Yesterday I paid a visit to the Crows that hang out around Lake Shore East Park. It was a beautiful afternoon, and in the spirit of Halloween, or so it seemed, the Crows put on quite a show. Oblivious to all onlookers, they followed me around like puppies.
So here’s a little Halloween greeting from my not so scary friends.
Not all these pictures are from yesterday but they are recent.
It is so nice to have a small murder of crows again. I am looking forward to visiting them in the winter months which might otherwise be a bit lonely bird-wise. There were not a lot of other bird species yesterday, so I am sure the crows were also happy to have my almost-complete attention.
Although there was one White-Throated Sparrow who came to check me out, to see if I had brought anything for him. That reminds me, it is probably almost time to start bringing a little seed for the smaller birds.
It’s raining and not quite dark yet. The doorbell will no doubt start ringing soon. When Halloween falls on a work night I miss most of it, so I hope the weather doesn’t dampen the spirits of the trick-or-treaters too much.
It’s occurred to me, and likely to my Crow friends too, that I have not published a Crow Post in a while. It’s time to get caught up with the Crows.
A Murder of Crows over Michigan Avenue, May 17
A small section of the Murder
I must admit I haven’t been out too much at lunch lately and when I have, the Crows have not always been around. The one day I went down early before work to see migrants back in May, I did have a small murder of Crows, if around 50 Crows can be called a small murder, as they gathered on a rooftop over Michigan Avenue and then took to the sky for a spring celebration.
Fledgling Crows, Lake Shore East Park, May 18
I saw the first fledglings in May, and then we had such changeable weather. It’s safe to assume the crows were keeping a watchful eye on their youngsters and not parading them around very much.
But last week I walked down to Lake Shore East Park with Crows on my mind and they materialized. Time to put in an order for more peanuts.
Fledgling Crow trying its wings
One Crow came and sat nearby. He settled in and I figured he was functioning sentry, but he also seemed to welcome my company as well. I think it’s my old friend Fuzzy. He sat on top of an electric box which I suspect runs the fountains or the lighting in the park.
The flower beds have all been planted now, affording more places to stash peanuts.
The problem with the Crows is they aren’t afraid of the camera so I get lazy and take too many pictures and they get lazy too…
On my way out I was greeted by a Crow at one of our favorite peanut deposit places (the distant crow out of focus, after he called in his buddies), the ledge across from the Radisson. I thought the human looking at her cell phone would prevent the Crows from landing, but they all seemed to know better than I did that she wouldn’t pay us a bit of notice.
I hope the Crows enjoyed the free Fourth of July concert last night in Grant Park. I’ll try to brave the heat tomorrow when I go back to work — we’ve finally crossed the threshold into summer weather — and see if I can hang out with them again in a shady spot. Now that the 50 pounds of peanuts have arrived.
I took the picture below of the “Aqua” building, which is part of the whole Lake Shore East complex, on a whim on the 23rd because I go by it constantly, and it was a slow bird photography day. But now reading about the rooftop gardens and the limestone balconies I wonder how many of my crows visit. Oh to be a Crow in downtown Chicago.
The pain of losing my housemates upon returning from Costa Rica hits like a heavy weight as I prepare the birds’ breakfast every morning. I am still plenty angry too, but there is no gain in holding that inside of me. I had hoped to manage some photographs more related to this post before publishing but it didn’t happen, so I’ve mixed in a few photos prescient of the Costa Rica posts to come.
Blue and Dudley, with my cell phone last night
Not having much time yet to observe the new charges but very interested in their individual abilities to adapt to the new environment, the survivors and each other, I am pleased to report that so far, so good. I was most worried about the Diamond Dove making an adjustment – to be sure I have never had one of these birds before and am not exactly sure why I brought him home, except that I have a soft spot for doves, it’s a beautiful bird, and, well, maybe I even wondered if my last remaining budgie wouldn’t feel so put out if he was not the only single. The dove is more settled in every day, and even might have said something as early as Tuesday morning while I was putting food in the second large cage. It was such a strange, loud sound and I wasn’t sure where it came from, but I could not connect it to anything going on outside.By Tuesday night he was cooing along with the music on the radio. I named him Dudley last night after Dudley Do-Right, one of my favorite cartoon characters. He follows Blue, the budgie, around, and may even have a crush on him (her? – too old to tell anymore). I can hardly wait to play music this weekend and see what transpires. And I hope Dudley gets more used to my real camera so I can take better pictures of him because he’s quite lovely.
Stuck in the office all day Tuesday while the reports of Sandhill Cranes flying over by the hundreds and thousands crammed the email–and I don’t even have a window to look out of–I was dispatched to Walgreen’s to buy some air freshener, so I chose the store that was on the corner of Randolph and State. Waiting at the light to cross State Street, almost before the light changed, I looked up and saw perhaps 250 Sandhill Cranes flying overhead – very high, and in a beautiful extended V formation, floating on the air currents, and felt redeemed.
Gray Catbird, Thompson Center
Wednesday morning I packed my camera and lens in the camera backpack, because my regular backpack has ceased to fasten around my waist after the trip to Costa Rica. Even though I was absolutely sure I would have no opportunity to use the camera, it seemed silly to be using a camera backpack without a camera in it. I got off the train and walked 6 blocks before a woman stopped me to tell me the back of my pack was open! Not thinking (again), I slung the pack off my shoulder to check on it (I should have asked her to zip it up, I suppose) and the camera fell out onto the sidewalk. What More Could Go Wrong? was my sentiment at the time. But I thanked her, put the camera back in the pack, started going through the mental exercise of replacement/repair…and then, as I approached the Thompson Center, I decided to do the sensible thing and take the camera out, attach the lens, and see if it was still working. After readjusting the function wheel, it seemed to be fine (maybe that’s why those Canons are so heavy, they are encased in armor). I shot a couple sidewalk scenes, and then started walking along the planted berm which is full of scrubby little yews, cigarette butts, garbage, and birds – invariably a Rock Pigeon and House Sparrow hangout. Except a Gray Catbird jumped out in front of me and let me take its picture before darting back into the yews. I found my cell phone and reported it to ebird. I am glad I got a picture because the sighting is unusual for this time of year, as I suspected. I have checked every morning since and cannot find the bird, so this was its farewell photo.
A little more poking around produced one or two White-Throated Sparrows–a bit less unusual–and plenty of the predictable pigeons and House Sparrows. But then it occurred to me that if my pack had not been open, and I had not dropped the camera, I would most likely have walked right by the berm without noticing the Catbird. So the birds have triumphed again in making sense under even the most ridiculous circumstances.
All of this chaos has caused me to sit back and take stock of where I am and where I really want to be. Instead of plunging ahead into the day-to-day-never-ending-existence that I inhabit. I am reminded of the more important work that I really want to get done–my work–and I am trying to find new resolve to make the time off from trips and some inclement weather birding count for something, for a while, and see if I can at least write the book that has been on my mind the past few years – if not the opera. It’s the least I can do in memory of all my dearly departed bird friends. I tried to take pictures of the temperature this morning with the cell phone so I could include them in this post, but it was apparently too cold for the phone to take the picture. As of 8:00 AM it was 22 degrees Fahrenheit or -6 Centigrade.
Two New Zebra Finch Guys (again with the cell last night) – awaiting Zebra Finch Girls
I will be back soon with pictures from Costa Rica, progress reports on the evolving indoor crowd, and eventually some winter birding in Chicago area too.
Here’s looking at you, from a Grayish Saltator
Thanks to all my followers and commenters and dear friends who are a great comfort and also more inspiration to carry on. 🙂
Fall is suddenly upon us with cooler temperatures, shorter days, and finally some rain. It has been raining all day today, true to the weather predictions which the past couple weeks have not held, at least in my neighborhood. So we were pretty dry until now. I finally gave in to reality and decided to get caught up on indoor chores, rather than go out on the migrant quest. But over the past week there have been birds arriving at the two spots I can visit regularly downtown, 155 North Wacker Drive on my way in to work and Lake Shore East Park on my lunch hour, in particular on Friday after the cold front pushed more birds down to us.
Northern Waterthrush, 155 N. Wacker Drive
Tennessee Warbler behind glass at 155 North Wacker deli
At 155 North Wacker I never know where I’m going to see birds, so the waterthrush flew up onto the top of a wall on Wednesday, and on Friday, the Tennessee Warbler was stuck inside the deli. I called the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors without realizing I had not told them exactly where I was but by the time they got there the worker inside the deli whom I had been trying to help get the bird down and out the door managed to catch the warbler in something net-like, brought it out to me, and as soon as I could say “it’s fine” the Tennessee escaped his hand and flew into the trees. I would have rather gotten a picture of him free, but he was not having anything to do with us after all that.
Female American Redstart, Lake Shore East Park
Redstarts have been most abundant. Of course this time of year a lot of them look more like Yellowstarts. The first year males are distinguishable from the females such as the one above by their more brightly-colored feathers and the prescient orange look to the yellow on the side of the breast. The young male below was a bit puffed-out looking through a lot of the shots; I hope he’s feeling better.
First-Year Male American Redstart
Swainson’s Thrushes have also been here and there. Not as many as I would have seen in the larger park space but still you could pretty much count on seeing or hearing one somewhere.
Swainson’s Thrush, Lake Shore East Park
Below is a not great picture of what may be the first Blackpoll I’ve seen this fall. There were other shots that fill out the whole bird a bit more but none as revealing. That’s one thing about taking pictures of warblers. You might end up with the tail feathers in one picture and the breast or head in another. Or you might just get a good look at the underside.
Blackpoll Warbler, Lake Shore East Park
Below is a Female Wilson’s Warbler. Again not a great picture but a nice bird to see, nevertheless.
Female Wilson’s Warbler, 155 N. Wacker Drive
Friday there were at least a dozen Palm Warblers foraging in the grass and in the trees in Lake Shore East Park.
Palm Warbler, Lake Shore East Park
The third most common bird has been Magnolia Warbler. Below is what looks to me like a nice first-year male.
Magnolia Warbler, Lake Shore East Park
If I can get up early tomorrow I might try the lakefront before work. If nothing else, I owe my crows a visit.
Last week for two days in a row in downtown Chicago, I saw Hummingbird Moths, also known as Sphynx Moths, with the first one being on my way to work Thursday morning in the flowering plants at 100 South Wacker Drive. Now that fall warbler migration has begun I have had my camera ready. But I think even if I had to stop and put the lens on the body, this moth would still have waited for me. It seemed to respond to attention.
If you know the name of this plant please tell me: it’s installed everywhere which makes me think it’s rather common and very hardy.
When I got to 155 N. Wacker Drive a few minutes later, I did manage to see a Nashville Warbler out in the open. I had a female Mourning Warbler too but she was not so cooperative.
Later in the afternoon, at Lake Shore East Park, I was hearing birds but not seeing them, so I started imitating some call notes and this Blackburnian Warbler emerged to check me out.
Also had a brief encounter with a Swainson’s Thrush.
Few and far between are Monarch Butterflies. I can remember only a few years ago seeing scores of them at a time and now I am lucky to see one. I would like to see this species recover; I hope it’s not too late.
On the way back to work, at the Aon Center, was another hummer moth.
This one was a bit easier to capture. Click on the pictures for an enlarged view. I think the eyes are fascinating.
Indeed these moths look to me like some kind of magical made-up creatures that belong in a Pixar movie.
Not that I’ve ever watched one. I’d rather see the real thing.
Please pardon this brief interruption.While I’ve been trying to get through other pictures for another post, I’ve been birding as usual on my infrequent lunch hours, interrupted by rain… (lots of it – maybe I should not have danced so hard through the drought?).
Chicago Loop in the rain
Yesterday on the way back from Millennium Park where I had basically seen nothing “new” and it started to rain again…I was carrying my 40D, an umbrella and the peanut bag, I had forgotten I had the camera on another setting for the rain pictures on the way in… and who should show up but my first-of-year Black-and-White Warbler, looking very bedraggled and wet, behaving like a Brown Creeper scaling the tree trunks, but definitely not a Brown Creeper.
In spite of the umbrella and the wrong setting a got a picture or two of the warbler anyway.
And here are a couple other volunteers from the park.
Thanks to all who are following my blog and those who make the effort to like my posts. I wish I could respond to each and every one of you individually. Maybe someday I’ll get there (I’m even worse with facebook, ask anyone who has “friended” me). In the spirit of my disorganization, I am offering somewhat of a hodgepodge, smorgasbord post.
It’s been a busy Labor Day Weekend, or so it seems–difficult to let go of the last three-day weekend until the Big Holidays at the end of the year. I’ve been trying to let go of the work week as much as possible. Saturday morning was the only morning of the past three I woke up with work on my mind.
I heard this little clip of Beniamino, one of my six little male zebra finches, on Saturday when I was listening to a tape in the car. He has hopped right onto the microphone and started singing, and then calling. Pietro sings a moment later.
The juvenile Ruby-Throated Hummingbird left my yard sometime last week, but now I have an adult female coming to my feeders. She seems to know who fills the feeders, because when I went out yesterday afternoon to see if she would show up for a picture, she soon flew right over my head and to the closest feeder in front of me. And perched. She seems to like to relax and take her time about these things.
Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Also have a few pictures from around the yard.
Young Male House Finches
I was trying out a new camera. I’m taking a trip in November and it seemed like time to get something a little more bird friendly. Actually it is more friendly from the standpoint of noise alone – the shutter click is a lovely sound compared to the tin-can clunk of my other cameras.
Male American Goldfinch
Here’s something else very exciting. Something made me decide to clean the cages tonight, which meant I got to listen to NPR in the basement, and there was a story about Wapapura, which takes recording sessions to the outdoors. This is what I have always dreamed of doing, but it’s hard to carry around an electric piano, or any piano for that matter. I would love to take a string quartet to the forest and record the birds’ contributions. I am thrilled to hear someone else believes music is for sharing with the universe.