Red-tail Rescue

I’ve been working on another post but it will have to wait. (“We pause to interrupt our general programing with a special announcement.”) This morning’s excitement at The Chicago Portage is too precious not to share immediately. I am still in awe of the entire experience.

It was a fairly crappy morning to be out, with a hint of drizzle oozing out of the cloud cover. I didn’t expect to get decent photographs of anything but I took the camera with me anyway. It was several minutes before I heard even one bird sound.

But the moment I approached the first bridge closest to Harlem Avenue – the same bridge where we saw the Wilson’s Snipe last week – my attention was immediately drawn to a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a log over the water.

The bird was very still. I figured it was hunting, so I did not proceed in its direction. I took a few more photos and decided to walk the middle trail.

There were hardly any birds to be seen. At first I thought that was because of the Red-tail, but it probably had as much if not more to do with the weather. I did manage to scare up the usual flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows, Northern Cardinals and hangers-on, but it wasn’t possible to focus on any of them, and I was still curious about the Red-tail. I continued to walk around the circular path that eventually leads back to the bridge.

I encountered a young woman also walking the same direction and told her about the hawk. When we both approached, it had its back toward us.

I now began to suspect there was something wrong with it. It just didn’t make sense that it would still be sitting there, and the more I observed its behavior, I was convinced it was not well. Generally, a puffed-up appearance indicates an attempt to keep warm. Although it was cold this morning it wasn’t windy. For what it’s worth, the bird also appeared to be a juvenile.

Just about then, Bob showed up, and we were soon both sharing our observations. I decided to call for help. I took a picture with my cell phone and sent a message to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors hotline. I figured even if they did not have someone to rescue the bird, they would know of other people in the area who could do that sort of thing. While we texted back and forth and Bob and I talked, standing in the drizzly cold watching the bird, I took more photographs.

Perhaps as a response to our attention, the bird decided to move off its perch and try somewhat solid, if wet, ground. It was wobbly on its feet though.

After taking a sip of the water and sitting in it for a few moments, the hawk might have understood me when I started to admonish it for sitting in cold water, for it started to move to another perch.

One nice view of its red tail…

Here’s how the bird last looked before I had to leave for a service appointment with the car dealer.

I went back to the Portage after the service appointment, and just as I parked and got out of my car, I noticed a vehicle and its driver who was half out of the car. It turned out to be Nora from Chicago Bird Collision Monitors. Perfect timing! She said she was just about to call me to see if I could come and show her where the bird was. We walked in, and the hawk had moved a bit farther away from the water, which made it easier to capture.

I took a video with my cell phone of Nora walking slowly through the vegetation with her big net and then placing it over the bird fairly easily. But I don’t want to post it without her permission, so if I hear back from her soon I will ask. I hope to find out what was wrong with the hawk. When I talked with Annette over the phone earlier, she enumerated several possibilities: head trauma, avian flu, West Nile virus, rodenticide from eating poisoned prey.

In any event, when Nora put the hawk into a travel box I got to help her by closing the door. It was also delightful sharing stories with her about birds, and she is a pianist, too. She said she specializes in capturing hawks. I feel so lucky to have witnessed her technique! She then took the hawk to Willowbrook Wildlife Center Clinic. I hope to hear about the diagnosis and the bird’s prospects.

I will be back with “regular programming” soon.

Brown Creeper Confusion

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

I was late getting in to work this morning.  The birds made me do it.

First, I found a dead Hermit Thrush at 123 N. Wacker, the same building where I found the stunned Hermit Thrush last week. It was windy and chilly this morning, so I should not have been surprised, I suppose, but I hate to see dead birds. What a beautiful bird it was too; could not have been dead long. At any rate, what else to do but pull out one of my trusty paper bags and call Chicago Bird Collision Monitors? They were very busy and my ca;; went straight through to voice mail.

Brown Creeper IMG_9499_1

Then at 155 N. Wacker right near the entrance to the building, which has an enormous glass-walled facade underneath a portico, I found a stunned Brown Creeper. It’s amazing to me how many people walked by and did not even stop to look at this little gem. He was alive and at first having none of me catching him and putting him into a bag, so I stayed with him as he tried to catch a spider. The spider escaped and I tried to edge it back toward the bird but the spider was having none of it. I started emptying my bag to use it as a net, but the creeper was wise to that and started flying up against the big glass wall until he became exhausted. That was when I caught him more easily and, thinking I was going into work and the Bird Collision Monitors were too busy, I took him over to the albeit-not-so-great trees in the mini-park at 155 N. Wacker. He seemed okay with that and he flew to the trunk of the first tree.

I was then in my usual spot checking out the White-Throated Sparrow population and  decided to walk around the back to where there is a bike rack. One White-Throated Sparrow was calling from a bush there. I was then ready to leave, figuring I had seen everybody, when I encountered a stunned Hermit Thrush on the sidewalk. I could not imagine missing him, so he must have just hit the building while I was visiting the sparrow. The thrush was easy to pick up in that state, so I put him in a bag to keep him warm and out of trouble, affixed a paper clip to the top, and called the monitors again. I knew now I was going to stay and wait for help, however long it took.

The monitor taking calls rang me back and said they would send someone right over. Soon Nancy called me and said she was on Wacker Drive in front of the building. I walked over and delivered the two thrushes. One dead, one alive. I watched as she labeled them and made sure she had the correct information for each bird. We chatted a little and I left.

But then I found a Brown Creeper, most likely the same one, splayed on the sidewalk by the windows. I reached down, picked him up, and headed back to Wacker Drive, running north, yelling, “Nancy, Nancy!” When Nancy turned around, I met her with the Brown Creeper. She opened up a little bag to receive him and I reached in with my hand to release him – and he would not let go. He clung on to my warm finger with his tiny foot. I told him he had to leave, that Nancy would take good care of him, and he finally let go with a little prodding from me. I wonder if by then he might have decided his fate was inextricably connected to mine. I trust Nancy got him to a better place where he found his bearings and continued on his journey south.

Here’s a picture of a Brown Creeper I took last week or so, who was not lost.

Brown Creeper IMG_7743_1

And another this afternoon, at Lake Shore East Park.

 Brown Creeper IMG_9574_1

Hermit Thrushes Everywhere

Hermit Thrush IMG_9137_1Whose idea was it to call these friendly guys Hermit Thrushes? Maybe on their breeding and wintering grounds they are reclusive, but in fall migration they are downright gregarious. It may be a safety-in-numbers thing going on, but I have had Hermit Thrushes literally come out to see me day after day this past week.

Hermit Thrush IMG_9073_1

Early in the week on my way into work I found one Hermit Thrush who was definitely not in good shape. That’s him below, seeking solace by my shoe box which I had taken out of my bag so I could extract my cell phone and place a call for his rescue. While we waited for a Chicago Bird Collision Monitor, I took this picture, and then put him inside one a paper bag for the monitor.

Hermit Thrush IMG_8675_1

If you want to do a little more reading on Hermit Thrushes follow this link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I just learned something from it: of all the thrush species we see in migration, Hermit Thrushes are the only ones to live in the U.S. I guess that means however far they migrate, they will just winter somewhere south of us until spring. That also explains to me why they tend to come through later than the other species and also why they seem to be taking their time before moving on.

So here are a couple more pictures of different individuals. They do seem to prefer shady spots.

Hermit Thrush IMG_9145_1

Hermit Thrush IMG_9129_1

Flesh, Feathers and Bone

Juvenile Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Tuesday afternoon while I was taking pictures of this Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker at Lake Shore East Park, so thrilled that I was seeing it with two or three others flitting about in the trees that surround the children’s enclosed play area, a woman stopped to pull her little dog away from something it was interested in. I looked down shocked to see a very dead Lincoln’s Sparrow the sapsuckers had distracted me from. (I picked it up and put it in my bag to get it off the sidewalk, but it was too late in the day to call the collision monitors. It’s now at home in the freezer. Hard to say what caused its death, but its head flopped about as if its neck was broken.)

Then Wednesday morning on the way in I found a dead sapsucker on the sidewalk by 155 North Wacker. I called the collision monitors but they were frantically busy – I was afraid they might not come by the building for another corpse. There were a lot of birds reported on the lakefront that morning, so no doubt there were injured birds that required more attention than dead ones. I hate the carnage that accompanies migration, but this was a reminder that I should be carrying brown paper lunch bags with me again, it’s the only fitting thing to carry a dead bird in. Or a live one that needs assistance, for that matter.

As it turned out, all is well. Wednesday late afternoon a bird collision monitor called me at my work number and I went down and delivered the dead sapsucker. She gave me a special paper bag with instructions and a paper clip to fold it and keep it closed, should I find any more birds on the way home. As it turns out, I have been carrying paper bags with me two days now and have found no more corpses or birds in distress. But I remain prepared.

I then stopped at the security desk to find out if they had given the flicker from the balcony on the 46th floor to the bird collision monitor the day before and when the guard suddenly remembered it, she said “the pretty bird” with emphasis. Yes indeed. And I am impressed with the diligence of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors team.

Here are pictures of some live birds! Two species that have been numerous in the lakefront parks this past week. Hermit Thrushes – I have yet to figure out why they are called hermits – are always curious whenever I pay attention to them – they run right out to see who’s calling.

Hermit Thrush IMG_7562

Hermit Thrush

Except when they’re busy eating berries off the trees…

Hermit Thrush2 IMG_7591

Hermit Thrush

And White-Throated Sparrows are increasingly everywhere. Every once in a while a youngster breaks into a little subsong. Never too early to practice for next spring.

WT Sparrow IMG_7318_1

White-Throated Sparrow

These little visitors seem to adapt well to the city space.

White-Throated Sparrow IMG_7517

White-Throated Sparrow

The Falcon Returns – Life and Death on the 46th Floor

Mbres360 IMG_7289

Whatever post I had been envisioning to be cobbled from birding the last two weekends or downtown forays during the week has been usurped by Mbres360, the young Peregrine Falcon from my last post.


This morning began very birdy up on the 46th floor. My coworkers drew my attention to a female Golden-Shafted Flicker that had apparently struck the building. She was lying right outside the window on the balcony or ledge down the hall from my office. She looked perfect, except that she was dead. I don’t have it in me to photograph a dead bird; it seems somehow disrespectful. Yet I would volunteer to get her to the Field Museum, where she might be gutted and stuffed. They would do so respectfully, and keep track of her death in their records. If there was a way to get the building maintenance to open the window, I wanted to deliver the Flicker to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and the Field Museum. I ran back to my office and that’s when Kim called to me and said, “Lisa, he’s back.”

Mbres360 IMG_7279

Mbres360 was indeed back. The closer pictures are shot unfortunately through blinds, but still it was easy to see his bands and confirm his identity. He seems to have taken a liking to our rookery-like tower. And he looks bigger and more ferocious than last week.

Mbres360 IMG_7290

After I took these pictures, the Flicker Drama was continuing. I ran back to the other balcony where the maintenance guys had just removed the Flicker into a black plastic bag and it seemed inevitable they would throw it in the trash. Leslie, our office manager, put in a call to the management office to ask them to hold the Flicker until a collision monitor could pick it up. I called Bird Collision Monitors and asked them to introduce themselves to building security; and then the Flicker should be turned over to them. I never heard back, so all I can hope is that they were able to rescue the Flicker from a dumpster burial.

When I went back to Kim’s office the falcon was gone, but Kim said he was after a smaller bird that had also disappeared. Mbres360 has probably figured out he can get an easy meal by looking for stunned birds colliding with our building. He would not be interested in a dead bird, however. Personally I wish him luck, because it seemed way too much trouble to remove the Flicker for an uncertain outcome. I shudder to think what it would have been like to try to rescue a bird that was still alive under those circumstances. Not that I wouldn’t try…

Mbres360 IMG_7287

City Stopovers

Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Fall is suddenly upon us with cooler temperatures, shorter days, and finally some rain. It has been raining all day today, true to the weather predictions which the past couple weeks have not held, at least in my neighborhood. So we were pretty dry until now. I finally gave in to reality and decided to get caught up on indoor chores, rather than go out on the migrant quest. But over the past week there have been birds arriving at the two spots I can visit regularly downtown, 155 North Wacker Drive on my way in to work and Lake Shore East Park on my lunch hour, in particular on Friday after the cold front pushed more birds down to us.

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush, 155 N. Wacker Drive

Tennessee Warbler behind glass at 155 North Wacker deli

Tennessee Warbler behind glass at 155 North Wacker deli

At 155 North Wacker I never know where I’m going to see birds, so the waterthrush flew up onto the top of a wall on Wednesday, and on Friday, the Tennessee Warbler was stuck inside the deli. I called the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors without realizing I had not told them exactly where I was but by the time they got there the worker inside the deli whom I had been trying to help get the bird down and out the door managed to catch the warbler in something net-like, brought it out to me, and as soon as I could say “it’s fine” the Tennessee escaped his hand and flew into the trees. I would have rather gotten a picture of him free, but he was not having anything to do with us after all that.

Female American Redstart, Lake Shore East

Female American Redstart, Lake Shore East Park

Redstarts have been most abundant. Of course this time of year a lot of them look more like Yellowstarts. The first year males are distinguishable from the females such as the one above by their more brightly-colored feathers and the prescient orange look to the yellow on the side of the breast. The young male below was a bit puffed-out looking through a lot of the shots; I hope he’s feeling better.

First-Year Male American Redstart

First-Year Male American Redstart

Swainson’s Thrushes have also been here and there. Not as many as I would have seen in the larger park space but still you could pretty much count on seeing or hearing one somewhere.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush, Lake Shore East Park

Below is a not great picture of what may be the first Blackpoll I’ve seen this fall. There were other shots that fill out the whole bird a bit more but none as revealing. That’s one thing about taking pictures of warblers. You might end up with the tail feathers in one picture and the breast or head in another. Or you might just get a good look at the underside.

Blackpoll Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Blackpoll Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Below is a Female Wilson’s Warbler. Again not a great picture but a nice bird to see, nevertheless.

Female Wilson's Warbler, 155 N. Wacker Drive

Female Wilson’s Warbler, 155 N. Wacker Drive

Friday there were at least a dozen Palm Warblers foraging in the grass and in the trees in Lake Shore East Park.

Palm Warbler, Lake Shore  East Park

Palm Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

The third most common bird has been Magnolia Warbler. Below is what looks to me like a nice first-year male.

Magnolia Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Magnolia Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

If I can get up early tomorrow I might try the lakefront before work. If nothing else, I owe my crows a visit.