Cool and Cloudy at the Portage

In case you didn’t get to meet this Indigo Bunting last year, allow me to introduce Tadziu – I have given him the name that is pasted on the back of the “Bike Path” sign on which he sits in this photograph – as yesterday morning he sat and sang and posed for me. Last year I often saw him singing from the tree that hangs over the entrance to the bridge which facilitates the bike path referred to in this sign. I would also see him sitting on the bridge itself and singing, as well as on the sign. He is the most enthusiastic advocate for a territory I have ever seen.

A snippet of his song is below. I recorded it last week. I realized yesterday that although all Indigo Buntings basically sing the “same” song, it seemed I could distinguish his when he sang it. Or it may just be that I know where to expect to hear him. Either way, he always sings in my presence and we are friends.

Indigo Bunting

Here’s a few more of Tadziu being a ham.

I was very happy to see a male Orchard Oriole, however briefly. I saw another later but did not manage to photograph it. I hope this means they are nesting at the Portage. I have seen them only occasionally every year. But I have to keep reminding myself that the more I go out, likely the more I will see.

Here’s how the Chicago Portage looks now.

I expect to hear Yellow Warblers but I don’t always see them. I waited for this one to emerge because I could hear him quite clearly. If you’re hopping around in the treetops and you’re bright yellow, eventually you will be seen.

Also seen, but silent, was a Downy Woodpecker exploring a beautiful round hole.

Just as I saw a Green Heron perched over the water, it flew and I followed it with the camera, then found it again later where it was sitting.

I walked back along the gravel road by the MWRD for a bit to see what was going on there.

I found a Cedar Waxwing with its back toward me and managed to get it to turn around slightly.

There was a pair of Eastern Kingbirds sallying about for insects.

There’s a lot – a terrible, horrific lot – of Poison Hemlock growing in several spots and it stinks to walk through. One does not have to touch it and I certainly don’t for obvious reasons. But another plant that takes over the wetter areas – Butterweed – is a more welcome sight.

I found this Indigo Bunting in the hemlock of all places.

Another invasive that has been battled for years is Burdock. This tiny, colorful fly looked even tinier on a huge leaf.

Young American Robins are starting to show up on their own while adults keep a watchful eye.

Another view – this of the “island”.

Here are two more photos of the Yellow Warbler who, with Tadziu, brightened up my morning.

We are still cool with lows in the 50’s, which is very comfortable to me, but it looks like temperatures will start to heat up next week. We have been getting some rain, but I wonder how much we will get later. I think we are still making up for last year’s drought. I’ll be back.

More Warblers and Others

This is the last of the fallout warblers from Tuesday morning but I have added a few more to my migration sightings, so I will have to round those up next. I suspect that after feasting most if not all the warblers I encountered on Tuesday resumed their journey to their breeding grounds, with no interruption from the weather to slow them down. And some of the Yellow Warblers will be staying.

There were only a few Black-throated Green Warblers.

Warbling Vireos are abundant but will not be so easy to see once the leaves take over.

The White-breasted Nuthatches have been noticeably quiet, so I can’t count them until I see them.

There was still enough water left in the fluddle for the two Solitary Sandpipers that were hanging out,

Scarlet Tanagers are always noticeable. I have seen them several times this season so I will be back with more captures.

Remember Palm Warblers? I think they are probably all gone but there were still several on Tuesday.

A few more of the last Palm Warblers…

Here’s the female Blackpoll Warbler that Vera identified after it snuck in with the Palms. Thanks, Vera!

A warbler I don’t see very often, a Northern Waterthrush, is a likely bird around the river.

Below is the last Pine Warbler I saw. They were earlier than other species but now are considered late. According to my Sibley app this is a likely first-year female.

Gray Catbirds have been very easy to see this spring. They’ve been quite vocal too.

Finally there’s food for flycatchers.

Eastern Phoebe

There were two Eastern Kingbirds sallying for prey from high perches over the river that day.

It was nice to see a couple Cedar Waxwings. While I once say them kiting for insects in large numbers, more likely I will see them congregating in fruiting trees later.

I’m always up for a Blue Jay if it’s sitting still.

I will be back with more warblers and other species as spring migration continues. In a way I am thankful things have slowed down a bit.

Falling Back

Blizzard conditions are keeping me inside and I am tired of winter, so now I have some photographs from last September 16 at the Chicago Portage.

Before I continue, here’s what it looked like yesterday late afternoon in my yard. The birds quickly got over their spring fever and came back to the feeders in the driving snow.

The sun is shining almost too brightly this morning and the freshly-fallen snow is reflecting it. After putting the feeders back out and shoveling the accumulation that was left, I was not eager to go out for a walk in the bitter cold. I will get enough cold tomorrow at the Gull Frolic.

Back in September, there were some fall warblers, like the Nashville Warbler below complementing the Goldenrod.

Even the “regulars” looked better in September.

Cedar Waxwings were all over the pokeberries.

Looking forward to the transformation back into this below.

I was a bit amused by this Red-eyed Vireo who seemed to be contemplating making lunch out of what I think was a spider.

Indigo Buntings below – a female, and then what appears to be a transforming male.

I am curious to see what warbler species will predominate this year. There were a lot of Bay-breasted Warblers last fall.

I can expect to see American Redstarts this spring.

Swainson’s Thrush

After trying to no avail to convince myself that I should be feeling better, go out, brave the sunshine for a brief walk and maybe swim earlier, something seemed to be pulling me back. A few aches and pains? Maybe, but that hardly ever stops me. I sat down on the futon with some coffee to assess my mood and continue with this post. Then I heard a thud as a Zebra Finch fell out of a hut onto the top of a cage. This is not normal. Birds don’t fall. It was a hen who seems to be unwell and she will likely go quickly. It didn’t take the males long to figure out she was compromised and they tried to take advantage of her. I jumped up to rescue her and scooped her up easily enough by hand as she wasn’t really able to fly. I held her close to my heart for a moment and then put the poor girl in the bottom of the former budgie cage which is a smaller space for her to rest in peace, so to speak. Maybe my lack of resolve this morning was a response to her waning energy. Whatever it is, I was glad to save her from torture in her last hours. She has since left the cage but is defending herself against assault: I will keep my eye on her. My coffee is getting cold.

Two Days of Retirement

To celebrate August 31st being my last official day of work, I went to the Portage two mornings in a row, to look for the first signs of fall migration. I didn’t see an awful lot of species on either visit, but there were some nice looks. Best of all was feeling really free to take my time and not worry about checking my work email. I still have to get used to waking up in the dark, though, because I have walks to lead every Saturday in September and October.

Of course the obvious draw this time of year is the fall warblers passing through on their way south from their breeding grounds in the north. I didn’t see a lot of species and missed a couple, but so far I have seen a few warblers each day. They behave differently on their way back to their wintering grounds. They are not foraging in flocks and they are in less of a hurry. So while they may be harder to spot at times, it’s easier to concentrate on one bird at a time. Below are a couple American Redstarts.

I felt lucky to find this Bay Breasted Warbler in my photographs.

Magnolia Warbler, also at the head of this post

One of my favorites, a Chestnut-Sided Warbler, was being rather coy.

Not a warbler, but a nice to see Red-Eyed Vireo both days. The bottom photograph was taken the second day when the Vireo was eating poke berries with the Cedar Waxwings.

Thursday morning I managed to capture enough photographs of the Orange-Crowned Warbler below to justify my claim that I had seen one, since it’s very early for this species.

I just barely captured this Nashville Warbler.

Wednesday was cloudy.

Large flocks of Cedar Waxwings were present on both days.

Some closer views of the Waxwings Thursday, when they were busy eating poke berries.

Below is a beautiful wasp’s nest. I have a slightly smaller one in my crabapple tree this year as well…

Something else that I had a lot of in my yard before I removed nearly all of it, below, is Common Beggar Ticks which is native, and an annual – but doesn’t bloom until now.

On the first day I did manage to capture the Swainson’s Thrush below. I also saw a Wood Thrush but that photograph isn’t presentable.

Robins are looking scruffy this time of year. Most of them are juveniles.

When I first walked in on Thursday, there was a deer at the end of the paved path, and then a Cooper’s Hawk with prey landed in a tree above me, but I didn’t see what it had captured.

Unfortunately this Ruby-Throated Hummingbird was completely backlit in bright sunshine but it was still nice to see it perch right in front of me.