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.

Spring, Summer, Fall – Which is it?

BWTE McGinnis 4-23-2016-7010

Blue-Winged Teal

It seems we have been through all the seasons in the course of one week. But in spite of the weather, the days are getting longer and although my efforts to observe spring migration have been limited, I still have a post within me struggling to get written.

I went to McGinnis Slough on Saturday. It was overcast but warmer than the past couple days, and not yet the predicted 80 degrees for Sunday. Sunday birding was out of the question anyway as I was singing with the Unity Temple Choir. More about that below.

The surprise right off the parking lot was to see several Great Egrets fishing and a couple Great Blue Herons as well. I expect to see these birds this time of year, but to have so many on the viewer’s side of the slough was what surprised me, although I did not get close enough for great shots because I didn’t want to risk disturbing them anymore than I already was…

Passerines were few and far between.

There were distant American White Pelicans although a couple came in for a second or two.

Among American Coots, Ring-Necked Ducks, a couple Buffleheads and a Scaup or two there were several Northern Shovelers.

Above, a surprise visit from a Muskrat, and a Double-Crested Cormorant drying off.

Maybe my best captures were the Caspian Terns.

Caspian Tern McGinnis 4-23-2016-6863

Caspian Tern McGinnis 4-23-2016-6861At opposite ends of the slough, I ran into two other individual birders and we exchanged information. The second one suggested I go to the newest section of Orland Grasslands to look for Lapland and Smith’s Longspurs. I find it a bit funny that I exchanged names with neither of these people, but it’s probably all any of us can do to talk to each other with the distraction of looking for birds first and foremost in our minds.

Orland 4-23-2016-7143

A section of Orland Grasslands

By the time I got to Orland there were no Longspurs that I could see, but I did have a couple Horned Larks. Next time I’ll go there first and maybe get luckier.

A well-camouflaged Killdeer was present also…

Killdeer Orland 4-23-2016-7096And more Caspian Terns.

Caspian Terns Orland 4-23-2016-7108As for Sunday’s choir performance, below is the poster that tells it all.

Beatitude Mass for the HomelessThis beautiful and moving experience will be part of me for a long time to come. And in a moment of reflection later, about the unifying experience while we were singing, I realized maybe I gained an insight into something the birds do all the time…

So I wrote a little poem about it:

 A choir takes flight.
Sopranos, altos, tenors, baritones, basses all come together
As one organism, on the wave of a vibration
One sound with many voices.
Imperceptibly, a slight hesitation explodes rapid-fire through the entirety,
The entrance dangling in the balance,
Just as imperceptibly, swept back into the fold of the music
Like a murmuration of starlings
Carried far above the trappings of gravity
Weightless,
Wait-less,
Into the rafters

Nicaragua IV

Tricolored Heron 02-25-2016-2830Springlike weather is still far enough away for me to feel like I can put myself back in Nicaragua with a few more pictures. But it’s getting harder and harder to go backward! One more of these posts and I’m going to have to move on to spring migration.

The bird above and in the pictures below is a Tri-Colored Heron. We took a boat ride around Lake Nicaragua and managed to see some really nice birds. And despite the rocking of the boat I managed to get some pictures.

I feel like this trip cemented the difference between Snowy Egrets (below) and Great Egrets in my brain so I don’t have to think about it anymore.

Below, Southern Lapwings.

Green Herons…

Caspian Terns…

We pulled up to an island in the lake that has been devoted to a habitat for monkeys. Below are pictures of one Howler Monkey, a Spider Monkey and a Capuchin Monkey.

Sadly we discovered that people were feeding these monkeys bad things like the lollipop the Spider Monkey on the left below is clutching in his hand. I couldn’t tell exactly what one woman was offering to the Capuchin but it appeared to be something like a potato chip.

Back out on the lake, among perched birds were an Osprey and a Black Vulture.

Below, a Northern Jacana.

We came upon a colony of nesting Montezuma’s Oropendolas. Their nests alone are fascinating.

Below is a Little Blue Heron.

Little Blue Heron 2-25-15-2996I will be back with one more post from Nicaragua. I hope soon!

Too Many Distractions

BEKI 4-26-15-9483

Belted Kingfisher – Chicago Portage

I keep trying to get through all the pictures from Colombia and identify everybody who’s recognizable, but life keeps getting in the way…further complicated by signs of spring. Like the Belted Kingfisher above. He seems to have made the stripped-down Chicago Portage his summer home. I have seen him two weekends in a row.

RWBL 4-26-15-9465

RWBL 4-26-15-9464

Red-Winged Blackbird, McGinnis Slough

These pictures were all taken last weekend. I went to McGinnis Slough and the Chicago Portage on Sunday because the weather was reasonable. We’ve been otherwise chilled by northerly wind blasts all week, even going down to freezing one night, I forget which, I only remember having to dump the ice out of the bird baths because I had already unplugged them.

GBHE 4-26-15-9349

Great Blue Herons at McGinnis

Gadwall 4-26-15-9271

Gadwall

Gadwall 4-26-15-9307

Gadwall

GADW 4-26-15-9370

Gadwall – check out the one that’s dabbling – if this is the only part of the bird I see next time I’ll know it’s a Gadwall!

GBHE 4-26-15-9321

Great Blue Heron

Not a lot to photograph at the Slough, most everyone was too far away in the water, but it was nice to hear Soras calling, and to count eleven Great Blue Herons and a lot of Gadwall.

CATE 4-26-15-9406

Caspian Tern

CATE 4-26-15-9410

Also nice to see a Caspian Tern. But perhaps the biggest surprise was a deer making its way across the smaller part of the slough, which I guess gives an idea of how not very deep it is. Below the deer is a Double-Crested Cormorant drying out after a dive.

Doe Going For a Swim 4-26-15-9124

DCCO 4-26-15-9448Something else I don’t know if I’ve ever seen well before – the “ring” on a Ring-Necked Duck’s neck. Click on the picture to see what I mean.

RNDU 4-26-15-9417

Not a lot different happening at the Portage yet… I could have had a substantial turtle count.

WODU 4-26-15-9582

Wood Duck

Turtles 4-26-15-9555

Turtles, Chicago Portage

MALL 4-26-15-9572

Dabbling Mallards

Brown Creepers are always a surprise for some reason.

BRCR 4-26-15-9625

And this Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher was cooperative as long as he felt hidden behind the twigs, which he certainly was.

BGGN 4-26-15-9652

BGGN 4-26-15-9672 BGGN 4-26-15-9686 BGGN 4-26-15-9694Caught the Kingfisher taking a break.

BEKI 4-26-15-9530

Female Red-Winged Blackbirds are starting to arrive, but I don’t have a picture of one from last weekend, so I’m just including this guy-bird again.

RWBB 4-26-15-9185

As far as the Life List Project goes (this proved to be a Major Distraction!), I still have a few more checklists to locate, but at the moment the count is 1,942. I’m trying to count only birds I have seen, so a lot of those Tinamous, Tapaculos and Rails aren’t making it onto my list. But there are also a few species that are not on the app, as hard as I have tried to find them under other common names, so I don’t know if that’s because they’ve been reclassified or split or lumped or what, but in general having the list will probably come in handy on my next far-flung trip and maybe even motivate me to pay more attention. Who knows, if I had time to go through all my pictures from all my trips again I might find even more species… I guess I save that distraction for when I can’t travel anymore. 🙂

More from Middlefork

Red-Winged Blackbird, Middlefork Savanna

Red-Winged Blackbird, Middlefork Savanna

The pictures are from last week at Middlefork Savanna.

I had planned to get up early this morning and go back to McGinnis Slough to pick up where I left off two weeks ago, prepared this time in case of deer flies while doubting seriously I would have any issues with insects at all due to the present cool weather. However, my water heater had a different agenda. Yesterday when I went down to the basement water was pooled in the middle of it to the sound of a trickle coming from somewhere. It wasn’t until I had mopped up four buckets full (and since the water was clean and we’ve had no rain lately, I was dousing the yard with it) that I could get closer to the source and determine it was the water heater. Luckily, I have fantastic neighbors and one of them has great expertise with this sort of thing. I purchased the new water heater this morning and he was done installing it before noon.

Barn Swallows by the bridge

Barn Swallows by the bridge

While my neighbor was working in the basement I was removing lava rock from the side of the house where I am going to plant some Blazing Star in the gaps between the hostas and sedum planted there, and then putting it down next to the chain-link fence where there is just enough soil to grow weeds and grass, which I cleared as I went along. This is a project I have envisioned for years. So in a way, it was good I had to deal with the water heater because it forced me to take advantage of great weather for yard work: cloudy and cool most of the morning.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

When we got back from buying the new appliance, there was a sick House Finch that had planted itself at the bottom of the stairwell to the basement. It was probably the same one I saw on the feeder last night, just sitting there. I think normally the cat that visits my yard would have found it. But I put it all too easily in a cage and called Willowbrook Wildlife Center to see if they would take him. Unfortunately, by the time I could leave the house in the afternoon, the bird was dead. I was not surprised, but I felt bad. Then I thought I would have felt even worse if he had died on the way.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

I had also planned to go to Evanston to see Jason’s open garden but I could not muster the energy by this point. Suffice it to say I don’t take hour-long drives anywhere if I think I’m going to fall asleep in one direction or the other. I am so sorry I missed the opportunity to meet the master gardener. The bucketfuls of lava rock and water must have done me in (and now I am quite sore). After sitting down to write I wound up taking a nap, then woke up to play a bit of piano, and then potted some sage from my yard for my friend Linda.

Goldfinch, Middlefork Savanna

Goldfinch, Middlefork Savanna

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

I recorded this Indigo Bunting singing but the wind noise at Middlefork was so bad I didn’t get a good recording, so I have substituted another bunting from the Portage a week earlier. Maybe it’s sort of like lip-syncing.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake Master

Hedge Bindweed

Hedge Bindweed

For some reason the white flowers were catching my eye.

Double-Crested Cormorants

Double-Crested Cormorants

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Some of the usual suspects, the Cormorants and the Song Sparrow, but it’s still lovely to see them.

Goldfinch 1I2A0707

Goldfinches enjoy thistle so much I am almost tempted to let it grow in my yard. Almost.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

The Barn Swallow above was stretching on one of the Elawa Farm buildings when I first got there.

However much later, after I decided it was time to go, on the way back to my car I suddenly heard a very strange sound, which was so unexpected I might have thought it was somebody’s cell phone or an odd recording coming from wherever. Shortly thereafter I came upon the cages at the back of Elawa Farm and realized I had indeed heard a Kookaburra (think Australia). I didn’t manage to get his song, but I have included a recording that seems to be the standard one on the Internet, with many birds – try to imagine only one calling instead of several.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

There were informative signs about all the captive birds but none divulged the individuals’ origins. Two Kookaburras shared the cage, I believe a pair. I could tell this was the male by his more engaged behavior. At first he shied away but then got curious and came down to pose on his perch. I would have liked to have known what he was doing there. I’ll have to go back when the visitor’s center is open so I can inquire. As far as I know, Kookaburras do not migrate. Even if they did, they certainly would not cross the Pacific ocean to Illinois.

Barn Swallows 7-21-13 Middlefork 1I2A0629A barn swallow and its reflection.

I myself have grown reflective after the water heater’s weekend. 🙂