March On


Great Horned Owl on nest, Salt Creek Forest Preserve, Cook County

I started writing this post on March 1. WFMT’s Carl Grapentine kicked off March 1’s morning program by playing, what else? Various marches. I was just getting over February.

The end of February was sufficiently balmy to lock  it into the record books with January as being the first time both months went without snow in Chicago.

I birded with my friend Susan last Sunday. We went to Bemis Woods South and the Salt Creek Forest Preserve. It was so quiet I didn’t bother to do a list. We were about to give up on the Salt Creek portion when a man walking in the opposite direction told us to look for an owl, so we continued. The Great Horned Owl at the top of this post made the day. Its nest was easily seen from the trail, and it sat and watched as people went by.

Two more birds from Bemis below, a White-Breasted Nuthatch and Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

March came in like the proverbial lion, returning to chilly, windy temperatures. My reward for venturing out of the office last week was to see my first Yellow-Rumped Warbler in Millennium Park. Nothing rare, but an earliest first for me.

It’s a busy time of year for the birds, as they prepare for spring. Today I visited the Chicago Portage, and although by the time I got there the sunny start was disappearing, and the number of Canada Geese and Mallards was increasing, and there were some more unusual visitors in the air, like the Bald Eagle below with nesting material and a small flock of Sandhill Cranes. The Sandhills were oddly quiet.


The Bald Eagle was flying east, but I have no idea where the nest might be. That direction was industrial, with the Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Saw and heard my first male Red-Winged Blackbirds today at the Portage, where they have come to establish territories.

There were maybe 40 Mallards spread out wherever there was water, and 5 pair of Canada Geese were checking out nesting spots. I haven’t seen any banded geese this year.

Other than the Red-Winged Blackbirds there were very few passerines, with the exception of a few American Robins and European Starlings. I heard a Song Sparrow, Chickadees, Killdeer, and a couple Downy Woodpeckers were flitting about.

The last Downy Woodpecker I photographed was last week in Millennium Park.

Also present that day, a couple Northern Cardinals and the White-Throated Sparrows who literally yelled their calls from the bushes when they saw me approach our favorite spot.

More Portage views…

cago-and-mallards-portage-2-26-17-9953I hope to be back once more if possible, with an update on my indoor crowd – before I leave for a quick trip to Panama. I’ve been planning this trip for months and unbelievably, all of a sudden it’s here.

noca-millennium-3-2-17-0390Thanks to you all for checking in. Until next time… Peace and Think Spring.

The Essence of True (Crow) Love

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Ah…Birdz Cookies!

Or you could just say Food is Love in just about any language. Like Music…

In the midst of this miserable cold, my crow friends and I are reunited in thought and purpose. Last week they sent me a request for Birdz Cookies, and so it was Birdz Cookies on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, I put out lots of peanuts and broke up the cookie pieces on top of them, and the Crows went straight for the cookies.

Then yesterday, after two days of cookies, why not some of those delicious hot dogs I used to bring?

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Between my knee event (which I am happy to report is totally over), the weather, the baby boom indoors and other distractions, I haven’t managed to get up early and visit the crows an hour before work all winter, so I have focused on the Millennium Park bunch whenever I get out for a late lunch break, and now that my knee is working properly the weather becomes less of an excuse for staying inside when I realize my friends don’t have that choice.

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White-Throated Sparrow

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Sparrows, mainly House

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Northern Cardinal and House Sparrow, both males

This has also been good for the Cardinals, Chickadees, White-Throated Sparrows and House Sparrows.

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On Monday, the male Northern Cardinal actually came toward me and posed for pictures when I pointed the camera at him. It had to do with the peanuts I shelled and left for him on Friday. He was asking me to repeat the favor, which I did after taking a few more pictures. Then later he was down on the ground sampling the general offering.

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On Tuesday I was surprised to see the Robins back at what I believe must be some type of hawthorn trees in the northwest corner of the park, I guess to clean up every last fruit they might have left on their last visit.

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The Black-Capped Chickadees have been more about food than enticing me to take their pictures.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

But from time to time the female Cardinal wasn’t too shy to engage the lens.

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NOCA 2-17-15-4325So as cold as it is I will probably venture out again today. The sun is shining brightly, and it is always a bit warmer by the lake, even in this extreme cold. It’s amazing how much even one or two degrees makes a difference.

WTSP & NOCA 2-17-15-4079 Cookie Crow 2-17-15-4417

The “what-to-feed-the crows next?” question has been on my mind, since after cookies and hot dogs, simply peanuts seems too mundane. So I rustled up an omelette this morning with about 10 eggs that have been in the refrigerator too long to boil for the indoor crowd’s egg food. I figure the crows have probably sampled Egg McMuffins and will recognize an omelette (indeed I think one crow sent me the thought on the way in that I could have added cheese — ha!). Plus it’s eggs in a cache-and-stash form.

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White-Throated Sparrow

I do intend to wade through the Gull Frolic pictures by the weekend…but the park birds were making it a lot easier for me to post about them sooner.

Blizzard Preoccupations

It’s snowing and blowing, travel is forbidden, and after two energetic attempts today, I am not going back outside to move any more snow until tomorrow. So I’m using the storm as an excuse to get caught up with a few loose ends.

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Below is a link to the YouTube videos, for those who are interested in what came of my first choir participation in the St. Odilo Festival Choir. I sang in the alto section. We all started together and ended together even if there were a couple times we lost it in between… At least we lost it all together. Maybe it’s just as well as there were only four of us. I had an epiphany about this phenomenon while listening to parts of the concert on my way in to work Friday morning. You know how birds all take off together at once as if responding to a single cue out of nowhere? That’s kind of how it was when we all forgot to come in. Nevertheless I think we sometimes sounded quite good; in particular I was pleased by the a capella piece, which was Bruckner’s “Christus Factus Est.”

Also new and exciting, Bill Hilton has posted a complete play-by-play annotated write-up of Operation Rubythroat’s last bird banding expedition in Costa Rica, and you can read all about it at this link.

And now a little word from The Chicago Blizzard of 2015. (These pictures are in color, in case you’re wondering.)

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Juncos actually seem to be enjoying this

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After taking fuzzy pictures through the screened porch windows, I decided a fuzzy video of the birds braving the snow and wind at the feeders might be even better. The snow started out thick and wet and it’s still snowing as I write this.

Dudlee Ann was monitoring the whole weather event from her newest favorite place, the window over the kitchen sink.

IMG_1165And thanks to recent comments on my last post about vultures, I went looking for pictures of a Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture, which I had seen several times in East Africa in November of 2013. I found a couple pictures taken on November 22 in Tanzaniya:

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Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture

In the process, I realized that I had never finished going through all the pictures from that trip, so I look forward to revisiting those images at some point in time. Not that I’m wishing for another blizzard anytime soon…

Vultures & Storks at Zebra Kill 11-24-13 8529.jpg-2Incidentally, the bird completely covering the kill with its wings spread in the picture above is also the Ruppell’s Griffon.

This excerpt from a webpage of facts about the Ruppell’s Griffon from the National Zoo:

“Ruppell’s griffon is the highest flying bird on record, once spotted at an altitude of over 37, 000 feet in the skies of Africa. From a standing start the Ruppell’s vulture can fly over three miles in six minutes. They can cruise at over 22 miles per hour, and will fly as far as 90 miles from their nest in search of food.”

Maybe now I can try to dig out the car a bit more…so I can move it to the other side of the street tomorrow.

Park’s Progress

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According to a website complete with site cams I have just discovered, Maggie Daley Park progress is moving apace, and the first trees will be planted, it looks like, before the end of the summer. I suspect that wildlife will start moving in before the space will be open to the public, and am hopeful that at least more green space will attract avian visitors for fall migration.

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I have no idea whether this is an observation deck for the construction workers or a permanent fixture in the park, but I suspect the latter, or maybe a little bit of both. It looks too elaborate to function solely for the construction effort.

Going down to Lake Shore East Park which is north of Millennium and the Maggie Daley project, there is a stair-wall to be navigated from the west side. The park looks lush, green, and…pretty birdless.

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Park 6-27-14-2057Fountains 6-27-14-2070

I did manage to hang out with American Crow families a few weeks ago while the kids were still young and begging, but I have not seen them in recent weeks. I suspect, as always, they have taken the weaned preteens off to learn how to be crows in larger, less-peopled spaces.

Juvenile Crow being Fed 6-11-14-1464 Juvenile Crow begging 6-11-14-1516 Juvenile Crow begging 6-11-14-1511 Juvenile Crow begging 6-11-14-1497 Juvenile Crow 6-11-14-1564

Occasionally I encounter a single crow somewhere who shirks its sentry duties and partakes of peanuts.

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There was a semi-photographable Red-Winged Blackbird in the Lurie Garden last week.

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The only thing that kept me from going to any parks on Monday was lugging two boxes of blueberry coffee-cake scones downtown for Kim’s birthday. Too hard to lug the camera. So I can no longer take a walk without a camera. Tsk, tsk.

Blueberry Coffee-Cake Scones

I played hooky today (albeit planned ahead of time) and bought a vehicle sticker for the new car, worked in the yard, and put away all my tax receipts for the last 8 or 9 years while still trying to find the title for the old beater. No luck yet, but I will be organized after all this. I also baked pineapple bread and made some delicious cabbage/carrot slaw. Weather-wise it was a glorious day to do anything. I am claiming the entire weekend’s excellent weather for my birthday, so there is no need for anyone to elaborate further on that event, since nothing can top the gift I have already received.

Getting up early to go somewhere. Report to follow. Happy Independence Day to all U.S. readers!

A Change in the Weather

Fog 6-25-14-2013

The weather in Chicago is nothing if not interesting. We seem to be repeating some of the pattern established last summer: extremely hot weather followed by a cool spell, usually following some thunderstorm activity. Last week the effect of all this was one spectacularly foggy morning in the Loop.

Fog 6-25-14-2018-2On the Way In 6-25-14-2015

By the time I got to the Thompson Center, the pigeons were hanging out on the Jean Dubuffet sculpture which looks like it was made out of paper mache. It’s big enough you can walk inside it, between its “legs.”

Pigeons on the Dubuffet sculpture at the Thompson Center

Pigeons on the Dubuffet sculpture at the Thompson Center

Pigeon on the Dubuffet 6-25-14-2026The lack of green space takes its toll on me and the birds down here. I’m also not fond of crowds and so I tend to stay away from Millennium Park during the summer. But after spending a couple days working through lunch, it’s definitely better to go out and look at anything that doesn’t have to do with staring at a computer monitor. So I visited Lurie Garden one day with the macro lens.

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake Master

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Probable Margined Soldier Beetle

I’ve just purchased the Audubon app to help identify bugs but I am hopeless when it comes to flowers. I get overwhelmed surfing through pictures. I’ll take any help I can get if you know what these are. The red one on the bottom completely stumps me. Is it some sort of Monarda? (Those of you who are flower experts are allowed to laugh at me.)

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Spiderwort – I think

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almost looks like a Blazing Star but I don’t think it is

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A female Northern Cardinal found me that day and she got lucky, I had peanuts just for her.

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Sometimes it seems appropriate to pay attention to a Rock Pigeon. They are beautiful, we just take them for granted. But I look at it this way: they confirm our existence. This is one species that would not be here (as much) without us.

Pigeon 6-24-14-2007


Brief Warbler Interruption

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Black-and-White Warbler, Millennium Park

Please pardon this brief interruption.While I’ve been trying to get through other pictures for another post, I’ve been birding as usual on my infrequent lunch hours, interrupted by rain… (lots of it – maybe I should not have danced so hard through the drought?).

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Chicago Loop in the rain

Yesterday on the way back from Millennium Park where I had basically seen nothing “new” and it started to rain again…I was carrying my 40D, an umbrella and the peanut bag, I had forgotten I had the camera on another setting for the rain pictures on the way in… and who should show up but my first-of-year Black-and-White Warbler, looking very bedraggled and wet, behaving like a Brown Creeper scaling the tree trunks, but definitely not a Brown Creeper.

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In spite of the umbrella and the wrong setting a got a picture or two of the warbler anyway.

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And here are a couple other volunteers from the park.

Common Grackle with nesting material

Common Grackle with nesting material

American Robin

American Robin

Meanwhile, Back on the Lakefront

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Ring-Billed Gull

Last Wednesday was the only day with promised sunshine, so my theory is, if I’m going to get out of bed at 4:00 a.m. so I can hang out with wild birds before going to the office, I try to pick the day with the best weather. It was cold, but clear.

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Of course the crows are in charge of all this. I had maybe a total of 20 crows from Jackson to Randolph. Sometimes I am not quite sure if they are simply reappearing as clones of themselves. This is very frustrating to me, since they apparently have no problem distinguishing me from other humans. Do they sit around worrying that we all look alike and then study certain individuals they want to remember? I do recognize the crow below as being Fuzzy, one of last summer’s crop of youngsters, so named because of his rounded head.

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There were not many birds on the lake, but I did manage to get a few images.

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A few Coots have arrived. As far as I could tell the Canada Goose and the Coot were getting along.

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Common Goldeneye

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First year Common Goldeneye male

Common Goldeneye are still…common.

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Pied-Billed Grebe

There was one Pied Billed Grebe in the harbor…a nice surprise.

Later that afternoon on land, in Millennium Park, one of two Northern Cardinals

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and one of several White-Throated Sparrows that have been there all winter.

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As I sit here pondering our first true snowfall of the season, which is due overnight, I am also wondering why so many people are behaving like it’s going to be 3 to 7 feet instead of 3 to 7 inches…

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…no need to be in a hurry.

Le Corbeau.

Trust your local groundhog

I’m looking for some way to get my head around the high temperatures we have had for the past 7 days. I’m sure there is a meteorological explanation, but even the weather forecasters seem to be surprised by a heatwave in March that feels more like June or July, so I’m going back to February 2 when the official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted six more weeks of winter, but the Illinois groundhog predicted an early spring. We skipped spring, however, and went straight to summer.

Then I wonder if we are seeing what climatologists predicted if the planet continued to warm at its present rate: eight months of summer.

Of course this is Chicago and we could still have snow in April. But it doesn’t look like we’re going to get any more in March.

Downy Woodpecker in my yard - two weeks ago!

At this rate, the City can’t plant bald cypress fast enough.

With all this heat, we could really use some rain. I caught this American Robin refreshing himself in the birdbath this afternoon.

Last week, this crow was panting, even with a whole lake nearby.

About this time of year, the trees would be showing buds, but not bursting. From the looks of it, my flowering crabapple will be flowering tomorrow.

And my redbud is, well, budding.

And whatever this is that planted itself by the side of the house, it’s blooming.

It was nice to open the windows today, at least until it got too hot. I bought the last fan at the hardware store this afternoon. And two pairs of sandals online…