I participated in the Christmas Bird Count on December 19th. It was a cloudy, cool day. Not great for photographs, or for a lot of birds either, at least where I was, but it was good to see more people participating. I took both cameras with me, not knowing what I expected to do with either one of them.
If I start thinking about how long it has taken me to get back to finishing this post I won’t do it, so strike that thought and keep going. Below is a look at how the Fox River looked that morning.
I started out with the mirrorless and managed to get a rather nice view of this Red-bellied Woodpecker. Actually all the bird pictures in this post were taken with the little camera. I didn’t have to fuss around with adjusting for no light as much.
At some point we had stopped to listen for birds and saw this amazing honeycomb hanging from a tree.
We had Downy Woodpeckers (below) and a Hairy as well.
It was almost not worth taking these photos of flying geese but you can appreciate just how dark and gloomy it was.
Learning more tree bark – this is a cherry tree, which the person who identified it said it looks like “potato chips.” I guess.
The Cedar Waxwings were the most cheerful sight.
It’s hard to motivate myself to do anything beyond the have-to’s, these days. In particular, after the coup attempt – which is hard not to take personally – as much as I want to continue hoping I can exude a positive vibe that will land somewhere it’s needed, it’s hard to fight sheer exhaustion. But this comes and goes in waves. It’s been cold and gloomy too, which does not help. Time to get up and do something! I need to play some piano every day for the birds. Music is life.
I’m adding this White-Breasted Nuthatch that somehow didn’t make it into a Portage post of October pictures. Another mirrorless capture.
I’m not making any promises about when I’ll be back, but sooner or later I’m sure I will. It’s been confusing to be anywhere lately. Everything has a veneer of unreality to it. Maybe it’s just time to start asking the old questions again, even if we still can’t answer them.
After reading about the irruption of Pine Siskins for weeks, I kept wondering how I could have possibly missed seeing them. The species showed up in my yard for the first time in January of this year and I fondly remembered their cheery presence. I thought I might have seen one or two last week but I couldn’t be sure, and had to discount it as wishful thinking. Then last Sunday morning as I stood on the back porch, there they were. Only two of them, but they were all I needed to restore my faith in something. They didn’t stay long. Maybe they were playing hooky from some large flock somewhere.
The House Sparrows outnumber everybody else, of course.
Last Saturday was the first time I dared go out with my usual camera setup. The camera weighs two pounds and the lens is another three and a half. It doesn’t sound like a lot of weight but it’s dense and massive. Then there’s the issue of adjusting the focus with my left hand. My fingers are still slightly swollen and stiff, and I can’t maneuver entirely without pain. But I am in the painful stage of physical therapy now so I may as well enjoy my suffering and take pictures.
I had come to see if there were Sandhill Cranes – and there were, a few – but the skies were dominated by Canada Geese. Unfortunately the owners of the surrounding farms were hunting them. I didn’t see any fall from the sky but I wasn’t looking either, it was bad enough to hear the gunshots. Something else to think about when I visit this place in the fall.
Some flora caught my eye.
The first two birds I saw on the trail going in were Cedar Waxwings.
It was nice to see this young White-crowned Sparrow.
So there were some Sandhills. I won’t be able to get back up there this year to see hundreds or thousands that sometimes come through, but I did have a good time talking with a crane enthusiast who visits there a lot and knows their habits. He said he was waiting for a big push of cold weather from Wisconsin and that would bring down a lot of cranes. He is hoping to see a Whooping Crane this year.
Not a lot of land birds but it was a beautiful morning. I was surprised to see the Blue Jay arrive and announce himself, and pose for a couple pictures.
Below are the last pictures I took the previous Saturday morning at the Portage, with the mirrorless camera. It takes nice photographs, but I haven’t figured out how to get it to focus all the time.
So I was frustrated when I saw the Blue-headed Vireo below so well, but I couldn’t get the camera to see it as clearly as I did.
My closest shot of one of the Sandhills from Goose Lake Natural Area…
Between work, physical therapy, waking up to this, that, or the other pain, trying not to let the news cycle interrupt a deeper thought process, there have been moments of peace and flashes of contentment, even a little creativity. I have missed seeing more birds and autumn color. This is usually my favorite time of year. I am looking forward to setting the clocks back so there will be more light in the morning. My indoor birds are good sports. They are helping me write a song about looking for an answer to a question I haven’t figured out yet.
i kept struggling to write this post. In the meantime of course I have made more visits to the Portage. Maybe I can write this post now that I won’t be taking pictures for a while.
I was halfway into my morning walk today when I encountered someone walking toward me, about a block away. At that point I could not see that he was walking his dog, but he was not changing his path, so I started walking toward curbside to give us social distance. I tripped and fell suddenly on my left elbow. I could not get up, even with the dog walker’s help. So he called 911 and a nice woman from across the street offered me water. By this time I saw what I caught my shoe on – a circular piece of metal a little over a foot in diameter, strewn in the curb of the parkway: a perfect trap.
I’ll cut to the chase since I can’t type very well with one hand. I was taken to the emergency room because I became weak from the shock, x-rays were taken, and I have a broken elbow.
I am feeling much better, save the fact that I can’t go swimming and I can’t play piano, and I may have to take up dictation at this hunt-and-peck rate. In any event I saw an orthopedic surgeon this afternoon and he recommended surgery to stabilize the joint and attached tendon, because of my active lifestyle. Apparently the healing process will be faster as well as more efficient. I await a scheduling phone call.
Now on to some late August photos. I won’t be commenting so much… These photographs are from August 22, as I try to catch up with all my visits.
I think this was my last capture of a male Indigo Bunting for the season. The one below looks a little worse for wear. He was hanging out with a bunch of juveniles.
There were some Cedar Waxwings to be seen as well.
An Osprey flew over…
And less surprising, a Turkey Vulture
It was nice to see a Hairy Woodpecker. There are always Downies.
Miscellaneous Portage photos… the statue on a hot, dry day; the trail with towering growth on either side, which makes it increasingly difficult to avoid cyclists; an unidentified caterpillar; ripening poke weed berries; a strange, strangly-looking plant.
Black-capped Chickadees seem to be around as we head into fall. I have missed them on several earlier occasions.
American Goldfinches are everywhere now.
I’m not sure all these new formatting options are worthwhile, but it was one way to use all these photos of a juvenile House Wren.
I hope to be back soon with more from various localities. I have two Saturday bird walks coming up and it remains to be seen whether I can lead them. I don’t get many pictures on these occasions anyway, but it would like to witness at least some fall migration.
After groveling about making the long drive all the way up to McHenry County around Memorial Day, I went back on July 5th to celebrate my birthday and then again on July 25th. Needless to say now I’m getting used to the drive and the trail and I may have a hard time staying away before October which is when I plan to go back for Sandhill Cranes that purportedly congregate in the fallow farm fields.
I feel like I could start giving some of the individual birds names, like the Willow Flycatcher at the top of the post. I even heard a confirming “fitz-bew” on the last Saturday.
I expected to see more Yellow-headed Blackbirds. On the fifth, the males were really too far away for decent photographs, but I did get to see a female close to the observation deck. I went back on the 25th because I wanted to see many juveniles like I did years ago, but I couldn’t find one Yellow-headed Blackbird anywhere. I must have just missed them. But that’s okay, because I saw some other interesting birds, and it’s just so peaceful to be there. In fact on the second visit when I got there, I had the whole place to myself. I didn’t stay long though because it was very hot.
I found the Gallinule below in my photographs from both visits. This is a great place to go if you carry a spotting scope. But I don’t have the energy to carry a scope and a telephoto lens. Perhaps I should rethink my philosophy of cutting corners. For instance, the combination of two visits in this blog post – it’s becoming evident as I write it that it’s entirely too long.
I did see a pair of Sandhill Cranes on each visit. I have not seen any with offspring, which is a bit disappointing.
Another “only in my photos” discovery – a last Black Tern seen on the 5th. Well, my camera saw it.
Here’s the turtle covered with duck weed that appeared in the background of one of the Yellow-headed Blackbird photos above. If you click on the pictures you can see how the duck weed makes it look like something from another planet.
There are still a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds here and everywhere. They are in no hurry to leave, I suppose, because they won’t have so far to go in the fall.
I was hoping I would find a Yellow-headed Blackbird when I blew this up but it turned out to be a Red-winged Blackbird. That’s okay, it’s kind of nice to see the feather pattern, albeit faded. Below the photo, two different Red-winged calls I heard on these visits.
The “other” blackbird – Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Dragonflies like this place.
On both occasions there were swallows, but in particular on the 25th there seemed to be a lot of them. It was nice to see the Bank Swallows – I don’t see them very often.
The Song Sparrow below was on the 5th. There are two more individuals further down the post whose songs I recorded and put underneath their photographs.
This Yellow Warbler was the last one I saw, on the 5th.
I am quite sure this is probably the same Great Blue Heron, although the photos are from both occasions.
I always seem to startle this Great Egret, which must have been right by the viewing platform as I approached.
A Green Heron flew by twice on the 25th.
Here’s Song Sparrow No. 1 and Song Sparrow No. 2. Song Sparrows reportedly have thousands of songs so it’s not unusual that they were singing different tunes…
And another singer I was happy to record – and manage to photograph, as they are often elusive in the marsh – a Marsh Wren.
My most cooperative subject at this location has been a Willow Flycatcher.
There were a couple distant Wild Turkeys hanging out not far from the Sandhills on the 25th.
Always happy to see a Monarch Butterfly… – I stand corrected. The two on the left are Viceroys!
I think it might be a ground squirrel on the left… there are holes on the trail that look perfect for a ground squirrel. But they could both be Chipmunks…
I found this feather interesting on my walk back to the car on the 25th. I thought it might belong to a hawk or a turkey, even, but none of the extensive feather identification webpages have given me the answer. My first thought was a crow, actually. Maybe I should go with that…