Weather or Not

A busy weekend sort of slid into place. Our delightful choir party/rehearsal late Saturday afternoon precluded my usual Saturday early evening activity of cleaning the living room and swapping out the dirty cages for clean ones. Then there was getting up early Sunday morning to sing. Any thought of being outside on Sunday was drowned out by steady rain. In spite of the flood warnings, my trees and native plants rose to the occasion again and kept the basement dry. It might have been a good day to write, but after a long nap – which indicates it was a good day to sleep – I spent much of the afternoon and evening in motion, cleaning the living room and dining room, swapping out the dirty curtains and huts for clean, turning the fans off and leaving the windows open a couple inches as the temperature dropped, keeping me cool in all my effort.

(My dryer doesn’t heat, and I am somewhere between repair and replacement, so the curtains are dry but will have to hang out their wrinkles, or not: I’m not ironing them!)

I woke up to a cool 70 degrees F. inside, closed all the windows and hoped for a little sunshine later to keep us comfortable as the temperatures remain quite low today. I went swimming and the pool temperature, at 80 degrees F., felt warm enough. it will be a good day for baking bread and making soup.

I’m posting pictures today from September 3 which was the first Oak Park fall migration bird walk of 2022 for which I was responsible. We met at Columbus Park, and will be visiting there again this coming Saturday morning. I went on to the Chicago Portage afterward and there are a few photos from there mixed in as well. I will visit the Chicago Portage tomorrow and see what if anything came in with yesterday’s weather.

That lovely Red-eyed Vireo at the top of the post had a lot of company.

More Red-eyed Vireos. Easily the most visible bird of the day.

Except for American Goldfinches. They were in abundance at Columbus Park. I was delighted to see them feeding off the Cupplant which they have also been visiting in my backyard.

We have had a lot of Swainson’s Thrushes this fall and this day was no exception, making it easier to spot this one.

And it’s been a good year for Gray-cheeked Thrushes as well.

Warbling Vireos were still abundant. But I won’t be surprised if I don’t hear one tomorrow. They might have grabbed that southward wind yesterday.

Warbler-wise, not much, but a few haphazard captures.

American Redstart

This was the last Common Whitetail dragonfly I saw, at Columbus Park.

And likely my last Spotted Sandpiper was there too, at the beginning of our walk as we looked out over the water.

That’s it for now. Fall migration continues. Fall-like temperatures for another day or so, too. One more of the Red-eyed Vireo at the top. This bird had a great sense for presentation.

Three Visits to Columbus Park

Two weeks after the last formal walk at Columbus Park on May 14, I joined the two Eds from those walks to see what was up after it seemed all the warblers were gone. Suffice it to say that the water birds made up for the lack of passerine diversity. In spite of an event going on at the park, two Great Blue Herons and two Black-crowned Night Herons tolerated all the noise and our attention and gave us some great looks.

There’s invariably a Great Blue Heron here but I’ve never seen one up in a tree like the one in the series below.

These photos are from April 16, May 14 and May 28 so the vegetation keeps changing.

On April 16 we were lucky to see an early Northern Parula.

Although I saw this species on a few other occasions these were the best looks I had all spring.

Also in the old reeds left over from last year was an American Tree Sparrow.

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow posed over the water

There was one little Field Sparrow back on the April visit.

There’s usually at least a pair of Wood Ducks but they don’t always offer such great photo opportunities.

Below from the last visit, a Wood Duck hen with six ducklings.

Once the Red-winged Blackbirds show up, they stay for the summer.

On the last visit there were some more grown up goslings than an on earlier visit.

Back in April, two Double-crested Cormorants swimming together.

The Black-crowned Night Herons are sometimes so well camouflaged.

Back in April I followed this Great Blue Heron in flight.

On May 14, there was a visible Red-eyed Vireo.

And on the last visit two weeks later, a Warbling Vireo made itself known.

Here’s an earlier photo of a Great Blue Heron.

The Black-crowned Night Herons are simply photogenic.

But I’ll let the Wood Duck have the last word.

A rainy forecast for today gave me the time to sit here and put this together. I’ll be back out on the trail tomorrow morning. There will likely be more photographs of dragonflies coming, like the female Eastern Forktail Damselfly below – if that is indeed what this is. I noticed it at Columbus Park on the last visit.

What? Winter? Left Overs

My windshield looked like this, this morning, when I went out to start the car so I could sing with the choir for our first choir Sunday in two years.

It fits this post, which is a little collection of wintertime visits that I never managed to mention. The first was a visit to Columbus Park on 12-30-21.

I had gone to see if a Greater White-fronted Goose was still visible after it had been reported for several days. But by this time the water had frozen and so many Canada Geese were sitting on the ice it was too hard to tell.

Still, it was a beautiful, sunny day with lots of virgin snow.

Another beautiful sunny day a month later, on January 30, 2022, I decided to visit the Little Red Schoolhouse after another snowfall. Below is a view of Longjohn Slough which borders the trail starting at the Nature Center.

A few birds were visible.

American Tree Sparrow
Blue Jay
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Red-bellied Woodpecker

As I walked the trail, I came across a sign denoting the original location of the school for which the forest preserve is named.

Then in my yard on February 15, a Cooper’s Hawk sat for a long time in the redbud tree right outside the porch windows. I could not resist taking too many pictures. Here are a few.

I miss a lot of beautiful sunsets and can barely see hints of them through my kitchen or porch windows, but I tried to commemorate the winter clouds anyway.

I am full of music from singing at the service which was devoted to the Spring Equinox. What began as a cold morning has turned into a beautiful day. The sun is shining brightly. I hope this is my last windshield ice for a while.

Another Crow Post

When it occurred to me that nearly the entire month of February had gone by without another visit to the lakefront, I took advantage of last weekend’s beautiful weather on Sunday morning and went down to see the Crows and whatever else I could find.

In anticipation of however many Crows I could encounter and the chilly temperatures, I made a batch of Birdz Cookies to offer along with the peanuts in the shell. I was curious to see whether the Crows would remember the Birdz Cookies, which started out years ago as peanut butter-oatmeal-raisin and have gone through many healthier – and more delicious, I might add – modifications, while still remaining true to those three ingredients.

I didn’t see any Crows until I had walked past all of this.

Train tracks looking south from Jackson Street bridge
Buckingham Fountain

I was nearly at the corner where I would cross Monroe and then Lake Shore Drive when the first Crow found me. I perhaps should mention that until I see a Crow, I don’t stop to take the offering out of my backpack. So the Crows recognize me before they see the food. Either they have x-ray vision (which I wouldn’t doubt), or I fit the description of Crow Feeder, or both.

It wasn’t long before there were three more Crows.

And then the Birdz Cookies became the preferred snack. I was thrilled.

I mean, really, is there anything more beautiful than a glossy black Crow with a Birdz Cookie? Yeah, maybe one who has figured out how to grab a piece of cookie and a peanut at the same time.

When it was time to cross Lake Shore Drive and continue north along the lake, the Crows followed me, of course.

Down to the last Snow Crow…

Unlike my previous visit at the beginning of January, however, the Crows did not follow me along the lakefront. Then one singular Crow apart from the group of four appeared. Peanuts were an acceptable offering.

This Crow did not seem so comfortable with me. Checking me out, so to speak. So I kept my distance and did not risk offering cookies that were likely unfamiliar to him or her.

That was it with the Crows. I speculated later that perhaps the longer days and sunshine were already distracting the Crows with thoughts of spring and many of them were elsewhere. So I turned my eyes to the birds on the water. They were far off and there was still plenty of ice. Most of the ducks were Greater Scaup. And there were the expected Canada Geese, Mallards and Herring and Ring-billed Gulls.

Ice in the harbor that caught my eye.

The gulls reminded me of the Gull Frolic two weeks earlier. That’s a whole other blog post – to come.

I managed to blow up a few individual duck photos.

Common Goldeneye

The Mallard below was quite close.

Greater Scaup on the lake.

In all, it was gratifying to see Crows again on a beautiful day. But I had the problem of some leftover Birdz Cookies and there were yet more at home. I thought I would be trying to give them away, but after a few missed opportunities, I decided to simply eat them myself. I have managed, by devouring two a day, to enjoy them and not gain any appreciable weight in the process. But I likely won’t be making another batch once the weather warms up.

We had one very warm and later quite windy day yesterday. I met my dear friend Hannah for a walk at Columbus Park where we spent most of the time beginning to catch up on each other’s lives. It was still chilly enough for the water to be frozen. There also seemed to be a runners’ race of some sort going on. The songs of scores of Red-Winged Blackbirds filled the air.

Mallards on the ice at Columbus Park

When I got home I saw one male House Finch showing off the buds on the flowering crab.

I keep resisting temptation to revisit photos from last year before I archive them into perpetuity on an external hard drive, but even after missing a few morning walks this week or next, the immediacy of spring will tempt me back into the present. So either way, I will be back. We’ll see what happens next.

Leading Myself

I had been envisioning all week what it would be like, yesterday, to get out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and go through my normal routine of waking up my body, preparing and serving breakfast to my indoor flock, filling the feeders and changing water in the bird baths for the outdoor flock, and then getting ready to leave in time to arrive at Columbus Park and lead a walk that was to start at 7:00 a.m. I don’t organize the walks. I have been asked to “lead” this and other Saturday walks that alternatively go to Thatcher Woods in River Forest through the first Saturday in November. Leading basically means showing up, in case the organizer can’t make it. That will be the end of the “fall migration walks” and the same schedule will restart in April for spring migration.

I made several discoveries yesterday. Perhaps most important was the conclusion that I managed to arrive on time after the organizer had already advised me he couldn’t make it, I had a few moments to spare, which means I might be able to sleep maybe 20 more minutes before Saturday morning’s visit to Thatcher Woods.

So I arrived on time. And started talking to one of the golfers who use the same parking lot for access to the adjacent golf course. And I waited. I watched for cars with people getting out of them bearing binoculars. But all the cars arriving produced golf clubs. I soon came to the conclusion that I was the only person showing up for the walk. Below is a picture of what the sky looked like at that time. Maybe with the combination of clouds and no organizer, I was not enough of a draw.

Those little black dots in the clouds are Chimney Swifts.

I figured I may as well check out the park for birds anyway, all dressed up with my gear as I was, so I started walking across the lawn to the water where there were only a few Mallards. It was still quite cloudy and beyond my desire to compensate for the lack of light.

I confess I was a little leery of walking through the park so early alone. Although it has always been a safe place with others, I was not familiar enough with the spot to feel entirely confident. But then it started to lighten up, and I was hearing birds, and I figured well, I could see what was there. And I’m glad I did, because instead of following a group around – some “leader” I am – I now feel like I actually could lead a walk through Columbus Park.

Below is a video I took with my phone of Chimney Swifts flying over – it starts out mainly hearing them but then when I realized I could zoom in a bit you can actually see them. There’s also a Red-winged Blackbird singing in the beginning, for good measure.

Chimney Swifts

It began to brighten up a little, which helped the photo taking situation. It was difficult capturing the Blackpoll Warbler below in the shady portion of the park, however, but I kept trying.

I agonized over the pictures below as I was sure it was a Bay-breasted Warbler but for some reason ebird insisted it was a rare sighting for this date. I submitted my photographs and so far they have not challenged me.

I wasn’t seeing a lot of birds in the water, so I looked forward to going to the native plant garden next to a portion of it where I would likely see more birds, and I did.

Palm Warblers like the one below were expected.

I haven’t seen a lot of Tennessee Warblers this year – so it was nice to find this one.

And below, a very young-looking American Goldfinch.

On the way out I managed to capture a sneaky picture of a Wood Duck drake through some tangled branches. Also saw the resident Great Blue Heron in a well-camouflaged spot.