too much into the word “new.”

Construction Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7581

Going in from the west makes it difficult to photograph anything early in the morning. But I could not resist a cooperative Indigo Bunting.

INBU Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7603

After that for a while it was simply making a record of what I was seeing, even if the picture wasn’t perfect. The distant Great Blue Heron below took off about ten minutes after I took this picture.

GBHE Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7649

There were two Killdeer skittering about in the duckweedy mud.KILL Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7706

KILL Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7731Also on the other side where I would eventually wind up, a young deer had come down to drink. I have seen deer before but never one so young, alone. I seemed to be catching the last gasp of the early morning activity, which was heartening considering I took my time getting out the door.

Deer Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7678Just about when I started wondering what had happened to all the Baltimore Orioles I saw this young or female bird.

BAOR Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7809

The Red-Winged Blackbird below appeared to have had enough of the heat and humidity.

RWBL Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7793Of course just when I think I’ve seen everything I’m going to see or have been unable to get pictures of something ephemeral like the glimpse of a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, a surprise occurs. Walking by a large tree at the edge of the water, I saw something huge move in it, determined it couldn’t have been a giant squirrel but had no idea. Then the tree exploded with three large birds scattering in all directions. This turned out to be the Green Heron roosting tree. And one of their offspring flew to a perch in the middle of the water where it sat in surprise for several moments.

GRHE Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7853GRHE Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7870The other great surprise was to run into a human being. Specifically a young man on his bicycle who asked me if there were many birds at the Portage. It then turned out that he was interested in finding out more about birds. What an absolute delight to have been present for him to quiz me on what direction he could take. I sincerely hope he follows his interest. I restrained myself and did not warn him of the addictive nature to this activity. Probably understood anyway if he at all sensed my passion. This is the magic of the Portage for me. I literally never know what to expect.

I should also know better than to expect anything. I was hoping to see butterflies, so I carried around the second camera and lens in my backpack and never took it out. Virtually no butterflies Sunday morning. There were a few dragonflies, but I was unmoved.

But Sunday afternoon seemed to bring butterflies into my garden. The Red Admirals outnumber all the others but at least there were a few more species.

Red Admiral Yard 7-18-15-1111

Red Admiral

Monarch Yard 7-18-15-1113

Monarch Butterfly in swamp milkweed. I can’t believe I managed this shot with a 100mm closeup lens from quite far away.

The swamp milkweed has taken over two areas of the yard. I keep hoping, as in Plant It And They Will Come.

Swamp Milkweed Yard 7-18-15-1085One more picture from the Portage below: an Eastern Kingbird. The background looks like another planet to me.

EAKI Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7746

Eastern Kingbird Fantastical Portage  7-19-15-7748The weather is improving, and I will slowly pull out of inertia into the sunshine.

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.

DICK Goose Lake Prairie 7-4-15-6616

A pair of Dickcissels

DICK Goose Lake Prairie 7-4-15-6350

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

Sunday at Orland Grassland

Field Sparrow, Orland Grassland

Field Sparrow, Orland Grassland

I envisioned another two-locale outing yesterday morning, but never made it to the second spot, since there was quite enough to keep me busy at Orland Grassland. This is another reclaimed farm property becoming restored habitat, and it’s not far from Bartel, so if there were not quite so many strip malls and subdivisions in between you could almost envision a habitat corridor for grassland birds.

(The Field Sparrow above was friendly, but not singing. Although there were several others singing I was unable to record them. The closest one stopped singing the minute I turned on the recorder, of course.)

Juvenile Eastern Meadowlark

Juvenile Eastern Meadowlark

Juvenile Eastern Phoebe

Juvenile Eastern Phoebe

Indeed driving just farther south than McGinnis Slough to reach Orland the feeling is never-ending suburban sprawl. Although Orland Grassland is much better established than it was last time I visited which was several years ago, and it is possible to look in at least one direction without seeing a building or utility tower on the horizon, I still could not escape the feeling of fragility, whether it was the helicopters overhead reminding me of civilization or the huge Ace Hardware warehouse looming at one corner of the preserve as I headed back to the parking lot.

Field of Bergamot Orland 8-3-14-2247

A field of Bergamot

Monarda at Orland 8-3-14-3660

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

I managed to walk the perimeter of barely half of the 960 acre preserve, which I estimate to be about a mile one way, before turning around and heading back. I was stopped at every turn either by a bird, an interesting insect, or a wildflower. For the time being the trails are mown paths, often restructured with dried tire ruts from the last rainstorm, but I understand a paved trail is in the offing. I would rather stumble along a mown path. With the exception of a couple people walking their dogs, I was the only person at Orland yesterday morning.

Blazing Star

Blazing Star

Fields of Monarda seemed to attract butterflies, bees, and of particular interest to me, a hummingbird. This was my first good look at a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird this season. The welcome mat has been out in my backyard for months: I hope to see them soon at the feeders.

Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2268

Juvenile Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2264 Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2263 Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2254

It was difficult to get a good image of the Katydid below but my, what long legs you have, and long antenna, and, well, a miniature marvel. The pondhawks and skimmers were more accommodating.

Meadow Katydid at Orland 8-3-14-3775

Meadow Katydid, I think…

White-Faced Meadowhawk Male at Orland 8-3-14-3706

White-Faced Meadowhawk Male

Widow Skimmer Orland 8-3-14-2239

Widow Skimmer

Colorful beetles, dragonflies…

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on Rattlesnake Master at Orland 8-3-14-3672

Goldenrod Soldier Beetles on Rattlesnake Master

Eastern Pondhawk female

Eastern Pondhawk female

After a while other plants interrupted the field of Bergamot and sadly, so far, I can identify only one of them.

Wildflowers at Orland 8-3-14-3758

Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

Wildflowers at Orland 8-3-14-3759

Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)

Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3687 Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3738 Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3717

Then of course there were butterflies. I think the first one below is some sort of Checkerspot but I cannot seem to locate it readily. I have to look harder.

Update: thanks to Mary Lee’s comment below I finally looked up the Crescents and I think I have identified this butterfly. Thanks, Mary Lee!

Thanks to Linda Padera I now have the correct ID for the Crescent – it is a Pearl.

Pearl Crescent per Linda Padera

Linda says this is a Pearl Crescent

Not a butterfly but always a welcome sighting, this Northern Flicker was one of four or more. Now that nesting is over they are perhaps a bit less shy. In all I had 30 bird species on my list but I probably saw only 20.

Male Northern Flicker

Male Northern Flicker

There were a lot of Viceroy Butterflies. I may have seen one Monarch but it was at a distance and it disappeared before I could be sure of the identification

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

Walking through Orland this morning was magical and mournful at the same time. Whenever I have a fleeting moment of superb reality, I seem to focus more on the fleeting than the moment itself.

It’s time to go back to work. It’s been a nice weekend, but there’s a lot more to be done.

Is This What It Feels Like?

Cabbage White, Chicago Portage

Cabbage White on thistle, Chicago Portage

I have told everyone I know that I am retired for One Day. Today is The Day. Basically this means my last day at The Big Law Firm was yesterday, I am taking today off, and Monday I will start working Elsewhere. Elsewhere is the antithesis to The Big Law Firm except for the fact that it is another law office, but it is minuscule compared to the monolithic proportions the old place is taking on. But this blog is supposed to be about birds and music, or at least birds, so that’s all you’re going to get out of me for now, on my One Day of Retirement.

Female American Goldfinch, Chicago Portage

Female American Goldfinch, Chicago Portage

Back to business – there’s that visit to the old Chicago Portage, which, I understand, is a destination for tours open to the public on Saturdays. They had a notice on public radio which I heard driving back from the pool on Wednesday night, so I now know not to be there on a Saturday at 10:00 AM. Of course I hardly ever go out on Saturday mornings unless it’s a special occasion anyway, so this is probably why I have not seen the tours taking place. It is comforting to know that the gravel path is half a mile in length as I have been estimating it to be about that when I enter my sightings in ebird.

Burdock

Burdock

I rarely if ever see any birds at the Portage until I get to the first bridge over the water, whatever phase of swampiness it’s in. Again, we have not had much rain lately, so the duckweed has taken over, providing that solid green background behind a female American Goldfinch who was the first bird to greet me and pose willingly.

Juvenile House Sparrow waiting to be fed

Juvenile House Sparrow waiting to be fed

As I write this, there seems to have been a spontaneous if barely noticeable shower. In a way I am hoping for enough rain to make me feel less guilty about staying inside, because I have a lot of indoor tasks to attend to, even if retirement is making me feel less like doing them for One Day.

Juvenile Barn Swallows

Juvenile Barn Swallows

Juv BASW Portage 7-27-14-1928

There were plenty of baby birds waiting to be fed, but I was not able to catch the actual feeding.

Green Heron, Chicago Portage

Green Heron, Chicago Portage

And the Portage offered up its own Green Heron. There was another one that flew by later but I could not catch it.

Canada Geese, Chicago Portage

Canada Geese, Chicago Portage

The Canada Goose family was hanging out.

American Robin, Chicago Portage

American Robin, Chicago Portage

And one of many molting American Robins gave me that “What are you looking at?” look.

Killdeer

Killdeer

I could swear out heard more than one Kildeer but I was able to photograph only one. There was a lot of mud to support more than one shorebird.

Wildflower Portage 7-27-14-3594

American Bellflower

Wildflower Portage 7-27-14-3596

The wildflowers at the Portage were most cooperative.

Thistle Portage 7-27-14-3555

Not sure if this is Field Thistle or not but it sure was striking.

Portage 7-27-14-1943

So the Portage continues, as does summer, and the sun has come back out, so I better get up and get busy. I have not yet decided exactly where to go birding during the rest of my last three-day weekend until Labor Day (that sounds so sad, I was beginning to like this feeling of not having to do anything), but wherever I wind up I will take more pictures.

Is it a Slough? Is it a Marsh? It’s McGinnis!

Swamp Rose Mallow, McGinnis Slough

Swamp Rose Mallow, McGinnis Slough

After two weekends of extended field trips, it was good to kick back and save Sunday for a less brutally early rise to visit McGinnis Slough and the Chicago Portage and see how summer is going in my two most frequently visited locations. I originally intended to combine both in one post but it’s more than I can handle, so this is McGinnis and with luck the Portage post will follow tomorrow.

I can always count on seeing Great Egrets at McGinnis this time of year although depending on conditions, I never know quite where. Sometimes several trees are occupied like the one below, but this visit yielded only the one populated tree.

Great Egret Tree, McGinnis Slough

Great Egret Tree, McGinnis Slough

In spite of all the rain we had a couple weeks ago, we have not had enough to keep up with the heat, leaving the water levels nearly nonexistent in both places. The Great Blue Heron below appeared a bit disheveled sitting on a limb that stretched out above an area that nomally has more water than mud.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

McGinnis offered more birding by ear than sightings. Particularly frustrating was to hear Marsh Wrens close in the reeds but not see them. One did finally move so I could catch a glimpse but there were no photo opportunities. In spite of this I did record a song and have included a photo that depicts what I did not see.

Marsh Wren in the Reeds

Marsh Wren in the Reeds

House Wren Portage 7-27-14-1678

One House Wren was much easier to see, although I was a bit surprised by its presence.

 

House Wren Portage 7-27-14-1680

 

 

Perhaps the best song of the day was the Song Sparrow I never saw. I did get a picture of a juvenile at McGinnis not far from the House Wren. And a recording of the Song Sparrow, even if it’s not the one in the picture.

 

Juvenile Song Sparrow

Juvenile Song Sparrow

Green Heron, McGinnis Slough

Green Heron, McGinnis Slough

I have been fortunate to see many Green Herons this summer. I never tire of them.

Cat Tail McGinnis 7-27-14-3533

I’ve concluded that for this summer, McGinnis is a marsh. Cat tails and tall reeds block a view of what must be mud flats, so I have no shorebirds to report. But the dragonflies are having a good time. This looks like a pair of Ruby Meadowhawks to Linda Padera.

Dragonflies McGinnis 7-27-14-3539

Probably Ruby Meadowhawks

There were not many butterflies, but this Eastern Comma caught my eye right out of the parking lot.

Comma Butterfly, McGinnis

Comma Butterfly, McGinnis

I’ll be back with a word or two from the Chicago Portage.

Lake Katharine

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Last Sunday morning I managed to get up early and find Lake Katharine, which is directly south from where I live. Dick Riner mentioned it to me when I visited Bartel Grasslands, so I decided to check it out. It’s part of the Cook County Forest Preserve system. Although it’s surrounded by suburban sprawl, it has a variety of well-managed habitats and I will return.

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

I started out walking east from the parking lot to take in the prairie/grassland portion. It was overcast and a bit cool so there wasn’t a lot of activity yet, but I was not planning on staying long anyway since I had a cousins’ lunch to attend in the afternoon.

Is this Purple Loosestrife?

Is this Purple Loosestrife?

Japanese Beetle on Thistle

Japanese Beetle on Thistle.

I didn’t manage to visit the Nature Center this time but I will on my next visit. According to the website, Lake Katharine has many educational and volunteer programs in place to get people involved with nature. I was just enjoying the scenery like this huge sunflower and imagining how many goldfinches would be hanging upside down on it as soon as the seeds ripen.

Sunflower 7-13-14-2732Sunflower Seeds 7-13-14-2735

Out of the wildflowers and heading toward the west end of the lake, I walked a path with a wooded area which is where I encountered the Black-Crowned Night Heron at the beginning of the post. It landed in a tree not too far away, but when it saw me it spent time trying to hide behind whatever branches were between us. I guess when he figured out I wasn’t going to leave until I got a picture with all of his head in it, he gave in.

Dragonflies were one reason why I came, but I was able to barely photograph only this one and I don’t know what it is, fledgling dragonfly observer that I am. I don’t think the picture offers enough detail to be absolutely certain.

Dragonfly - Pond Hawk 7-13-14-1312

Male Blue Dasher – thanks for the ID, Linda!

Grass 7-13-14-2712

Unknown Grass

Froggies 7-13-14-1314

Froggies?

I’m also soliciting identification of the grass – I gave up after clicking on a list with links to pictures and descriptions of maybe 100 different grasses that occur in Illinois.

When I got to the water and stopped to look, the shallows seemed to be bubbling with life. Occasionally I did see bubbles but for the most part I felt as if I was being watched by a couple hundred eyes from submerged frogs. I am not good at identifying frogs so I have no idea if they were really frogs or my overactive imagination.

American Robin

American Robin

Robins are everywhere, busy with their nests and most likely working on a second clutch. I have seen juvenile Robins but this adult felt like posing with a grub. A few robins are still singing a phrase here and there.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

I saw the Great Egret before the Caspian Tern. I went around the trail to get a closer look at the egret and started talking with another Dick who was also taking pictures. He works at Lake Katherine and maintains the grounds, which is too huge a task for me to imagine. The tern flew over us as we were talking. According to Dick the tern has been making an appearance daily.

GREG 7-13-14-1398When I did finally get close enough for a better picture of the egret, it decided it had had enough of posing and scratched an itch.

GREG 7-13-14-1407I am going to sleep early so I can get up and join the Evanston North Shore Bird Club’s field trip to Rollins Savanna in Grayslake, Illinois. It will take me an hour to get there, even at 5:30 in the morning. Rollins was on my list of places to visit, I haven’t been there in a couple years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the entire place, but a four-hour field trip should cover it all and satisfy my curiosity. (Oh, and it’s good for the car to get some exercise beyond running local errands. I need motivation to get up at 3:00 a.m.)

Summer Doldrums

Flower 6-22-14-1870Apologies are in order, I suppose. I have been a blogging laggard.

Grasshopper 6-22-14-1876

Two-Striped Grasshopper

Baby Grasshopper 6-22-14-1880

Baby Two-Striped Grasshopper

After struggling to manage a post all week I’m not doing any better this weekend. There seem to be too many other things that have to get done, and then that stuff that really gets in the way, like sleeping and eating.

Dragonfly 6-22-14-1955

Blue Dasher

So this is a little picture postcard from last Sunday at McGinnis (this Sunday has yet to be processed). Weekends have been hot and steamy. I suspect I move a little slower in the heat. Maybe my brain does too.

Meadowhawk or Skimmer 6-22-14-1862

Unidentified Meadowhawk

Butterfly 6-22-14-1942

Red-Spotted Purple

Moth 6-22-14-1913Meadowhawk 6-22-14-0276Dragonfly 6-22-14-1951Dragonfly 6-22-14-0268

With any luck I will add identities to some of these creatures tomorrow.

I hope to start making up for all of this over the holiday. Thanks for your patience!

Update 7-10-14: My friend Linda Padera who has been paying attention to butterflies and dragonflies a lot longer than I have weighed in on my butterfly ID and I have corrected it to Red-Spotted Purple. She said the clear-winged Meadowhawks are difficult to pin down but “Striped” was not an option in this part of the country so I have changed it to “Unidentified” after checking some sources on the Internet that have not helped me to determine whether it was a Ruby or White-Faced Meadowhawk, the two most likely choices. This is harder than birds!