Black Mulberries and Odonata

EUST Berries Portage 08-05-17-7181

Juvenile European Starling in the Black Mulberry Tree

I went back to the Chicago Portage last Saturday and figured out the three big trees with berries. After seeing the berries in my photos, they looked like mulberries to me. Sure enough, the trees are Black Mulberry, which can get up to 50 feet high, and at the Portage over the long period of time, they look like they have.

My history with mulberries is brief, but years ago one tree made an impression on me. There was a White Mulberry (Chinese) in my yard when I first moved in, and I quickly tired of the Starlings leaving a berry mess all over the place, not to mention the fact that you can never entirely get rid of mulberry trees, so I had the tree removed but I have to remain constantly vigilant, cutting down shoots here and there, if I can’t dig them up. More pictures of a Black Mulberry Tree below.

Maybe it was too early in the day for butterflies as there were absolutely none, but there were dragonflies and damselflies.

Female 12-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly Portage 08-05-17-7259

Female 12-Spotted Skimmer

Common Whitetail Portage 08-05-17-7320

Common Whitetail

Poss Female Powdered Dancer Portage 08-05-17-7315

possible Female Powdered Dancer

Eastern Forktail Portage 08-05-17-7312

Eastern Forktail

Blue-Ringed Dancer Portage 08-05-17-7298

Blue-Ringed Dancer

Predictably, many of the birds were juveniles, like the Red-Winged Blackbirds below.

And most of the birds were quite far away. For the record, a Cedar Waxwing and a Northern Flicker.

The Mourning Doves below were at first a bit closer but didn’t wait for my shot (left) and then were cautiously distant (right).

It was nice to see an Osprey fly over, for a change.

Osprey Portage 08-05-17-7268

And a flying cigar (Chimney Swift).

CHSW Portage 08-05-17-7206

And quite unexpectedly for both of us, a young buck White-tailed Deer on the trail ahead of me.

Young Buck Portage 08-05-17-7439Wildflowers still captured my attention.

Wildflower Portage 08-05-17-7040In particular I was glad to see the Jewelweed (impatiens capensis, Spotted Touch-Me-Not) starting up again. I’ve been seeing a couple hummingbirds at the Portage the last few weeks but not close. There’s always the possibility Jewelweed will attract them when it’s in full bloom.

Jewelweed Portage 08-05-17-7229

Jewelweed

And sure enough, Burdock and Pokeweed are on the chopping block.

Burdock and Pokeweed Pulled Up Portage 08-05-17-7223More unfinished Starlings below…

And Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and a Baltimore Oriole.

BAOR Portage 08-05-17-7351

House Wren and Gray Catbird… Indigo Buntings abound.

INBU Portage 08-05-17-7422

Female Indigo Bunting

INBU Portage 08-05-17-7056

Juvenile Male Indigo Bunting

AMRO Berries Portage 08-05-17-7174

American Robin in the Black Muberry

This coming Sunday, my flutist friend Linda and I are playing flute-and-piano music for the service at the Second Unitarian Church in Chicago. Not sure I will be able to venture out again this Saturday morning. I slept in last Sunday…

Burdock and Bellflowers

Burdock & Tall Bellflower Portage 07-29-17-6488This time of year I may not be seeing many birds but everything is in a state of growth and worth attention. I visited the Chicago Portage last Saturday because I wanted to go elsewhere on Sunday and still felt like I needed to keep track of whatever was going on there. I was surprised to see the fruits of some restoration efforts in the vegetation. There is a lot of Tall Bellflower I don’t recall seeing before, mixed in with the Burdock which is about to bloom. Last time the Common Burdock was in bloom, butterflies were everywhere, so I will have to go back soon to see if that happens again.

Burdock is an invasive species but for whatever reason it’s not considered a problem at the Portage. It could be that there is just too much of it to remove entirely but by planting more native species, the County is slowly making some headway against it. I don’t mind it so much because it supports wildlife. Still need to be careful not to get caught up in it.

I became captivated by the grass below but I cannot identify it…yet. Plants are starting to drive me crazy.

There is a lot of Pinnate Prairie Coneflower, below left, but I don’t remember seeing Blue Vervain before, which is on the right. I did see the same Vervain blooming elsewhere in Cook County over the weekend.

Of course there were birds, but not so easy to photograph. I became intrigued by young European Starlings though because now is when they start looking like their name for a brief period of time as their breasts break out in little white stars which you might be able to see if you click on the picture on the bottom left.

There were a lot of Cedar Waxwings too. Seems the group name is either “earful” or “museum” of waxwings… They are notorious fruit lovers and that made it hard to capture the berry-eater at the bottom.

Cedar Waxwing Portage 07-29-17-6466There have not been a lot of dragonfly species. It’s a female Common Whitetail Skimmer on the left below. I still don’t understand the attraction to gravel. On the right is a type of Spreadwing damselfly, but I am not able to identify it.

A long view of the water, such as it is, at the Portage, looking peaceful and baked in sunlight.

Portage 07-29-17-6490Some juvenile-appearing Flycatchers below: Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe and what I’m pretty sure is an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

EAKI Portage 07-29-17-6516

Eastern Kingbird

A couple Burdock closeups…

The yellow flower below looks different from the ratibida pinnata but I have no clue…tucked away in the shadows, a bunny and a young Robin.

The bracket fungus below is quite impressive. I don’t think I’ve seen it before.

Fungus Portage 07-29-17-6487Below is a Northern Flicker in the most popular tree bearing fruit. Now I’m realizing I was so busy following the birds in it, I didn’t bother to figure out the tree itself. More challenges ahead.

NOFL Portage 07-29-17-6441I fully intended to do a post encompassing all last weekend’s experiences but there’s too much so I will be back shortly with a couple more installments.

Ho-hum, Ennui and Fall Migration

RBNU 09-02-16-0153

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Chicago lakefront park

You’d think I’d be done with processing all those pictures from the two trips in Ecuador by now,  and be happy to just get on with it, but there always seems to be an excuse presenting itself, like hot weather, work, fall migration, information overload, afternoon naps, imminent cataract surgery…

Although I haven’t done a lot of birding lately, it has been impossible to resist the inevitability of fall migration and the days getting shorter, signaling periodicity going on in the birds’ lives, and even if we’re not paying direct attention to it I suspect we’re all somehow getting ready to hunker down for the winter too.

Two weeks ago I was still seeing the female Scarlet Tanager above, at the Portage, but that was the last time.

These pictures, jumping around, are from a couple visits to the Chicago Portage, a few Chicago Loop migrants present last week, and yesterday morning when I went to Brezina Woods before it got unbearably hot. I think this spot may become a new hang-out place for me as the habitat at the Portage has changed so radically in the last year or two, I’m not sure if the birds will ever come back to it. I paid attention to all flying creatures when I was there this past Sunday and managed to get a couple pictures of butterflies and a dragonfly (above).

NOFL 08-14-16-9778

Northern Flicker

AMRO 08-14-16-9827

American Robin

The leaves on the trees start to brown a bit and so do the birds. Fall plumages are sometimes challenging.

Blackpoll Warbler 09-05-16-0414

Blackpoll Warbler, Brezina Woods

Blackpoll Warbler 09-05-16-0429

Blackpoll Warbler, Brezina Woods

The youngsters are sometimes the only ones left to see. Below, from the Portage, a Song Sparrow on the left and an Indigo Bunting on the right. More views of the two species below them. The Buntings all look like their moms right now.

SOSP and INBU 09-04-16-0248

This is the time of year to see large flocks of Cedar Waxwings kibbutzing around the treetops and they have been present every time I’ve been out at the Portage and yesterday at Brezina. Juveniles in the smaller photos and an adult in the larger one.

CEWA 09-04-16-0301Down by the Chicago River last week, a Ring-Billed Gull enjoys his perch on one of the last remaining rotting pilings. And the only bird in the Boeing garden nearby was what appears to be a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher below, after checking Crossley’s pictures as a reference, but empidonax flycatchers are hard to nail down unless they say something and this guy was silent.

RBGU 09-02-16-0025

YBFL 09-02-16-0037
At 155 N. Wacker on Friday, there was a Nashville Warbler.

Sunday’s visit to the Portage yielded a Tiger Swallowtail and a Monarch Butterfly. I have seen more Monarchs but not so many. What I haven’t seen hardly at all are the usually numerous Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and Mourning Cloaks.

Below, a couple more warblers from my visit to Brezina Woods. The hanging upside-down Redstart, below left, is a challenge to piece together.

Magnolia Warbler 09-05-16-0438

Magnolia Warbler

Two more views of the Red-Breasted Nuthatch. It was a special treat as I got to see two individuals in the remaining black locust trees at the far east end of the Cancer Survivors’ Memorial, the only trees to survive the total decimation of what used to be Daley Bicentennial Plaza and is now Maggie Daley Park.

Last picture of the post below, an adult Cedar Waxwing at the Portage a couple weeks ago.

CEWA 08-14-16-9763I’m looking forward to cataract surgery on my right eye tomorrow morning, because that’s the eye I use to focus the damn camera lens with, so I’m hoping for future sharper images!!

Hanging Out

BCNH Portage 8-2-15-8128

The virtual sunniness of it all makes the summer heat seem more oppressive somehow. We had rain after rain after rain in July for weeks and then virtually for a week it was all over, the steady sunshine and heat quickly depleting water levels. So I didn’t know what to expect when I wandered over to the Portage Sunday morning. Perhaps shorebirds, but there were none. However there was the Black-Crowned Night Heron above. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one at this location, so that made the visit worthwhile immediately. In discovery mode I’ll take anything but for some reason a different or unexpected bird sates my hunger for more for…at least a few minutes!

GBHE Portage 8-2-15-8165GBHE Portage 8-2-15-8201The only other species near what little water was left was a Great Blue Heron who was first silhouetted as I walked in against the sun, the trail still being inaccessible from the opposite direction, and then after I emerged from a lot of burdock and butterflies, the heron decided to leave.

Red Admiral Portage 8-2-15-1349

Red Admiral

The butterflies almost made up for the lack of bird species.

Comma Butterfly Portage 8-2-15-1319

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma Butterfly Portage 8-2-15-1308

Eastern Comma

Butterfly Portage 8-2-15-1368

Silver-spotted Skipper

Red Spotted Purple Butterfly Portage 8-2-15-1389

Red Spotted Purple

Caterpillar Portage 8-2-15-1332

Lined Tiger Moth Caterpillar

After months of closing the hole in the fence, the gate, so to speak, is wide open. An enormous amount of vegetation has been cleared and there is a wide path leading in either direction, toward the Des Plaines River or the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. I did not go far in either direction but decided to at least take a peek at the river and on my way I encountered a doe and two fawns. Below is one of the fawns passing through.
Deer Portage 8-2-15-8175There were dragonflies but they were generally less cooperative.

Dragonfly Portage 8-2-15-1372

White-Faced Meadowhawk

Dragonfly Portage 8-2-15-1364

Unidentified Damselfly

Bumblebee Portage 8-2-15-1327

Is this the backside of a bee?

House Wrens were still quite vocal and I managed to see this one.

HOWR Portage 8-2-15-8156

House Wren

Of all 13 species I reported, there were more American Robins than anything else. The one below will quickly lose its spottiness.

AMRO Portage 8-2-15-8241

Juvenile American Robin

Downy Woodpeckers are regulars at the Portage, if not always visible.

DOWP Portage 8-2-15-8249

Downy Woodpecker

And Indigo Buntings still rule. There have been more than ever this breeding season, and they are still singing.

INBU Portage 8-2-15-8114We’ve cooled off a bit, and the days are inching ever-so-slightly shorter, tilting thoughts toward fall migration. I’m sure there’s still plenty of hot weather left but maybe I’m finally getting used to it. If it doesn’t rain this weekend…who knows where I could go?

How Blue Is My Indigo?

Indigo Bunting, Chicago Portage

Indigo Bunting, Chicago Portage

Every Sunday the forecast has been the same lately: cloudy, rainy with possible thunderstorms. But every Sunday is a bit different, as the rain and the longer days contribute to the growing of things. I have been trying to conquer the overgrowth in my backyard, but yesterday I decided to take advantage of a break in the storm activity and visit the Chicago Portage.

Chi Portage 6-14-15-4834

18188879913_0cc498745c_zI never know what to expect, and this visit was no exception. For starters, I couldn’t take the trail entrance I normally do because it was entirely blocked off. So instead of there being a way to go through the entire site and wind up back where I started, I wound up taking two parts of the trail up and back.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Some of the species I expect to see were not present. It could have been the time of day. But I suspect a more likely explanation is the constant habitat disruption being more than some species want to put up with. Consequently I had no Song Sparrows, American Goldfinches, nor White-Breasted Nuthatches. Even Mallards were not present. And not even one Gray Catbird. But this is just one visit and it was nearly mid-day, so perhaps next weekend I can confirm these absences further. In the meantime, I heard Black-Capped Chickadees so my faith in their existence is restored.

Ind Bunting Chi Portage 6-14-15-5201

Indigo Bunting

Female Indigo Bunting

Female Indigo Bunting

Indigo Buntings were everywhere, followed by almost as many Baltimore Orioles, although the orioles were less available for pictures, but they sang constantly. The first one I saw was carrying food, but I had to settle for this far away shot of another one later.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

My surprise bird of the day was the first-year male Orchard Oriole below. Not only do I think this is the first time I’ve had an Orchard Oriole at the Portage, but I think it might be the first time I’ve realized this is what a first-year male looks like. I tried to get his song too but recording was challenging yesterday with a lot of background noise. Maybe the cloud cover had something to do with it.

First Year Male Orchard Oriole

First Year Male Orchard Oriole

As usual there was no dearth of robins. I estimated 40, but there were probably more, including the clueless young one on the trail.

Am Ro Chi Portage 6-14-15-4851Am Ro Chi Portage 6-14-15-4873AMRO Chi Portage 6-14-15-4920

Of course Red-Winged Blackbirds were abundant too, although a bit less visible. Below could be one of the reasons why.

Fledgling Red-Winged Blackbird

Fledgling Red-Winged Blackbird

I looked for a Green Heron and found it easily.

Green Heron, Chicago Portage

Green Heron, Chicago Portage

Later I had another heron perched way on top of a dead tree hanging over the water. It was hard to get its coloring in this light or the lack thereof but it was apparently wet and going through some trouble to dry off.

GRHE Chicago Portage 6-14-15-5014GRHE Chicago Portage 6-14-15-5019GRHE Chicago Portage 6-14-15-5020GRHE Chicago Portage 6-14-15-5021

If anything became apparent yesterday, it was that next time I should bother to take my closeup lens with me, as there is a lot of little stuff going on that invites more scrutiny. Like the hundreds of tiny froglets or toadlets that suddenly sprang up under my feet.

Toadlet Chicago Portage 6-14-15-5082Toadlet Chicago Portage 6-14-15-5080Toadlets Chicago Portage 6-14-15-5105

Or the dragonflies that I knew so well last year and now have to look up all over again.

Dragonfly 6-14-15-5127Dragonfly 6-14-15-5137

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers seemed to be tolerating the disturbance.

RBWP Chi Portage 6-14-15-4938

I wonder how long it will be before I can walk through this again.

Chicago Portage 6-14-15-4954

As a final note, the Chicago birding community lost a great birder and photographer on Saturday. Steve Spitzer apparently died of a heart attack. I am sorry I did not know Steve personally; I remember we had a short email exchange over a sighting at some point and he was friendly and generous in his communications. He spent a lot of time a Montrose and other lakefront places and took some amazing photographs. You can see some of them here at the link to his flickr page. He also posted a remarkable video of a young Great Horned Owl swimming in Lake Michigan to avoid harassment by two Peregrine Falcons. I hope Steve is flying with the birds now.

Sunday at Orland Grassland

Field Sparrow, Orland Grassland

Field Sparrow, Orland Grassland

I envisioned another two-locale outing yesterday morning, but never made it to the second spot, since there was quite enough to keep me busy at Orland Grassland. This is another reclaimed farm property becoming restored habitat, and it’s not far from Bartel, so if there were not quite so many strip malls and subdivisions in between you could almost envision a habitat corridor for grassland birds.

(The Field Sparrow above was friendly, but not singing. Although there were several others singing I was unable to record them. The closest one stopped singing the minute I turned on the recorder, of course.)

Juvenile Eastern Meadowlark

Juvenile Eastern Meadowlark

Juvenile Eastern Phoebe

Juvenile Eastern Phoebe

Indeed driving just farther south than McGinnis Slough to reach Orland the feeling is never-ending suburban sprawl. Although Orland Grassland is much better established than it was last time I visited which was several years ago, and it is possible to look in at least one direction without seeing a building or utility tower on the horizon, I still could not escape the feeling of fragility, whether it was the helicopters overhead reminding me of civilization or the huge Ace Hardware warehouse looming at one corner of the preserve as I headed back to the parking lot.

Field of Bergamot Orland 8-3-14-2247

A field of Bergamot

Monarda at Orland 8-3-14-3660

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

I managed to walk the perimeter of barely half of the 960 acre preserve, which I estimate to be about a mile one way, before turning around and heading back. I was stopped at every turn either by a bird, an interesting insect, or a wildflower. For the time being the trails are mown paths, often restructured with dried tire ruts from the last rainstorm, but I understand a paved trail is in the offing. I would rather stumble along a mown path. With the exception of a couple people walking their dogs, I was the only person at Orland yesterday morning.

Blazing Star

Blazing Star

Fields of Monarda seemed to attract butterflies, bees, and of particular interest to me, a hummingbird. This was my first good look at a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird this season. The welcome mat has been out in my backyard for months: I hope to see them soon at the feeders.

Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2268

Juvenile Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2264 Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2263 Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2254

It was difficult to get a good image of the Katydid below but my, what long legs you have, and long antenna, and, well, a miniature marvel. The pondhawks and skimmers were more accommodating.

Meadow Katydid at Orland 8-3-14-3775

Meadow Katydid, I think…

White-Faced Meadowhawk Male at Orland 8-3-14-3706

White-Faced Meadowhawk Male

Widow Skimmer Orland 8-3-14-2239

Widow Skimmer

Colorful beetles, dragonflies…

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on Rattlesnake Master at Orland 8-3-14-3672

Goldenrod Soldier Beetles on Rattlesnake Master

Eastern Pondhawk female

Eastern Pondhawk female

After a while other plants interrupted the field of Bergamot and sadly, so far, I can identify only one of them.

Wildflowers at Orland 8-3-14-3758

Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

Wildflowers at Orland 8-3-14-3759

Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)

Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3687 Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3738 Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3717

Then of course there were butterflies. I think the first one below is some sort of Checkerspot but I cannot seem to locate it readily. I have to look harder.

Update: thanks to Mary Lee’s comment below I finally looked up the Crescents and I think I have identified this butterfly. Thanks, Mary Lee!

Thanks to Linda Padera I now have the correct ID for the Crescent – it is a Pearl.

Pearl Crescent per Linda Padera

Linda says this is a Pearl Crescent

Not a butterfly but always a welcome sighting, this Northern Flicker was one of four or more. Now that nesting is over they are perhaps a bit less shy. In all I had 30 bird species on my list but I probably saw only 20.

Male Northern Flicker

Male Northern Flicker

There were a lot of Viceroy Butterflies. I may have seen one Monarch but it was at a distance and it disappeared before I could be sure of the identification

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

Walking through Orland this morning was magical and mournful at the same time. Whenever I have a fleeting moment of superb reality, I seem to focus more on the fleeting than the moment itself.

It’s time to go back to work. It’s been a nice weekend, but there’s a lot more to be done.

Is it a Slough? Is it a Marsh? It’s McGinnis!

Swamp Rose Mallow, McGinnis Slough

Swamp Rose Mallow, McGinnis Slough

After two weekends of extended field trips, it was good to kick back and save Sunday for a less brutally early rise to visit McGinnis Slough and the Chicago Portage and see how summer is going in my two most frequently visited locations. I originally intended to combine both in one post but it’s more than I can handle, so this is McGinnis and with luck the Portage post will follow tomorrow.

I can always count on seeing Great Egrets at McGinnis this time of year although depending on conditions, I never know quite where. Sometimes several trees are occupied like the one below, but this visit yielded only the one populated tree.

Great Egret Tree, McGinnis Slough

Great Egret Tree, McGinnis Slough

In spite of all the rain we had a couple weeks ago, we have not had enough to keep up with the heat, leaving the water levels nearly nonexistent in both places. The Great Blue Heron below appeared a bit disheveled sitting on a limb that stretched out above an area that nomally has more water than mud.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

McGinnis offered more birding by ear than sightings. Particularly frustrating was to hear Marsh Wrens close in the reeds but not see them. One did finally move so I could catch a glimpse but there were no photo opportunities. In spite of this I did record a song and have included a photo that depicts what I did not see.

Marsh Wren in the Reeds

Marsh Wren in the Reeds

House Wren Portage 7-27-14-1678

One House Wren was much easier to see, although I was a bit surprised by its presence.

 

House Wren Portage 7-27-14-1680

 

 

Perhaps the best song of the day was the Song Sparrow I never saw. I did get a picture of a juvenile at McGinnis not far from the House Wren. And a recording of the Song Sparrow, even if it’s not the one in the picture.

 

Juvenile Song Sparrow

Juvenile Song Sparrow

Green Heron, McGinnis Slough

Green Heron, McGinnis Slough

I have been fortunate to see many Green Herons this summer. I never tire of them.

Cat Tail McGinnis 7-27-14-3533

I’ve concluded that for this summer, McGinnis is a marsh. Cat tails and tall reeds block a view of what must be mud flats, so I have no shorebirds to report. But the dragonflies are having a good time. This looks like a pair of Ruby Meadowhawks to Linda Padera.

Dragonflies McGinnis 7-27-14-3539

Probably Ruby Meadowhawks

There were not many butterflies, but this Eastern Comma caught my eye right out of the parking lot.

Comma Butterfly, McGinnis

Comma Butterfly, McGinnis

I’ll be back with a word or two from the Chicago Portage.