Saturday’s Christmas Bird Count was Cold, Cloudy and Convivial. Shortly after we met at 7:15 AM in the parking lot of Mooseheart, a Bald Eagle flew overhead, but it was too quick and too cloudy for me to capture. We traipsed around trails in various locations alongside the Fox River and I wish I kept track of them all with my cell phone but suffice it to say there is not much to report anyway. Many of the species we expected to see were not present in our spots. Another group along different spots of the Fox River saw all the waterfowl we missed.
But we had just enough birds to keep us going and good conversation, a chance to warm up inside at lunch and again at our last stop where there was a nature center.
So here’s a brief recap of the few birds I managed to capture, and for the fun of it, all I have barely seen the last couple days.
Our biggest contribution to the count was documenting over 1100 European Starlings. They began to fly over in groups of 300-400 in the afternoon, and then we found them settling in the trees and on top of structures. My best guess is that they were responding to the change in temperature and getting ready to fly south. The lack of good light made the phenomenon difficult to capture en masse.
My best photo op of the day was following one of two Red-tailed Hawks that were together.
Then around the Nature Center I managed a few photos.
I visited Riverside on Monday morning and saw more Canada Geese by the Hofmann Tower than I did on Saturday.
At least it was a sunny day. But these Mallards looked cold.
And cold it was.
The trail obstructions didn’t provide any interest for me or any birds.
On Tuesday morning, I went to the Chicago Portage, and did not fare much better in the bird department.
But the sunshine was lovely for a while.
There was some water flowing out from the ice at the bridge by Harlem, as usual.
The view of the Des Plaines from the break in the fence was of frozen bottomland and blue sky reflection.
And there were only a few birds available on the inside trail when I managed to get there. They were enjoying the sun before it dipped back behind the clouds.
The sun was gone by the time I left.
Yesterday I did not go for a walk before swimming, because it seemed better to do my grocery shopping before the storm which is big enough to have earned the name “Elliott”. Fear of the storm was making everyone else prepare for the worst. Traffic was thick and parking lots filled. I went swimming first and then ran my errands. Still holding on to as much of my routine as possible, I celebrated Egg Wednesday for brunch around 2:30 (I make scrambled eggs and onions, usually adding a chile and some cheese, on Wednesdays to tide me over through the evening choir rehearsal) and then started playing a little piano and feeding the birds inside and outside before moving on to choir. Twenty-four of us are singing for the Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. It will be quite early this year, but since it’s dark by 4:30, a 6:00 pm service will seem close enough to midnight.
I miss my walks, but my main goal through all this is to save my parking spot which will be more critical when the snow hits and the plow comes through. The forecast is for 3 to 6 inches which is less than predicted a couple days ago, but adding the expected windchill and blizzard conditions it will be just enough to impede travel. Our high tomorrow is -1 degrees Fahrenheit with -10 the low – and however many more degrees below for the windchill. Christmas Eve, flipping those numbers to 10 above and -1 below, will not be much better except that I am hoping the wind has died down by the time I have to drive to Unity Temple.
The bright side to this sequestration is hanging out with the indoor birds, warming up the kitchen baking Cinnamon-Oatmeal-Raisin bread and making a French Onion Panade, and catching up on other indoor pursuits. I will likely be tempted to document what’s going on outside as well and with any luck I will get some photographs of the yard birds over the next few days. I hope your holidays are filled with warmth and good cheer and not too much stress. Stay warm and sleep well!