City Visitors, or Where the Birds Are

Black-and-White Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Black-and-White Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Apologies to all my followers for not posting sooner (and all those I follow for not showing up), but I have been busy with work and trying to spend every free moment paying attention to birds indoors and out, so by the time I get around to reviewing photos I fall asleep. So there have been about 10 potential blog posts running out of my head over the last two weeks before I could hang onto them.

American Redstart, 155 N. Wacker Drive

American Redstart, 155 N. Wacker Drive

So before I fell asleep again last night as it was past my bed time, I decided to simply share with you some of my favorite subjects over the past week from a couple city parks and green spaces. Except for the Least Flycatcher, I have limited this post to warbler species.

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

Black-Throated Green Warbler, Union Station

The first day I found the Black-Throated Green Warbler at Union Station, there was also a Black-Throated Blue Warbler singing and a Baltimore Oriole singing as well. Actually it was the Baltimore Oriole’s song that drew my attention to the now-fenced-in-for-no-obvious-reason garden area. The fact that the garden area was inaccessible to me and the smokers who like to sit on the benches probably made it more attractive to the bugs and the birds who were eating them. I did not get a great picture of the Black-Throated Blue, but was glad to see him. The Oriole was coy but uncooperative.

Common Yellowthroat, Lake Shore East Park

Male Common Yellowthroat, Lake Shore East Park

Lake Shore East Park has been my most constant afternoon destination, and there were a couple good days, but it doesn’t seem as birdy as last year or the year before. The weather has been a factor all spring too, with alternating warm fronts and cold fronts confusing everything. We are presently about thirty degrees cooler than we were on Monday. Monday was hot.

Least Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Least Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Least Flycatchers were fairly common for a couple days. Catbirds have been regular sightings in every nook and cranny.

Gray Catbird, Lake Shore East Park

Gray Catbird, Lake Shore East Park

Male American Redstarts come in two plumages. The first-year males still look a bit like the females, only orangey instead of a paler yellow. The after-first-year males are black and orange-red.

American Redstart

American Redstart

American Redstart, first-year male

American Redstart, first-year male

Hardly a day has gone by that I have not seen or heard a Northern Waterthrush. I usually see them on the lawn, so it was nice to catch one resting on a branch.

Northern Waterthrush, Lake Shore East Park

Northern Waterthrush, Lake Shore East Park

Ovenbirds are still around, too.

Ovenbird, Lake Shore East Park

Ovenbird, Millennium Park

Spring would not be spring without male Magnolia Warblers.

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Magnolia Warbler, Millennium Park

Redstarts are everywhere now. The adult males seem to like to show off.

AMRE 5-13-15-1671

Below is a first-year male, looking eager to start his first breeding season.

AMRE LSE Park 05-13-15-1512

I hope to get another post or two in order over the Memorial Day weekend (thunderstorms are predicted for Memorial Day). As always I think I will be able to conquer my entire to-do list because I have an extra day. So far Saturday’s weather looks best, so that will be a birding day. Passerine migration is nearly over, but I need proof.

Sunshine!

Snow Crow 1-15-15-0457We may have had sunshine this week that I missed, but this afternoon the temperature was forgiving, the sun was shining so strongly snow started to melt a bit and I was just happy to be out. Earlier in the week when it was still cold and cloudy, the crows were nowhere to be found, but today was a good day to be an all-black bird on top of the Pritzker Pavilion soaking up the rays.

Crows on the Pritzker 1-15-15-0315

Crows on the top of the Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park

I wish I could have recorded one crow cawing right inside the “waves” of the pavilion, its song reverberating against the steel forms, a perfect echo chamber. I’m sure the crow thought it was pretty neat too.

Snow Crow 1-15-15-0412

The crows didn’t stay perched long. We haven’t had a peanut party since last week but the moment I started walking through the snow two crows helped me select the best location.

Ah Peanuts 1-15-15-0326

The presence of peanuts did not go unnoticed by two other park residents.

Snow Birds 1-15-15-0428

Black-Capped Chickadee and Northern Cardinal

There were many ways to approach and to take off, and the bright light reflecting off the snow lit up these dark birds.

Snow Crow 1-15-15-0425Snow Crow 1-15-15-0427

Winter has a long way to go yet, but today almost felt like spring.

Snow Crow 1-15-15-0484

Snow Crow 1-15-15-0483 Snow Crow 1-15-15-0466Hope your weather is good too, wherever you are.

Snow Crow 1-15-15-0382

We’ll see you again soon. 🙂

One Species at a Time

Blackpoll Warbler, Columbus Park

Blackpoll Warbler, Columbus Park

I have been trying to catch up with my blog and everyone else’s to no avail, so this is a quick one-species-post offering in the meantime. Over the weekend I attended the Chicago Ornithological Society walk through Columbus Park on Saturday and then went to LaBagh Woods on Sunday. Two bird species outnumbered all the others. In the warbler category, the most prominent was the Blackpoll.

Blackpoll Warbler, LaBagh Woods

Blackpoll Warbler, LaBagh Woods

This is the time of year when Blackpoll Warblers don’t look like Blackpoll Warblers do in the springtime. They are often confused with Bay-Breasted Warblers. Sadly I don’t have any recent Bay-Breasted photographs to compare these with. Overall, they appear more yellow than they do black and white (as in spring).

BPWA LaBagh Woods

BPWA LaBagh Woods

BPWA LaBagh

BPWA LaBagh Woods

B{WA Columbus Park

B{WA Columbus Park

BPWA Columbus Park

BPWA Columbus Park

The cool thing about going through so many shots in different settings is that I learn more about the “gizz” of the species through the constant review. So that next time I see a Blackpoll Warbler walking down the street in a crowd I will be able to pick it out immediately!

BPWA Columbus Park

BPWA Columbus Park

I will be back as soon as possible with photos of the Most Prominent Species (not a warbler) from last weekend.

Unattached

Cooper's Hawk, Grant Park

Cooper’s Hawk, Grant Park

If I were better organized I would only upload pictures I was actually going to use in a blog post, but I am too often compiling posts on the fly and consequently I wind up making last-minute decisions of what to use and never going back to delete the unused, or “unattached” photos.

Black Vulture 4-26-14

Black Vulture 4-26-14

So this is a photo essay with no particular subject, only some previously unattached, unrelated blasts from the past.

Bewick's Wren, 4-26-14

Bewick’s Wren, 4-26-14

Northern Cardinal, Lake Shore East Park, 4-23-14

Northern Cardinal, Lake Shore East Park, 4-23-14

Lincoln's Sparrow, Songbird Meadows, 4-26-14

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Songbird Meadows, 4-26-14

White-Winged Crow, Daley Bicentennial Plaza Tennis Court

White-Winged Crow, Daley Bicentennial Plaza Tennis Court

Superb Starling

Superb Starling

Leopard 11-24-13

Leopard 11-24-13

I’ll be back in real time soon. 🙂

Last Looks in the (Chicago) Loop

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

While taking a break from getting organized and trying to locate the title to my old car… Every morning I look out the back window at the dead Ford sitting on the slab and vow to get rid of it. It’s only a matter of weeks before I will have to buy a new city sticker even though I’m not driving it. I’m sure the cat takes refuge underneath its rusting hulk when she isn’t hiding in the hostas. All reasons to motivate me to tear the house apart, calmly, until I find the misplaced title so I can donate the car to a good cause.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Here are a few pictures taken the end of last week, which was the last time I saw migrants in the city. Some are from 155 N. Wacker on my way into the office. The others were taken in Lake Shore East Park.

Up until Friday there was at least one White-Throated Sparrow at 155 N. Wacker who would start singing whenever I showed up, but Friday I saw a Lincoln’s Sparrow, which is highly unusual this late in the year. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Lincoln’s Sparrow vocalize, though.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler, 155 N. Wacker

There was a Chestnut-Sided Warbler at 155 N. Wacker as well, but the mainstay had been a male Common Yellowthroat who was on site for a couple weeks. As of Tuesday he was gone.

American Redstart, LSE Park

American Redstart, LSE Park

At Lake Shore East Park among the last migrants I saw last week were the female American Redstart, above, and a Least Flycatcher, below.

Least Flycatcher, LSE Park

Least Flycatcher, LSE Park

But now the newest arrivals are fledgling crows. I think there are two, although I saw only this one being weaned last week. Oddly enough, there was never any sound to go with that wide gaping mouth. Perhaps there is a different protocol at hand for Lake Shore East Park and this youngster was instructed not to draw attention to itself by making a racket.

Crow Fledgling, LSE Park

Crow Fledgling, LSE Park

That wide-eyed look of “now what?” is unmistakable.

AMCR-1170

A series of photographs as the parents’ body language tells the story: “We are not feeding you anymore.” I think I recognize the crow with the bouffant hairdo as a former fledgling from about 4 years ago. Notice how he tries to look profoundly disinterested in the interaction between the fledgling and its mother.

AMCR-0919AMCR-0913AMCR-0919AMCR-0936AMCR-0935AMCR-0937AMCR-0941

The ultimate insult, after waving the peanut around in front of the fledgling, she takes off with it!

On Tuesday I had some time to hang out with the crows. As far as I could tell, the youngster had not figured out how to do its own peanuts yet and was still falling into a bit of the gaping mouth routine.

By next year if it survives, this fledgling may turn into a peanut expert like the bird below.

AMCR-0956

AMCR-0887

 

A Crow Batik

Peanut Crow 3-3-14 6517.jpg-6517

It was snowing “lake-effect” when I got off the train this morning. Wearily, I looked down at the river where a female White-Winged Scoter fished amongst several Red-Breasted Mergansers. Too cold and raw to stay.

Snow Crow 3-3-14 6473.jpg-6473

But by 1:30 p.m. the sun had come out in full force and it was a beautiful day to be out. Still cold, but not windy. I was on a mission to purchase cilantro since I had none in the refrigerator the night before and I needed to make guacamole to use up the avocados I bought last week. I packed the camera and peanuts on my back, in case there were crows to visit on the way back.

Crow 3-3-14 6544.jpg-6544

Sure enough there were crows, even on the way. Something like 20 crows flew way overhead, turning and twisting against the sky. Six landed on top of the Pritzker Pavilion, as if to wait for my return. They were not there when I came back, but it did not take long for four crows to discover me and the peanuts.

Peanut Crows 3-3-14 6527.jpg-6527Peanut Crow 3-3-14 6513.jpg-6513Crow 3-3-14 6539.jpg-6539

After a while I just decided to see if I could focus on the crows’ acrobatics in the air and sometimes almost on the ground.

Crow 3-3-14 6540.jpg-6540Crow 3-3-14 6542.jpg-6542

The picture below mystifies me. It reminds me of nothing, except perhaps a crow turned inside out.

Crow 3-3-14 6519.jpg-6519

If I didn’t know this was a Crow…

Perhaps we are all more at ease with the slip and slide of snow and ice.

Crow Flight 3-3-14 6467.jpg-6467

The light was bright against the snow, but the angle of it is much more welcoming, on March 3. Spring is here. We’re not done with the snow yet, but the sunshine helps. A lot.

Out of Africa

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

I am back from an incredible safari in Kenya and Tanzania. It would be more accurate to say I am only partially back, as jet lag persists. I should not be surprised: it took four days to get used to being nine hours ahead. Only now I am nine hours behind.

Cokes Hartebeest, Nairobi National Park, Kenya

Cokes Hartebeest, Nairobi National Park, Kenya

In any event, I wanted to begin sharing a few images from the last few weeks. It will take me some time to go through all the pictures, but I will be posting more as soon as I am able.

Secretary Bird, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Secretary Bird, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

As it turns out my laptop died shortly after I arrived in Nairobi so I started editing on the camera to save room on the flash memory cards. I think I only accidentally deleted one better photograph of a less-than-flashy bird…

Zebras and Wildebeest, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Zebras and Wildebeest, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Not wanting to take any chances, today I downloaded all the pictures to my desktop, which machine has also been unreliable. I then copied everything onto an external hard drive.

Lions, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Lions, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

I look forward to a new laptop, namely one that is not confused by software updates. I am contemplating switching to a MacBook Pro. One adventure after another.

Wildebeest Migration, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Wildebeest Migration, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Please click on the pictures for larger images.

Yellow-Collared Lovebird, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Yellow-Collared Lovebird, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

With luck I will have a sizable collection on my flickr page by Christmas… Except I get redirected away from the flickr page login from every other machine except the dead laptop. What to do, what to do…

P.S. It’s snowing in Chicago!

House Finches through the back window

House Finches through the back window