Is It Spring Yet?

McGinnis Slough

McGinnis Slough

Any prediction of warmer temperatures and sunshine, however brief, is all it takes to make me a little nuts these days, especially if it falls on a weekend. So Sunday I tested the forecast for the last days of March and headed toward the Palos Forest Preserves of Cook County, starting with my favorite, McGinnis Slough.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbirds were singing on territory, but much of the water was still frozen. I managed to see ten species of ducks, including Ring-Necked, Lesser Scaup, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Mallard, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Northern Shoveler, Blue-Winged Teal and Green-Winged Teal, plus American Coots and there was one Trumpeter Swan at the far side of the larger expanse of water.

Canada Geese at McGinnis

Canada Geese at McGinnis

Not much in the way of land birds, save a few skittish Song Sparrows

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Even the closer ducks at McGinnis’s south end were still too far away to photograph, but that never stops me.

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From McGinnis, I went next to Saganashkee Slough, where American White Pelicans and Common Loon had been reported. I saw neither, but added Red-Breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser, White-Winged Scoter, Pin-Tailed Duck and Common Goldeneye to my duck list. There was also a distant Horned Grebe and an immature Bald Eagle soaring over the water. It was even more useless to photograph anything here but I’m still including a picture of a lot of white blobs that were Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls.

Saganashkee Slough

Saganashkee Slough

On the way home, I stopped at The Chicago Portage to see if anything new was going on since last week. It was midday so I didn’t expect to see many birds. But there was a lot of melt and mud.

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And a White-Breasted Nuthatch, heard first and seen at a distance later.

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Also heard before seen, a male Belted Kingfisher. This guy was really far away but the camera saw him. I think this might be the first one I have actually seen at the Portage.

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I decided to capture a close-up of some lichens growing on a dead stump, the only green going on.

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So much for the early spring report, it’s back to finishing going through my Belize pictures. It won’t be long before McGinnis is full of Great Blue Herons like this one. Only the vegetation will look a bit different… 🙂

Great Blue Heron, Belize 3-12-14

Great Blue Heron, Belize 3-12-14

 

Meanwhile, Back on the Lakefront

Ring-Billed Gull IMG_0784_1

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.

Crow IMG_0921_1

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.

WT Sparrow IMG_0938_1

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.

First January Thaw

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Gulls on the ice by the lighthouse, Monroe Harbor

It almost seems impossible that we went from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to freezing and back out again last week. Especially as I sit inside today avoiding a wind-chill of 7 degrees F. below zero. I visited the lakefront almost every workday this past week, monitoring the thaw. Although the weather in Chicago is still a primary topic of conversation, it is clouded by the perception that with climate change, anything could happen and whatever it is, it will most likely be weird.

Here is a Ring-Billed Gull testing the ice closer to the shoreline.

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A little piece of ice made for two Canada Geese.

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And here’s the same Ring-Billed Gull joined by a Herring Gull (yawning in this picture), who was kind enough to stand close enough to offer a credible size comparison.

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A couple days later, the ice had melted enough to accommodate Red-Breasted Mergansers closer in.

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Male Red-Breasted Mergansers

Friday morning I went down early before work, and I always see the sun just starting to come up over the lake before I get to it. For the heck of it I stopped in the breaking dawn to see if I could get a picture of the sun coming up through the trees. Without a tripod this shot was never meant to happen, but I kind of like the surreal effect anyway.

Sunrise IMG_8845_1

A Common Goldeneye male…

Common Goldeneye IMG_8874_1

The picture I did finally get of the sunrise…

Sunrise IMG_8862_1

A crow over the water…

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and several Common and Red-Breasted Mergansers in flight.

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These three Herring Gulls in various stages of plumage complement the ice in various stages of thaw. That’s a female Red-Breasted Merganser in the background.

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And here’s the White-Throated Sparrow who hangs out in the hedges by the yacht club.

WT Sparrow IMG_9458_1