Back at the Slough

Pied-Billed Grebe, McGinnis Slough 10-25-15

Pied-Billed Grebe, McGinnis Slough 10-25-15

It seems strange to have been away from this page for so long, only to find time to come back after this weekend with all the sanity drained out of humanity. It almost feels like I need to start over. So I’m going with pictures from 3 weeks ago when I managed to get out to McGinnis Slough.

Gadwall at McGinnis

Gadwall at McGinnis

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Gadwall

The problem with the Slough is always that most of the birds are usually quite far away and you need a scope to see them.

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Great Blue Heron, McGinnis Slough

So most of these pictures were taken a bit closer in. Like this cooperative Song Sparrow.

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Song Sparrow

I didn’t realize this was a Clay-Colored Sparrow until I started going through the pictures. A nice surprise, don’t see this guy too often.

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Clay-Colored Sparrow

And this was one of the last Yellow-Rumped Warblers I saw this year. I guess in the photo below, if you’re going to see the rump you aren’t going to see much else…!

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

YRWA McGinnis 10-25-15 -6212There were about 400 American Coots at the Slough that day, and here’s one of them.

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American Coot

One more time with the Song Sparrow.

SOSP McGinnis 10-25-15 -6020I picked up my annual bird seed order from Chicago Audubon yesterday: I try to buy enough to last through the winter. Was greeted by Bobbi who was helping distribute the orders, and we got to discussing international travel (we were both with a group in Australia back in 2009). And then she told me she came back from a month in Paris only a few days ago. The world just shrunk that much faster.

The Elusive Bell’s Vireo

Bell's Vireo

Bell’s Vireo

Bell’s Vireos have a reputation for sounding like they should be in plain sight but hiding behind the curtain, if you will. At least that has been my experience with those that breed in Illinois, so it was particularly rewarding to get pretty good looks, if not great pictures, of a Bell’s Vireo in Texas the last day of our trip.

Bell's Vireo 4-30-14-9724

We dispersed early in the morning to bird the grounds of Neal’s Lodges individually before leaving for the Austin airport. I thought I had a better recording of this bird’s song, for all the singing he was doing, but there seems to be interference from road noise and several other birds. Anyway, the Bell’s is the intermittent but emphatic little chattery song, if you can hear it.

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Bell's Vireo 4-30-14-9751

It’s possible one of the other birds singing a bit is a Black-Throated Sparrow. I was delighted to find him and get a few pictures as well. The last time I saw this species was almost two and a half years ago in New Mexico. Hard to believe it’s been that long.

Black-Throated Sparrow

Black-Throated Sparrow

The bird has to be facing you to see the black throat for which it’s named. Otherwise you need to be familiar with its other field marks, like the broad white supercilium.

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Black-Throated Sparrow 4-30-14-9670

There was also a cooperative Clay-Colored Sparrow, but I don’t hear his buzzy song on this recording.

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Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow 4-30-14-9657 Clay-Colored Sparrow 4-30-14-9685

Indoor birds and I are listening to Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride on the Tuesday Night Opera with Peter Van De Graaff on WFMT. It seems a good night to stay home, close the windows to retain some heat overnight, turn on the oven and roast veggies. The drop in temperature dictates coziness.

 

TGIF and Miscellaneous Observations

Greater Roadrunner outside Neal's Lodges

Greater Roadrunner outside Neal’s Lodges, Uvalde County, Texas

It’s been a long week short on inspiration, and the weekend promises to be full of rain so I will not be birding far away, if at all. As it turns out I have made plans to visit with friends and family I haven’t seen for a while. Perfect timing to include a visit to my dentist as well. My People Weekend. And with the coming July Polar Vortex, I am already dreaming of doing yard work without sweat.

I took off work early yesterday to be on hand for the tow truck driver who eventually showed up and whisked away the old car. This has been one event foremost in my mind, of things I really wanted to get done. The Taurus started happily after sitting idle in my backyard for 3 months, as if looking forward to its next destination. The cell phone picture below shows its better side with the intact side mirror. Maybe you can see the rust underneath where the side panel fell off if you click on the picture.

Final Farewell

Final Farewell

Goodbye, Old Paint

Goodbye, Old Paint

Like Gregory the dachshund my parents gave away to an adoring childless couple after my brother was born, the car didn’t even look back at me. I suspect the car knows it’s going to a better place too.

After I came in from the yard, with the cell phone still handy, I took a picture of some of the finches waiting in the kitchen for me to resume the snack service. They seemed oblivious to cell phone pictures, but I still have hopes of stalking them with the real camera, which they resist, at an opportune moment. The four newest Society Finches (Bella, Johnnie, Franklin and Marty) are huddled together on the right with a male Zebra Finch (it could be Zorro), and one Spice Finch is preening himself at the far left.

Finches on the Pot Rack

Finches on the Pot Rack

While waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I managed to put my pictures from our Texas trip back on the laptop and started going through them, which explains the Roadrunner at the top and the rest below. There will be more to come as I rediscover them. It’s more fun to go back two-plus months in time than I thought it would be.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow possibly shopping for nesting material...

Barn Swallow shopping for nesting material.

Chipping Sparrows were everywhere.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

And it seemed after we saw the first Clay-Colored Sparrow, by the end of the trip, they too were everywhere.

Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow 4-30-14-9450

I went to check our ebird list for April 30th when we birded around Neal’s Lodges that morning, and the Blue Grosbeak was not on it. I have now added it to the list.

First Summer Blue Grosbeak

First Summer Blue Grosbeak

I will be back with more discoveries from the Texas trip and a bird song or two.

Have a wonderful, peaceful weekend.

Right in My Own Backyard

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, LaBagh Woods

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, LaBagh Woods

Thanks to all for the good wishes as I set out for Texas with the rest of the Four Elles. I am back, but still succumbing to Migration Madness.

The weather was too good this weekend to sit around in front of the computer, so I paid attention to spring migration and went birding Saturday and Sunday…only to spend hours Sunday evening clearing space on my hard drive so I could download the weekend’s pictures. I will get back to the pictures from the Texas trip which will fill several posts, but it will take a little while longer.

Chicago Portage 5-3-14

Chicago Portage 5-3-14

In this brief post I am featuring what seem to be the most numerous species this spring. Every year is different, and you never know which species will seem omnipresent. So I began Saturday morning at the Chicago Portage.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Chicago Portage

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Chicago Portage

Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers seemed to be everywhere. There were also numerous Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Palm Warblers and more predictably, Yellow-Rumped Warblers. I then moved on to Ottawa Trail Woods. (More about that experience in a subsequent post.)

Ottawa Trail Woods

Ottawa Trail Woods

Very much the same situation there bird-wise, at least with Palm Warblers and American Goldfinches. These pictures are individuals from the Portage, but the two areas are right next to each other, and I had plenty of these birds at Ottawa Trail too. More about that experience in a later post, perhaps.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Yesterday morning I went to LaBagh Woods, which is a little over half an hour away. I am determined to drive more now that I have the new car, in part because the car needs its exercise too. Noticed yesterday that it is so quiet I have to be sure squirrels in the road see me…

LaBagh Woods

LaBagh Woods

LaBagh was covered with little yellow flowers underfoot. I have to figure these out as I have some in my backyard too. Whatever it is, this year’s crazy weather seems to have provided perfect conditions for it.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

In addition to scores of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, LaBagh had incredible numbers of Black-Throated Green and Black-and-White Warblers.

Black-and-White Warbler

Black-and-White Warbler

There was a Clay-Colored Sparrow at LaBagh hanging out with three Chipping Sparrows, but I did not get the camera on it. Then later in the afternoon I looked out the kitchen window and saw a Clay-Colored Sparrow foraging in my not-yet-planted vegetable patch. I grabbed the camera and took some awful pictures through the windows, then went outside a few moments later and sat for half an hour or so, until I managed to get a few clearer photos, like the one below. This is a new bird for my yard!

Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow

The week promises to be insane but I will try to be back soon. More to come from destinations both near and far.

Fall Sparrow-rama

Swamp Sparrow, McGinnis Slough

Now that the fall sparrows are all but gone, I’ve decided to pay tribute to them. Although I wasn’t lucky enough to photograph some less common species that made the front pages of the local list-serve, one or two which I even managed to see, I had some cooperative models nonetheless, and they’re all compelling to me in their subtle variety.

Dark-Eyed Junco

And for me, anyway, I need a break from the evening news.

White-Crowned Sparrow

I hope you are all safe and secure, wherever you are, as storms seem to be raging across the planet.

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Lurie Garden

As you might notice from the locations, the sparrows were plentiful in the Chicago lakefront parks and also in the marsh area of McGinnis Slough, a Cook County suburban forest preserve.

Clay-Colored Sparrow, Daley Bicentennial Plaza

When I first photographed the Clay-Colored above, it was such a cloudy, or as my mother used to say, “glismal” day that I thought perhaps he was a Chipping Sparrow. Imagine my delight upon developing the image to discover he was a Clay-Colored Sparrow! They are a bit similar but Clay-Colored are rather more unusual and I haven’t seen one in a while. The grayness of the day certainly contributes to his clay color!

Song Sparrow, McGinnis Slough

As common as Song Sparrows are when they breed here, they seem less so in migration.

White-Throated Sparrow, Daley

So many White-Throated Sparrows come through, often you can hear one or two singing, although usually they’re first-year tryouts.

Juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow, Daley

I like pictures that sometimes show just enough of the bird for identification…

Swamp Sparrow, Daley

Sometimes that’s all a bird’s going to show you.

Dark-Eyed Junco, Daley

Or in Daley, there are lots of sparrows in the grass but all too often the grass overshadows them.

Fox Sparrow, Daley

Fox Sparrows are another favorite of mine. There are four subspecies in North America; we get the red guys.

Savannah Sparrow, McGinnis

There’s more plumage variation among Savannah Sparrows.

White-Throated Sparrow, Daley

And even White-Throated Sparrows have two subspecies that intermingle. The bird above is the tan-striped variation, the earlier one is the white-striped.

House Sparrows, Daley

And then of course there are the House Sparrows. They aren’t really sparrows, they’re weaver finches. But don’t tell them that: they like to think they pass for sparrows and the city HOSPs, at least, don’t mingle with the other finches.

Sparrow City

Back at work, my opportunities to see migrants back home have been few so far. I hope to get caught up with some of the birds tomorrow and in the next few weeks. It’s really hard to think about anything else during migration!

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrows are everywhere, and there sometimes seem to be more of them this year. One day I’m sure there were at least 100 in the little area of Grant Park I still frequent. I have photographed so many of them over the years I often disregard them looking for someone different, but I hate to overlook a bird who’s posing. And even if I stop looking at them, they invariably sing their way back into my consciousness.

White-Crowned Sparrow

The White-Crowned Sparrows are next in number. They’re singing quite a bit too.

Chipping Sparrow

There also seems to be a lot of Chipping Sparrows this year. They are a bit smaller than the other sparrows and can disappear into a few tufts of grass, so it was nice to run into this guy who seemed to be as interested in me as I was in him.

Hanging out with some Chipping Sparrows were three Indigo Buntings. Here’s one of them.

Indigo Bunting

Migrants aren’t only in the park. I found a Savannah Sparrow at 155 North Wacker Drive on my way into work this week.

Savannah Sparrow

I’d been looking for a Lincoln’s Sparrow ever since I tried to make a shaded Song Sparrow into one last week, so I was more than happy to photograph this little guy.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln’s always seem so good-natured to me. There’s something bouncy and fresh about this bird with his delicate streaking.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Back out in the grass, someone looked different. He was far away, but I recognized him immediately. A Clay-Colored Sparrow. In breeding plumage, a downright snazzy looking bird. He was the highlight of my sparrow saga.

Clay-Colored Sparrow

Maybe some day I will bond with a Clay-Colored Sparrow the way I did with this White-Throated one.