Fall Farewell

Song Sparrow, Springbrook Prairie

Song Sparrow, Springbrook Prairie

I am trying hard to get my head around my imminent departure. There are simply too many things to do, and I seem to have left them all to the last moment. The laundry list gave me an excuse to stay home this weekend, although it would have been a beautiful one to be out birding. But perhaps my one triumph was to rearrange the feeders a bit and stump the gray squirrels. Watching one squirrel slide off a baffle guarding the peanut feeder, which has not been up for months, gave me hope. And I haven’t seen a squirrel sitting on the “squirrel proof” sunflower seed feeder either. Of course I have been gone all day and it’s pitch dark now when I get home, so I won’t know if any of this is working until I get back. The squirrels have always proven to be smarter than I am and I am sure they will come up with a new plan. But I have a sizable investment in birdseed from the Audubon sale and I’d like as much of it as possible to go to the birds.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Mallards

Mallards

The pictures are from a couple weeks ago when I paid a visit to Springbrook Prairie in DuPage County. I didn’t see all that many birds and definitely missed the legendary Nelson’s Sharp-Tailed and LeConte’s Sparrows, but it was another chance to wield the Tamron 150-600mm lens around and try getting used to it.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

As much as I look forward to my trip, I hate to leave my birds. It’s also frustrating to find myself thinking about what I will do when I get back, when I haven’t even left yet!

Mallards

Mallards

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

It’s amazing how a difference in light can almost obscure the identity of a bird like the American Goldfinch below.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

I haven’t seen many Field Sparrows this year so it was nice to catch this one.

Song Sparrow

Field Sparrow

No matter how big the lens, a bird that is far away remains…far away.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Springbrook 10-12-14-1754

It’s hard to capture the enormity of Springbrook Prairie. I did not walk the entire trail, which can take hours. Nevertheless, several cyclists and runners kept passing me by again and again.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

I will try to come back with one more post before I disappear for a while, as a few last minute contributors to my inner and outer landscape have vied for my attention.

 

Spring Bird Count

Yellow Warbler, McKee Marsh

Yellow Warbler, McKee Marsh

Saturday was a beautiful day for a bird count. Even though the sun was often shining in our eyes, we saw some great birds at McKee Marsh which is part of the Blackwell Forest Preserve in DuPage County, Illinois.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Even though much of the time the birds were too far away or backlit. it was still worth it to take photographs to document the effort.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

In one case, the photographs helped clarify an ID. We couldn’t see the eye-ring on this bird below, and called it a female Mourning Warbler…

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

But the photographs taken as the bird moved around in the top of the tree proved the bird did indeed have an eye-ring, and so it is a Nashville Warbler.

Although I have done the Christmas Bird Count for years, this was my first Spring Bird Count. I don’t exactly know why I never did one before, but I suspect I was never asked before this year and I never volunteered because Saturday mornings still sometimes carry that sacred sleep-for-the-week designation after an exhausting work week.

Identifying the Plastic Bag Bird

Identifying the Plastic Bag Bird

But this spring has been so long in coming, it’s hard to resist getting out every chance I get, and so far the last two weekends have been rescheduled around birding.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Finally we are warming up with spring-like weather and the trees are starting to leaf.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Common Yellow-Throat

Common Yellow-Throat

We split into two groups to cover different areas. I’m not sure if my group had Bay-Breasted Warbler on the list, but I found the female below in my photographs. Sometimes it seems prudent to focus on capturing an image before the bird disappears and figuring it out later. I know there are purists who look down on this method, but the photographs help me pay attention to detail I might miss while trying to follow the bird’s movements with my binoculars.

Bay-Breasted Warbler

Bay-Breasted Warbler

The other half of the group likely saw more waterfowl than we did when they took off in the direction of the marsh (we headed towards the woods), but at some point we came around to open water and a flotilla of American Coots seemed to appear suddenly out of nowhere.

American Coots

American Coots

Busy Red-Tailed Hawks were presnet too. One was carrying nesting material in its talons, and another had what appeared to be a snake.

Red-Tailed Hawk with Nesting Material

Red-Tailed Hawk with Nesting Material

Red-Tailed Hawk with Snake

Red-Tailed Hawk with Snake

Toward the end of the morning we found a marshy area which had a few shorebirds. Compare the similarities and differences between Lesser Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpiper.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

We stopped at a shelter with picnic tables for lunch, and there were Barn Swallows waiting patiently on the grill for us to finish getting settled so they could get back to tending their nest.

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallow Nest McKee 5-10-14.jpg-1259I managed to do only the first half day of the count. But I will be better-prepared next year, maybe even take off from work the afternoon or the day before so it will be easier to get up early and last all day.

When I got home after grocery shopping, I took a nap. Later in the afternoon after I got up, I noticed White-Crowned Sparrows in the yard and decided to take my chances at photographing one of them.

White-Crowned Sparrow - Yard Bird

White-Crowned Sparrow – Yard Bird

After taking pictures of one foraging on the ground by the feeders as I sat still on a bench, a White-Crowned Sparrow landed in the tree right in front of me and posed.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

Yesterday when I returned from more errands, there were four White-Crowned Sparrows bathing in the bird baths. I’m glad they like my bird-and-breakfast. This morning however there are no signs of them so they may have finally decided to go north to their breeding grounds.

Photos of more spring visitors to come soon. Click on any picture to see an enlargement. 🙂

Blending In: The Camouflaged Life

Great Blue Heron, Fullersburg Woods

Great Blue Heron, Fullersburg Woods

Sunday morning I was still too worn out from the Friday and Saturday to go very far, so I made a trip to Fullersburg Woods in DuPage County, closer to home. Fullersburg has a range of habitats and the trails are easy to navigate, but the focal point for me in summertime has to be the Salt Creek running through it. It’s a beautiful setting.

Fullersburg Woods 1I2A0971

I did not expect to see very many species, but I thought perhaps I could get a little closer to a heron or two. My first discovery was not a bird but a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly. Butterflies are rarer sights this year.

Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

The herons did not disappoint. A few steps along the Salt Creek and I found a Great Egret who was more concerned about its catch than me taking its picture.

Great Egret Fullersburg 1I2A0903Great Egret Fullersburg 1I2A0902Great Egret Fullersburg 1I2A0913

Same goes for a juvenile Solitary Sandpiper.

Juvenile Solitary Sandpiper 1I2A0939Spotted Sandpiper 1I2A0925

Spotted Sandpiper 1I2A0926

Farther along, the birds were a bit less obvious. Click on the picture below to see if you can find the Green Heron.

Green Heron in disguise

Green Heron in disguise

I caught up with it later at a much closer range.

Green Heron

Green Heron

And now see if you can find the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo in the photo below.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo - where are you?

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo – where are you?

Mallards are always expected. These were catching morning naps.

Mallards

Mallards

Sleeping with one eye open…

Sleeping Mallards

Sleeping Mallards

At some point this dragonfly decided it wanted to blend in with the trail right in front of me.

Dragonfly 1I2A1019

The trail that runs along the Salt Creek meets up with Graue Mill to the south where there is a waterfall which supplied the power to run the mill.

Waterfall at Graue Mill

Waterfall at Graue Mill

The Great Blue Heron that appears at the beginning of this post eventually became tolerant enough of my presence to give me the photo below. I then left him to continue fishing.

GBH Fullersburg 1I2A1033