More from Middlefork

Red-Winged Blackbird, Middlefork Savanna

Red-Winged Blackbird, Middlefork Savanna

The pictures are from last week at Middlefork Savanna.

I had planned to get up early this morning and go back to McGinnis Slough to pick up where I left off two weeks ago, prepared this time in case of deer flies while doubting seriously I would have any issues with insects at all due to the present cool weather. However, my water heater had a different agenda. Yesterday when I went down to the basement water was pooled in the middle of it to the sound of a trickle coming from somewhere. It wasn’t until I had mopped up four buckets full (and since the water was clean and we’ve had no rain lately, I was dousing the yard with it) that I could get closer to the source and determine it was the water heater. Luckily, I have fantastic neighbors and one of them has great expertise with this sort of thing. I purchased the new water heater this morning and he was done installing it before noon.

Barn Swallows by the bridge

Barn Swallows by the bridge

While my neighbor was working in the basement I was removing lava rock from the side of the house where I am going to plant some Blazing Star in the gaps between the hostas and sedum planted there, and then putting it down next to the chain-link fence where there is just enough soil to grow weeds and grass, which I cleared as I went along. This is a project I have envisioned for years. So in a way, it was good I had to deal with the water heater because it forced me to take advantage of great weather for yard work: cloudy and cool most of the morning.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

When we got back from buying the new appliance, there was a sick House Finch that had planted itself at the bottom of the stairwell to the basement. It was probably the same one I saw on the feeder last night, just sitting there. I think normally the cat that visits my yard would have found it. But I put it all too easily in a cage and called Willowbrook Wildlife Center to see if they would take him. Unfortunately, by the time I could leave the house in the afternoon, the bird was dead. I was not surprised, but I felt bad. Then I thought I would have felt even worse if he had died on the way.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

I had also planned to go to Evanston to see Jason’s open garden but I could not muster the energy by this point. Suffice it to say I don’t take hour-long drives anywhere if I think I’m going to fall asleep in one direction or the other. I am so sorry I missed the opportunity to meet the master gardener. The bucketfuls of lava rock and water must have done me in (and now I am quite sore). After sitting down to write I wound up taking a nap, then woke up to play a bit of piano, and then potted some sage from my yard for my friend Linda.

Goldfinch, Middlefork Savanna

Goldfinch, Middlefork Savanna

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

I recorded this Indigo Bunting singing but the wind noise at Middlefork was so bad I didn’t get a good recording, so I have substituted another bunting from the Portage a week earlier. Maybe it’s sort of like lip-syncing.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake Master

Hedge Bindweed

Hedge Bindweed

For some reason the white flowers were catching my eye.

Double-Crested Cormorants

Double-Crested Cormorants

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Some of the usual suspects, the Cormorants and the Song Sparrow, but it’s still lovely to see them.

Goldfinch 1I2A0707

Goldfinches enjoy thistle so much I am almost tempted to let it grow in my yard. Almost.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

The Barn Swallow above was stretching on one of the Elawa Farm buildings when I first got there.

However much later, after I decided it was time to go, on the way back to my car I suddenly heard a very strange sound, which was so unexpected I might have thought it was somebody’s cell phone or an odd recording coming from wherever. Shortly thereafter I came upon the cages at the back of Elawa Farm and realized I had indeed heard a Kookaburra (think Australia). I didn’t manage to get his song, but I have included a recording that seems to be the standard one on the Internet, with many birds – try to imagine only one calling instead of several.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

There were informative signs about all the captive birds but none divulged the individuals’ origins. Two Kookaburras shared the cage, I believe a pair. I could tell this was the male by his more engaged behavior. At first he shied away but then got curious and came down to pose on his perch. I would have liked to have known what he was doing there. I’ll have to go back when the visitor’s center is open so I can inquire. As far as I know, Kookaburras do not migrate. Even if they did, they certainly would not cross the Pacific ocean to Illinois.

Barn Swallows 7-21-13 Middlefork 1I2A0629A barn swallow and its reflection.

I myself have grown reflective after the water heater’s weekend. 🙂

Paul Douglas Part II

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

No surprise there were many Song Sparrows singing on Sunday, so while I can’t be sure whether the recorded song belongs to the bird above, it could be.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

There were several Savannah Sparrows too, but traffic noise made it difficult to record them singing. I managed to get a little song here.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallows

Northern Rough-Winged Swallows

Early into the walk, I saw these two Northern Rough-Winged Swallows resting.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

While several Great Blue Herons and finally one Great Egret flew over, I liked this Double-Crested Cormorant, perhaps because it’s easier to get away with a silhouette and less detail.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

I think the Dragonfly above is a Female Widow Skimmer, but I could be wrong, so if there are any dragonfly enthusiasts out there, please weigh in!

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

Cabbage Whites seem to be the dominant butterfly species of the week. Up until last week I seemed to be seeing Mourning Cloaks frequently.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

This Yellow Warbler was singing but I didn’t manage to get a decent recording. I only have two hands, and while I sometimes try to balance the camera in one hand and the recorder in the other, it’s usually futile, not to mention I wind up recording a lot of shutter clicks. The warblers were moving fast, and they don’t sing continuously. The photo option won out.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

As far as I can tell, the Brown Thrasher above is a juvenile bird.

Bobolink

Bobolink

Near the end of my walk, I ventured way down to the end of the parking lot to see if anything different was going on the opposite side of the marsh which I had walked past on the trail. It was getting hotter and later so I did not have much hope for anything new. Then, as I turned to go back toward my car, I realized I was hearing birds in the grassland directly beside me. So I stopped to listen, and heard the Bobolink above, a Meadowlark which I didn’t see until later, and what would prove to be a Grasshopper Sparrow.

Female Bobolink

Female Bobolink

I have not seen many Female Bobolinks and so was stumped for a while by the above image, but after a lengthy process of elimination it occurred to me who she was.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

The Meadowlark finally showed up, although he would not come close enough for a good picture.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

And here is my surprise bird, the Grasshopper Sparrow. I have longed to see this bird for years. They are endangered in Illinois, so it is always a thrill to find one. And to see one, who seemed to be so comfortable sitting out there…maybe he’s a youngster. Anyway, below is a recording of all three birds and probably a few more singing along.

Bobolink

Bobolink

After the Flood, Part Two

Flooding at Emiquon

Flooding at Emiquon

So as not to forget the biggest weather event of the year so far, at least around here… here are a few more photos from last weekend’s Emiquon expedition, part of the Illinois Audubon Spring Celebration. In the picture above, the water beyond the first row of trees is the Illinois River, which was at 26.8 feet: flood stage is 14 feet. Normally the depth of water on the near side of the trees would not be there…instead there would be more puddles and shorebird habitat.

Spoon River College Arboretum

Spoon River College Arboretum

So Saturday morning instead of the original plan, we visited Spoon River College Arboretum, which is a beautiful 10-acre tract of natural habitat and wood chip trails. I saw my first-of-year Wood Thrush early on in the walk.

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Brown-Headed Cowbirds, more often heard than seen, but this one was glistening when the sun made it through the clouds for a few moments.

Brown-Headed Cowbird

Brown-Headed Cowbird

One of many Chipping Sparrows…

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

At some point we found a Blue-Headed Vireo, but he was elusive.

BH Vireo IMG_6887_1

Blue-Headed Vireo

I remember walking through a crop field to get to the parking lot as the walk was winding down, so this must be it.Field IMG_6907_1

After lunch we went out again to see as much of Emiquon as was possible. This road was washed out.Flooded Road IMG_7029_1

Blue-Winged Teal were everywhere.

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal

And invariably some were flushed. But then you get to see the blue on the wing that they’re named for…

Blue-Winged Teal IMG_6925_1

Blue-Winged Teal IMG_7004_1

Not much more than the profile of a Double-Crested Cormorant, but it is distinctive.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

Along the side of a road going back to Dickson Mounds, which if the mounds had not been underwater might have made for interesting photographs…there was a lone Snow Goose.

Snow Goose IMG_7055_1

Snow Goose

On Sunday morning, we decided to head home instead of go farther out of our way for yet more flooding… so we stopped by Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights on the way back home. Tufted Titmouses (Titmice? Titmeese?) were everywhere.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

And although this is out of chronological order, maybe it’s a good place to stop: a perfectly-formed flowering Magnolia tree.

Magnolia IMG_6909_1

Tomorrow morning I am participating in my first Spring Bird Count. Wish me luck getting up at 2:30 a.m. 🙂