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.

Fall Warblers – Getting Ready for Spring

I had planned on this post days if not a week ago… This could be my last ancient fall warbler photos post. Even though we will still have some cold weather to deal with, spring and the longer days are gaining attention from the birds. It won’t be long before the trees leaf out and warblers start to arrive. Red-winged Blackbirds have already started setting up territories as of March 1.

So here are a few reminders of what the warblers looked like in the fall. Below and at the top of the post is a Bay-breasted Warbler.

Below is one quick capture I managed of a Northern Parula.

Yellow-rumped Warblers like the ones below will look quite different in the spring.

Male Nashville Warblers have a tiny red spot sometimes visible at the crown. If you click on the first image below you might be able to see a hint of red on this one.

One sought-after warbler that I saw a few times but didn’t manage to photograph until a later visit in October was this male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

There were a lot of Black-throated Green Warblers this past fall.

And many Blackpoll Warblers were available for observation.

I will never tire of Magnolia Warblers although they were ubiquitous this past fall. I really think they like to flirt with the camera lens.

Not a warbler, but there was a very well seen Cooper’s Hawk that day.

Things are getting a bit more interesting as spring approaches and I will be back as soon as I can with more photos and reflections. Life goes on. Sometimes surprisingly so.

Oops, I almost forgot the obligatory American Redstart.

Sunshine before the storm…

I couldn’t stay inside another day, so I went to the Portage yesterday morning, armed with my walking stick but braving the sunshine without long underwear or my warmest hat. It was still cold, and there was plenty of ice, but the sun was shining so brightly it demanded my attention.

With the exception of the Northern Cardinal at the top of the post, and some Canada Geese flying overhead, there were no birds available for photographs until I was almost done with my walk. Due to the ice cover I decided not to do the inner trail on the opposite side of the pond. I wasn’t hearing any birds so I probably didn’t miss much.

Canada Geese flying over

I took a lot of pictures of snow and ice. This will all turn to mud today and fresh snow will cover it tomorrow.

Frozen deer tracks
Des Plaines River iced over

As I headed toward the last part of my walk, I heard the Red-bellied Woodpecker calling, and then a couple Black-capped Chickadees joined him. A pair of White-Breasted Nuthatches also appeared. We had a nice visit. This Red-bellied Woodpecker likes to get his picture taken and I can’t help but oblige.

There was a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches. First I saw the male, and then the female.

The chickadees have not been engaging with the camera lately. I suspect all their food sources are higher up in the trees.

But there was a Grey Squirrel who was curious.

When I got home, the only bird in my yard that I could see was this Mourning Dove.

I kept looking outside and not seeing any birds in the yard. I decided around 1:00 to go out and start cleaning up what I could under the feeders before it turned into a soggy mess. The minute I opened the back door, I saw the Cooper’s Hawk sitting in the redbud, facing me. The explained why there were no birds in the yard.

I have decided it’s too windy to visit Riverside this morning on my way to the health club for my midday Wednesday swim. Although the Winter Storm Watch for tomorrow has been revised to a Winter Weather Advisory, a Wind Advisory has been added for today. There were no goldfinches in the yard this morning and so far only the House Sparrows and a few House Finches have flown in frantically and flown out.

It’s already quite warm and we will be in the fifties by afternoon. It should be raining by the time I leave for choir rehearsal. The rain will turn to snow Thursday morning with snow continuing of and on the entire day. Winter is not done with us yet.

Winter Comes to the Backyard

We had to cross the 2021 finish line to get our first significant snow which turned out, thankfully, to be less than predicted. But the storm continued to rage eastward and wreaked havoc elsewhere. Suffice it to say we are cold and there is snow on the ground. And my feeders in the backyard have become very popular.

It’s been a couple weeks since I took the pictures below of the Cooper’s Hawk – through the kitchen window, on the fence – but less than a week later I found a pile of Mourning Dove feathers in the yard – before the snow covered it up.

All these photos are with the little mirrorless camera. I am trying to use it more and it’s handy for the backyard. Most of the pictures were also taken through windows with screens which isn’t ideal but it’s been hard to stand outside and wait for the birds to come back in the yard lately.

The American Goldfinches have been back in numbers. I counted 36 of them this morning. I wasn’t sure how they were going to adjust to the new feeders but they seem to be perfectly happy with them and I find them much easier to deal with than their beloved socks which got dirty and full of holes too many times.

Some of these pictures were from a previous snow on December 28. That snow was wet and sticking although it melted away a day later. It was worth capturing when it was clinging to the trees and remnants of plants in the front yard.

Then on the 29th…when the snow was gone…

A very tiny Fox Squirrel appeared in the yard

I did manage to get outside for a few photographs on January 2nd. A male Downy Woodpecker was the easiest to capture.

.A few goldfinches managed to tolerate my presence.

I don’t see very many House Finches lately, so it was nice to see this one.

A very small representation of the House Sparrows that visit.

I haven’t seen more than one Dark-eyed Junco at a time so I have no idea if there are more in the yard.

Today we have blowing snow and wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour with a wind chill presently of 1 degree above zero. The forecast is for even colder weather the next two days. I did manage to go to the Portage yesterday and will be back with that short visit a bit later.

Sadly our choir rehearsals have been put on hold. We are to have a Zoom meeting next Wednesday. I am not surprised by any of this, but it is difficult to continually digest all the uncertainty. I am grateful for the fall in-person rehearsals and our concerts that occurred just in time before Omicron became our destiny.

I wish you safety and warmth and some joy in the little things.

Two Days of Retirement

To celebrate August 31st being my last official day of work, I went to the Portage two mornings in a row, to look for the first signs of fall migration. I didn’t see an awful lot of species on either visit, but there were some nice looks. Best of all was feeling really free to take my time and not worry about checking my work email. I still have to get used to waking up in the dark, though, because I have walks to lead every Saturday in September and October.

Of course the obvious draw this time of year is the fall warblers passing through on their way south from their breeding grounds in the north. I didn’t see a lot of species and missed a couple, but so far I have seen a few warblers each day. They behave differently on their way back to their wintering grounds. They are not foraging in flocks and they are in less of a hurry. So while they may be harder to spot at times, it’s easier to concentrate on one bird at a time. Below are a couple American Redstarts.

I felt lucky to find this Bay Breasted Warbler in my photographs.

Magnolia Warbler, also at the head of this post

One of my favorites, a Chestnut-Sided Warbler, was being rather coy.

Not a warbler, but a nice to see Red-Eyed Vireo both days. The bottom photograph was taken the second day when the Vireo was eating poke berries with the Cedar Waxwings.

Thursday morning I managed to capture enough photographs of the Orange-Crowned Warbler below to justify my claim that I had seen one, since it’s very early for this species.

I just barely captured this Nashville Warbler.

Wednesday was cloudy.

Large flocks of Cedar Waxwings were present on both days.

Some closer views of the Waxwings Thursday, when they were busy eating poke berries.

Below is a beautiful wasp’s nest. I have a slightly smaller one in my crabapple tree this year as well…

Something else that I had a lot of in my yard before I removed nearly all of it, below, is Common Beggar Ticks which is native, and an annual – but doesn’t bloom until now.

On the first day I did manage to capture the Swainson’s Thrush below. I also saw a Wood Thrush but that photograph isn’t presentable.

Robins are looking scruffy this time of year. Most of them are juveniles.

When I first walked in on Thursday, there was a deer at the end of the paved path, and then a Cooper’s Hawk with prey landed in a tree above me, but I didn’t see what it had captured.

Unfortunately this Ruby-Throated Hummingbird was completely backlit in bright sunshine but it was still nice to see it perch right in front of me.