Two Chilly Portage Mornings

I’ve been to the Portage several times lately, and that includes a few times since these photographs which were taken November 26 and 28. I managed to get a few pictures of an American Tree Sparrow, which was my main motivation to go out into the cold the second day. I will likely see more of this species in the coming weeks.In fact I saw three this morning. But it’s also been relatively quiet at the Portage lately.

For whatever reason it was harder to get the bird posing below in focus than the one mired in the stalks.

The usual cast of characters were present on one or both days. I was fortunate enough to have four woodpecker species on the first day: Red-bellied, Downy, Northern Flicker and Hairy.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

What’s really interesting about the photos below is that I didn’t realize until I started processing them that next to the Flicker on a separate branch was an Orange-Crowned Warbler. I enlarged the image of the warbler below.

This is Dark-eyed Junco season. I have been encountering flocks usually foraging on the path, along with Northern Cardinals.

There are still some American Goldfinches about all though not as many as I was seeing a couple weeks ago.

It’s always a nice surprise to see a Brown Creeper.

Here’s what the Portage was looking like on those cold, cloudy days.

I think the Fox Sparrow below is the last one I have seen.

There have been one or two Red-tailed Hawks every time I have gone to this location. Sometimes I only hear the hawk, but usually if I am still around by 10:00 I get to see one. This is a particularly dark-colored individual.

More washed-out Portage pics.

I usually see or hear at least one White-breasted Nuthatch.

Canada Geese on the Des Plaines River
Dark-eyed Junco

I hope to be back sooner than later. It’s getting harder and harder to pack a full day into the space of reduced daylight. I have been living with birds for a long time, but now that I spend even more time with them, the consequence could be thinking more and more like a bird!

October at the Portage

Fox Sparrow

A brief but driving squall of freezing rain in the yard yesterday morning supported my decision to not go for a walk. More snow and wind on the way today. A good day to take stock of my indoor life.

Yesterday morning also produced a brief sighting of a Cooper’s Hawk and the appearance of the large gray tomcat I scolded out of the yard as I was refilling the birdbaths before the rain started. I have perhaps 30 or more gallons of water stored in the basement and my rain barrels are still quite full. But we are due for more serious overnight freezing temperatures so I have made this my outdoor project for the weekend, draining the rest of the water and covering up the rain barrels for the winter. If predictions prove correct, we will be getting a little preliminary snow that won’t accumulate but will get us in the mood for winter.

These photographs are from October 17. I was not too surprised to discover I hadn’t processed many of them. I did find another confusing fall warbler which I didn’t report. It appears to be a first-year likely female Black-throated Blue Warbler (below).

Much easier to recognize and still pretty plentiful were Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The bird immediately below appears to have fused with the hackberry leaves.

Then there were the tree-climbing Yellow-rumpeds…

I don’t know why it’s been so hard to get a decent picture of a White-throated Sparrow, but I keep trying.

The Song Sparrow below was a more accommodating.

And another Song Sparrows popping up from the vegetation…

A reminder of how dry it still was in mid-October.

In general, Ruby-crowned Kingets were less prevalent than the Golden-crowned this fall.

Then House Finches started to emerge…

A well-seen Hermit Thrush below…

A momentarily present Northern Cardinal…

Below is an Orange-crowned Warbler… I have yet to see the orange crown on any of these but from what I understand it is barely visible.

Woodpeckers!

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

It was not easy to get a picture of the Brown Creeper below but this is just further testament to how often I saw at least one almost every time I went out.

And then there were the almost daily White-tailed Deer…

European Starlings were exceptionally striking in the light that day.

I finally broke down and started cleaning up my second bedroom yesterday. It will likely take me the rest of the year – but it’s a wonderfully freeing thought as I plow through an accumulation of treasures and junk. The first and most important motivation seems to be organizing and having one place for all the camera equipment. But hot chocolate seems more important at the moment…

Early November at the Portage

I am sure I have heard a Tufted Titmouse at the Portage on occasion, but I have never seen one until, just as I was about to finish my walk on November 2nd, this one appeared. I had been hanging out with a Black-capped Chickadee and the titmouse insisted on having its picture taken instead.

Black-capped Chickadee

More photos of the Tufted Titmouse are below. In all there are way too any photographs in this post. I am trying to empty them off my hard drive so I can keep up with the present. And there are still pictures of the fall warblers from two months ago. Well. You get the picture.

Birds are moving in flocks now, which generally means you can go for a long time without seeing anything move and then encounter several individuals at once. Below is a flock of Cedar Waxwings.

The 1st was a bit sunnier than the second. Northern Cardinals are easier to see now than they were all summer. Even the females allow themselves to be photographed…as long as they are somewhat hidden and backlit.

Although there are lots of White-throated Sparrows, I don’t often see one well enough to get a picture. This one was a challenge.

Another White-throated Sparrow

One sparrow that has been showing up a lot since I took these first photos below is the Fox Sparrow. They are considerably larger than other sparrows and tend to just sit, so even though this one was behind branches, I could still capture it.

Black-capped Chickadee… and an American Goldfinch

House Finches blend right in to the browns and grays of fall.

Below is a Red-tailed Hawk.

I’ve been delighted to see White-breasted Nuthatches after hearing but rarely seeing them all summer.

Nearly every day I have seen a Brown Creeper.

Here’s about how far away the Brown Creeper was.

American Robins are in flocks too, but every once in a while I spot an individual.

Apologies for Downy Woodpecker overload – it is the start of Visible Woodpecker Season… I love to observe their behavior.

There is a barely-visible House Finch in the two photos below – just to get a feel for how well camouflaged birds can be this time of year.

More Northern Cardinals…