Big Marsh, Hegewisch Marsh and a Lifer

Least Bittern Big Marsh 07-30-17-6896

Least Bittern at Big Marsh

Last Sunday I joined Chicago Ornithological Society’s trip led by Walter Marcisz to a couple areas he knows so well, far south in the Cook County limits and to which I had never been. So tempting was this offering, there were an almost unmanageable 40 of us. But all went well, thanks to Walter’s skillful leadership.

The photograph above is of a Least Bittern which was a life bird for me. I wish I’d gotten a sharper image but we were all caught quite unawares standing around looking out when suddenly this bird decided it needed to go somewhere, so I consider myself lucky i got it at all. The rest of my shots of this bird have someone’s head in them so maybe that gives you an idea.

The parking lot where we met before taking off for the marshes not far away afforded these two captures below: a Double-Crested Cormorant on a light fixture and two Barn Swallows hanging out on the barbed wire.

The wildflower investigation continues. The plant below seemed to be everywhere at Big Marsh and I think there was some at Hegewisch too although by that time I was so tired of seeing it I may have been ignoring it. Someone identified it as Spotted Knapweed, so I looked it up on my wildflower app and sure enough, it is an invasive, with somewhat nasty properties. If handled a lot it can cause tumors on the hands. Yuck. Made one bee happy however.

Bee on the Invasive Plant Big Marsh 07-30-17-6934I grew tired of trying to figure out the one below but it’s pretty in its isolation. I believe it was at Hegewisch. I didn’t take many pictures at Hegewisch – we weren’t there long. We went to see the Common Gallinules – who used to be Common Moorhens – that have been breeding there this year. We caught glimpses but not much else behind the tall grasses.

Wildflowers Big Marsh 07-30-17-6958I was happy to see Northern Rough-winged Swallows as I have missed seeing them in my usual haunts this year.

More birds in flight. A Killdeer on the left, and a Great Egret on the right.

Always happy to see a Caspian Tern hunting in good view. This was also at Big Marsh where we spent the most time.

And Eastern Kingbirds still seemed to be everywhere.

HOFI Big Marsh 07-30-17-6946

Female House Finch, Big Marsh

As close in proximity as these areas are to the city, they are big enough to afford an unobstructed view of the sky which was gorgeous that day.

Cloudscape Big Marsh 07-30-17-6960One more swallow.

Northern RW Swallow Big Marsh 07-30-17-6950

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

Back very soon with a report from my yard as my wishes are slowly being fulfilled!

Kirtland’s Warblers and Friends

KIWA 05-27-17-3239

Kirtland’s Warbler

Sorry I haven’t been back to the page sooner but I’ve been down with a nasty cold that doesn’t seem to want to go away.  Yet I could speak above a squeak this morning, so I will have to take that as a sign of improvement. Here is a quick post from part of a visit to Michigan with friends over the Memorial Day Weekend. Specifically, these photographs were taken at the Kirtland’s Warbler Restoration Project in Iosco County. We visited this site on the morning of the 27th. The Kirtland’s breeding population is established well enough now at this location to warrant offering tours by the AuSable Valley Audubon Society. Thanks so much to Sam Burckhardt and the Chicago Ornithological Society for another memorable trip.

To go along with the pictures of a singing Kirtland’s above, here is a brief sample of his song:

Kirtland’s Warblers are a fire-dependent species, breeding only in young Jack Pine forests. They winter in the Bahamas. Their fascinating story was chronicled a few years ago by William Rapai, the author of The Kirtland’s Warbler: The Story of a Bird’s Fight Against Extinction and the People Who Saved It

The Kirtland's Warbler: The Story of a Bird's Fight Against Extinction and the People Who Saved It by [Rapai, William]

NAWA 05-27-17-3137

Nashville Warbler

There were also several Nashville Warblers on territory and although they were a bit elusive I did manage to obtain a few distant photos of this one and a clip of him singing as well. To confuse the issue his song is overlapping the Vesper Sparrow’s, which is also below.

Perhaps the unexpected treat for me was a singing Vesper Sparrow. I have not seen these guys too often. A clip of the Vesper Sparrow’s song is below the pictures which were taken at an unfortunate distance. It can be distinguished from the Nashville’s bubbly song by the three introductory notes all at the same pitch.

Perhaps the birds most seen over the weekend were the huge flocks of non-breeding Canada Geese. This is only a small sampling of one flock passing overhead.

Below, a female Orchard Oriole on the left (you have to click on the picture and still look hard to find her, she is so well-camouflaged) and a male Orchard Oriole on the right.

Brown Thrashers were singing quite a bit too, now I’m sorry  didn’t bother to record one. Below is one very cooperative bird.

Now the challenge is to get through another busy weekend and a lot more photographs (and, I hope, a lot less facial tissue). I am trying to stay optimistic! Please have faith, I shall return, lots to share with you.

BRTH 05-27-17-3340

Brown Thrasher

Black-Crowned Night Heron (BCNH) on the Chicago River – Part One

BCNH LaBagh 5-23-15-3229

Black-Crowned Night Heron, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Almost every work morning without fail, even in inclement weather, I have hauled the camera backpack downtown so I could be prepared, should the Black-Crowned Night Heron I have been seeing every spring downtown on the Chicago River show up again. Up until now I have not kept track of its visits on ebird, so I don’t know exactly when I saw it the last two or three years. I did find a picture of a piling in the river from June 4, 2014 on my cell phone, which must have been when I saw it last, but it’s hard to even see if there was a bird in it.

So I did take pictures of a Black-Crowned Night Heron at another part of the Chicago River, specifically LaBagh Woods, on May 23 this year when I joined Chicago Ornithological Society on a field trip. This was the first time I had been to the slough part at LaBagh. I hope I can find the slough again on my own next time I visit. It’s a magical place, reminding me of the Chicago Portage. The rest of the pictures in this post are from the LaBagh trip.

Mallard on Nest, LaBagh

Mallard on Nest, LaBagh Woods

I had all but given up on seeing the Black-Crowned Night Heron downtown, but I have been thinking about him, so I decided to do this post anyway today featuring the other one I saw up river last month.

Great Blue Heron, LaBagh, 5-23-15

Great Blue Heron, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Eastern Phoebe, LaBagh

Eastern Phoebe, LaBagh Woods

As luck would have it, this morning, on the way in, as I was walking north along the river which I have started doing now that the work has been completed that the city or the building owners were doing on the west side between Adams and Madison–there are enough trees and low-lying plants that make me think this could turn out to be a good place to visit during migration–I suddenly saw the downtown Black-Crowned Night Heron flying across the river and landing on the other side! By the time I took out my camera and put it together, it had flown back across the river again, underneath me, to where I could not see it.

Swainson's Thrush, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Swainson’s Thrush, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Eastern Kingbird, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Eastern Kingbird, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

But I did get pictures when it flew again, and I will post them tonight! I find it amusing that I was focused on seeing the heron and then it showed up this morning. Who was sending who messages?

Gray Catbird, LaBagh Woods

Gray Catbird, LaBagh Woods

In previous years I can recall only seeing the downtown heron for one morning, but now I believe anything can happen.

Blue-Gray Gnatcacher on nest, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Blue-Gray Gnatcacher on nest, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Not Just Another Grassland: Bartel

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

I thought to myself earlier in the week, looking forward to birding two grasslands, that by this time I might have had my fill of this type of habitat, but to the contrary, the next places to visit, circling in my mind, are more of the same. Except that they have not been and will not be the same. Yes, I saw some of the same species at Bartel Grassland that were at Goose Lake Prairie. But there were others that were different. And the habitats are remarkably unique within themselves.

Gathering for the Walk

Gathering for the Walk

Of course it was a different experience going on a field trip with the Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) and 15-20 people (it seemed like a large group) than being totally alone. But whatever I lost in being able to record sounds, I probably gained in sightings. And the genial camaraderie of birding with people, some of whom I knew or had encountered before, falling in and out of conversations along the trail, was welcome, and as always, educational.

Prairie Clover

Purple Prairie Clover

I haven’t been to Bartel for years, and then perhaps only twice. It is an ongoing restoration project. Each time I have been with a group and Dick Riner, the site steward, has been available for guidance and comment. I wish I had time to volunteer, to learn more from Dick and to experience the grassland from the ground up as it changes through the seasons. But I’m finding it hard enough to work in my own backyard. And the way Dick tells it, the high school kids are the best volunteers because of their energy physical capabilities. Grassland restoration is hard work!

Great Blue chased by RWBB 7-6-14-0966

Weather-wise we started out overcast and even a bit chilly. But that was not enough to stop a Red-Winged Blackbird from harassing a Great Blue Heron.

RWBB piggybacking on GRBH 7-6-14-0974

Someone mentioned the blackbird was riding piggyback on the heron. I can’t tell if the photograph above captured this or if it was some ruffled feathers, but you get the idea.

One of the target birds was Henslow’s Sparrow, which we heard quite a bit before we actually saw one. All the birds were too far away to photograph but I took my chances anyway and managed to get a few.

Henslow's Sparrow

Henslow’s Sparrow

We had a couple Savannah Sparrows that were a bit closer to the trail.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

At times the trail, or the beginning of one, stopped abruptly.

Marianne Hahn Trail 7-6-14-1199Marianne Hahn Trail Sign 7-6-14-1199

Perhaps best represented of the target birds were Boboliniks, even though Dick told us we seemed to have just missed most of them, when a few days ago there were perhaps hundreds more gathering to fly south toward their wintering grounds in Argentina. Bartel has the second largest population of breeding Bobolinks in Illinois, the first being at Midewin. But Midewin is so huge you might never be able to see as many as we did today. There were about 20. The females were a little easier to get pictures of.

Bobolink (male)

Male Bobolink

Two views of a female. Click on the pictures and you might actually be able to see them!

Female Bobolink 7-6-14-1171

Female Bobolink

Female Bobolink

Eastern Meadowlarks…were present but difficult to capture. Still it was nice to see as well as hear them.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

The milkweed is thick and in full bloom at Bartel, and insects could not resist it. I found this bee hanging from it at the very start.

Bee on Milkweed

Bee on Milkweed

I don’t think I have ever seen a Halloween Pennant before. This is a new dragonfly for me, and quite a flashy one.

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

Whatever the moth on the milkweed, it was not revealing itself to me. But by now the sun was shining brightly, offering a better picture.

Milkweed 7-6-14-1090

Another look at the Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow 7-6-14-1111

On the way back to my car I noticed the Blazing Star starting to bloom.

Blazing Star

Blazing Star

It’s been a beautiful weekend.

It’s going to be hard to go to work tomorrow.

To be continued…

 

 

Return to Tuttle Marsh

This post will feature flying birds as I continue to soar through pictures from the Memorial Day Weekend. It’s been a busy week at work and the only antidote is swimming, which means I have spent less time sitting with the laptop.

Osprey

Osprey

On the Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) Kirtland’s Warbler Memorial Day trip, the second day we spent the morning at Tuttle Marsh. Above is a picture of one of the Ospreys that nests there.

Below is a sign describing the wetland restoration project at Tuttle Marsh. Click on any of the pictures to enlarge the view.

Tuttle Puddle Sign-3778

American Bittern

American Bittern

I saw my first American Bittern at Tuttle Marsh last year, in the reeds. This year, we had two flying across the marsh. Above is one of them. Not a great shot but the profile is distinctive.

Osprey Nest

Osprey Nest

There is a viewing area across from the Osprey nest, where these pictures were taken.

Osprey-3846Osprey-3847Osprey-3848

I can’t resist the “Honey, I’m home” sentiment to the last picture above although her reaction indicates that he forgot the milk.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

I never tire of seeing Turkey Vultures, even after being in Virtual Vulture Heaven about a month ago in Texas. I promise to get back to those pictures as soon as I am done with these!

Green Heron

Green Heron

I can’t remember if we saw any Green Herons on the ground, but we certainly had them in the air (six!). As I recall (memory being what it is two weeks later), we made some stops along the way to the Marsh and by the time we got there it was perhaps a bit later than we had been last year, mid-morning and a bit quieter. But we got great looks at a Broad-Winged Hawk that flew over. Below are my first-ever photographs of a flying Broad-Winged, which is a less-common buteo to see. I am thrilled to have these pictures to study and imprint on my brain, so I might be able to recognize the next one I see flying by, which will probably not hang around so long.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-Winged Hawk

BWHA-3793BWHA-3799

We went back to Tuttle Marsh in the evening to hear, if not see, the American Bittern. We did hear one call once, but I did not manage to record it. However while we endured swarms of mosquitoes that eventually subsided as the temperatures cooled, I did manage to get a picture of the sunset, and a recording of a very vocal Eastern Whip-Poor-Will.

Sunset Tuttle Marsh-4210

 

Jewels Hidden in the Trees

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

I think I have finally been through all the pictures from the Memorial Day Kirtland’s Warbler weekend with the Chicago Ornithological Society. While I want to put a more representative selection up on my flickr page, for the moment I am sharing some warbler pictures here. Most of the birds were far enough away that I had to use manual focus to follow them around as they flitted through pine needles.

What bird, where?

What bird, where?

With some photographs it was like reliving getting on the bird in the first place – where is it?

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

After our visit to the Kirtland’s Warbler on Saturday morning, we drove to Tawas Point State Park and spent the afternoon hours wandering the trails for migrants. These pictures are from that outing as well as other locations in Iosco County, Michigan, visited on the weekend. Some species were the first I saw this year. Indeed by Memorial Day it was almost “Now or Never.”

Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Black-Throated Blue Warbler

A Black-Throated Blue male was definitely on my list of must-sees and although he proved a bit difficult to photograph in the bright light against the sky, he stuck around for more photographs than I care to admit.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

The female Cape May Warbler above caused a little confusion until we could be sure all her markings were in the right place. Here is a picture to prove it.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warblers abounded, even windblown ones.

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

It seems increasingly difficult to find Golden-Winged Warblers, and the sunlight proved to be a challenge, but if you click on the second picture above you might be able to see the golden wing field mark a little better.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolias and Redstarts are common enough but each individual has something different to offer. I like the way there is a hint of black coming in on the first-year American Redstart below. Next year he will be all black except for the orange on his breast, like the male below him.

American Redstart - First Year Male

American Redstart – First Year Male

American Redstart

American Redstart

I have never seen a Pine Warbler well enough before, which makes me think until this trip I never really saw one. Now I can add it to my list!

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warblers are always welcome.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

As are Blackburnian Warblers.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

And another species that had eluded me this spring finally came to light: the male Canada Warbler. I did not break into the “Oh, Canada” refrain from “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell as is my wont whenever I see one of these birds, but he might have heard me anyway.

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler

 

Kirtland’s Warbler Tour

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0518_1 - Copy

The Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) trip began on Saturday, May 25, with a guided tour by Michigan Audubon and Michigan Department of Natural Resources that departed from the Ramada Inn in Grayling, Michigan, to the managed, protected habitat of the Kirtland’s Warbler.

DNR Sign IMG_0691_1

The warbler, once nearly extinct, has made a tremendous comeback. We were fortunate enough to spend time with William Rapai whose recently published book on the Kirtland’s Warbler will tell you everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

Brown-Headed Cowbird, selected

Brown-Headed Cowbird, selected

Such as the capture and killing of certain numbers of Brown-Headed Cowbirds. So far, the Kirtland’s has not developed its own defense against cowbird predation.

IMG_1256

Kirtland's Management Sign IMG_1948_1

The above sign depicts how the land and the Jack Pine trees on it are managed for the Kirtland’s to breed. Kirtland’s breed only in stands of young Jack Pine trees. They build their nests on the ground between the low-lying branches of the young trees. When the trees mature enough to have lost their bottom needles, they are no longer suitable habitat for breeding Kirtland’s Warblers. Further, the only way for Jack Pines to reproduce is by fire; their seeds are designed to open and germinate only under the intense heat of a forest fire, which clears the land and gives the Jack Pines room to grow. Remember Smokey the Bear? He and his ilk unfortunately caused the Kirtland’s Warbler nearly to go extinct by preventing forest fires! This gives you a little idea about how specialized the Kirtland’s Warbler is, and why you can hardly see it anywhere else in the country.

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0524_1 - Copy

We were fortunate enough to have at least 3 males sit up and sing for us. I also managed to record one of them. There’s a little background noise, but the unique song repeats here several times.

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0502_1

There are many more photos from the weekend, several of which made it to my flickr page. I hope to update some of the information for those photographs soon.

The last photo for this post was taken at another protected area where new habitat has been created for the Kirtland’s Warbler. Build it, and they will come. And they have.

Kirtland's Endangered Sign IMG_1949_1