I have been to the Portage three times this month. These pictures are from the 9th, and there aren’t many of them, but I will do the visits in separate installments as an ode to Winter is Upon Us. Snow seemed a long time coming this year but we are likely going to get hit with a lot of it this week.
This very short post features more pictures of a slippery path than birds. I don’t know what i was thinking but I only had on my regular hiking boots that day, so I was hugging the periphery and moving very slowly to avoid sliding into oblivion.
The statue in very little light. Someone also managed a distressed looking snowman just off the parking lot. I guess this was our first recognizable accumulation of the winter.
More than anything else, flocks of Canada Geese continued to fly over, looking for open water, I suspect. There was very little open water left at the Portage and it was taken up by the two Mallards, one a Manky, at the top of the post.
One Song Sparrow managed to find my lens.
Parting shots of the water and the two ducks. And a little more open water…
I am glad I took this picture of a Fox Squirrel in my yard before I set out – he was the most colorful thing I saw all morning.
I plan to be back with posts from last weekend and yesterday… Soon!
In the meantime, after weeks of abandoning my Grim Reaper duties at home, which meant removing eggs from the Zebra Finches’ nests to avoid overpopulation, I am finally hearing some begging noises coming from the dining room. I was almost afraid I had conditioned the ZFs to give up sex – why bother? During all the trauma of the past month I felt like it might be fun to let them have a last fling and see some baby birds grow up for a while. Maybe it’s a vicarious wish to hone in on the birds’ perception of immortality.
She’s been visiting my feeders all summer. Except for the few distant pictures I took of this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird when she was perched on a tree branch last month, she has eluded my attention. Indeed it has seemed like every time she sees me lhrough the kitchen window she disappears.
So today with the heat forecast, I decided to stay home and work in the yard early while it was still cool. I had planned to write about my last two visits to the Portage, one yesterday and last Saturday, but after seeing and managing to photograph this little charmer, a morning at home has taken priority.
So of course I have taken way too many pictures of her… At first, I had done some work in the front yard, and then decided it was getting too hot to do very much in the backyard. I had been thinking about reinstating one of my makeshift benches that I used to sit on. But firstI had to remove much of a currant bush that some creature had planted after eating the berries from one of the original planted ones. The bush was practically on top of the bench. It was long past fruiting and I am sure it will try to grow back. But for now I needed a place to sit, so I cut back most of it.
I was sitting comfortably in the shade of my trees for ten minutes or so when the hummingbird arrived. But then I realized there was a small leafy branch from the crabapple tree blocking my view of the entire feeder. I removed that too and sat back down. Hummingbirds tend to return to feeders every 15 minutes or so, and I was hoping that would be the case this morning.
Lo and behold. she came back, and she dipped into the feeder for a good minute or two before flying off. I am sure she saw me, but for whatever reason my presence and the shutter clicks didn’t bother her at all. I apologize for all the photos but I am just so thrilled that she gave them to me and I won’t have to worry about capturing her again.
There have been a few other cooperative birds in the yard this week so I may as well give them some space. I’m also playing around with the new editor, there seem to be more options since I last put together a post.
A young House Sparrow waiting to be fed…
Below on the upper left is what appears to be a juvenile House Finch. The three remaining photos are of an adult female.
Of the two types of squirrels, the Fox Squirrel always seems ready to engage.
I’d like to think the young Robin above is the offspring of the pair that visits my yard everyday.
I will be back with the Portage report soon, I hope. Until then, I hope you have a good week.
I thought I’d be returning to this page with pictures from my travels but my plans have been derailed by local distractions. It seems I cannot stand at the kitchen sink and look out the window for more than a minute before a Downy Woodpecker is on the suet feeder that hangs from the sumac tree.
I planned to go to the Portage yesterday, but the weather kept me home with 35 mph winds and gusts of up to 50 miles per hour and also flood warnings along the Des Plaines. I decided not to take the chance of being blown around the trail with the possibility of trees falling on me. The Portage is likely high enough above the Des Plaines River basin not to be affected too much by its flooding but I wasn’t all that curious either. Not sure if fear of catching or spreading a virus is making me more timid to take any chances at all. Combining the weather warnings with cloudy skies and birds predictably hunkered down, I decided it was advisable to stay home. But I would go out for a walk a little later, just to experience the wind at a safe distance.
As it turned out, soon after I was out the front door, three, possibly four, Turkey Vultures appeared, coasting about on the wind. They were sallying around the neighborhood for half an hour at least. Then when I returned to my front door, I heard a nearby Dark-Eyed Junco, and got lucky with one and then another perching in the little apple tree where they posed for a minute or two. I have been trying to take pictures of Juncos for months to no avail, but have managed the past couple days to photograph the ones that visit my yard. I wonder if the birds are more curious about me, now that they are relatively free of constant human activity.
Most of the photographs below are from one sunny day last week, March 25. I went out and sat in the back of the yard soaking up the sunshine. It was midday, not the optimum for light conditions, but outside was the place to be, relatively warm, hanging out with the feeder crowd.
Even the local songster Northern Cardinal made a guest appearance…!
On Saturday afternoon late, when there were no birds in the yard, I saw the reason why. I couldn’t get very good images between the lack of light and the window screens on the porch, but here is a very hungry looking Cooper’s Hawk.
Of course as I tried to sneak out the back door for a better photo, it left.
Below is a little expression inspired by the indoor crowd yesterday. I’ve titled it “Minimalist Zebra Finches” and, of course, they participated enthusiastically.
The Mourning Doves below: I love how the male is “politely” chasing the female. I tried to capture how his neck was lit up in the second photograph.
It must have been the lighting – I was pretty far away – but this is an interesting-looking House Sparrow.
And there are worms to be had for the Robin…
Spring is coming. The days are getting longer. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed.
I think I’ve found one reason why my feeders have been left alone lately. Saturday I came home from birding and looked out the back porch windows. There was a Cooper’s Hawk sitting in the flowering crab. I didn’t know if I’d be able to document the occasion as usually the minute I go for the camera, the bird vanishes. But this one not only stayed, but after preening in my flowering crab, she moved over to my neighbor’s fence and sat there for the longest time, even tolerating me coming out the back door and taking photographs for several minutes. This is obviously a young bird. She even looked a little bored.
I couldn’t go to the Portage Saturday. When I got there, the entrance to the parking lot was blocked by two forest preserve vehicles and roped off. I realize now that a tree close to parking was being removed. I turned around and went to Ottawa Trail, not knowing what to expect this time of year.
There were obstacles on the trail everywhere, which made the desolation and quiet all the more interesting. I guess.
It was all I could do to get pictures of the White-Throated Sparrow and a lovely Song Sparrow as they foraged around in the vegetation. There was a Winter Wren but I couldn’t focus quickly enough. The monster lens is all the more challenging in the cold with gloves.
I’ve wanted a decent photograph of a Dark-Eyed Junco all winter. I’ve seen them in my yard very early in the morning. I’ve seen small flocks of them on occasion. But I can’t get one to sit still long enough. This is strange after I’ve had them practically walk up to me on previous occasions. So the one below will have to do for the moment.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the Canada Geese on the Des Plaines…
Desperate to capture anything that moved, I followed this fox squirrel for a while.
And could not resist a shot at the annoying police helicopter hovering overhead. The thought crossed my mind they might be looking for someone. I can verify that if the birds were scarce that morning, humans were even more so.
There was some lovely tree fungus on the way out.
I went to the Portage yesterday before I started my annual Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Bread Manifesto, the loaves from which I will likely continue to distribute into the New Year. The only thing better than the smell of bread baking is cinnamon bread baking. The candlelight service last night was absolutely gorgeous and I’m glad I took part, although I almost fainted from continually standing up to sing carols in between the parts of the service we sang as a choir, all arranged artfully around prayers and the homily and… I was glad to come home, tuck the birds in and go to sleep. It’s good to feel like all is well, if only for a moment or a day. I didn’t get through any of my household projects, but there’s still next weekend. Today just feels like a good day to linger, play music, write, and restore. And dream about longer days filled with more music.
There’s a winter storm watch starting at 6:00 AM tomorrow morning. That’s hardly comforting seeing as how I’ll be leaving for work at 7:00 AM. Today we had plenty of clouds and some very windy periods but the sun came out for a little while, or things brightened up enough to draw me out to the yard where I stood until the birds accepted my presence.
Most surprising was the White-Breasted Nuthatch at the top of this post. I haven’t seen one in my yard for a couple years, but now I suspect it’s because I haven’t been around to look in my yard. This appears to be a young bird. It came calling its little nasal nuthatch call.
Before I went out I took a picture or two through the back window, but the screens always soften the image.
Much better to see the House Finches outside even though I had to wait a while before they came back.
Two female Downy Woodpeckers showed up as well. The one below appears to be a younger bird.
Somebody is eating my upside-down suet feeder. I just ordered a new one after seeing this.
Luckily the peanut feeder is still intact.
The squirrels have a new peanut feeder too that they have been enjoying. One of these days I’ll have to manage a video because some of their athletic antics are quite amusing.
The Fox Squirrel never figured it out. He’s stuck with foraging on the ground.
When the House Sparrows show up everybody else pretty much disperses.
But it was nice to see a female Northern Cardinal fly in to see what was going on.
Meanwhile back at the ranch inside it was business as usual with the Zebra Finches.
And I made my first two loaves of Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Bread. They were a bit larger because I threw in additional yeast that had been proofed without remembering to account for the extra liquid. I was just surprised that the yeast was still good.
Time for bed and whatever the weather brings tomorrow. We’ve had it too easy so far this winter and I have a feeling we will start to pay for it.
The last two Saturdays have been great mornings to work in the yard, last Saturday in particular as it was cool and cloudy, but I have slept in so that by the time I do get out, the heat and humidity begin to creep in, and the day is replete with the rest of Saturday’s routine. But I have managed to take a few more yard pictures before playing piano, swimming, grocery shopping…
The one bloom on the Swamp Milkweed was visited by a Monarch Butterfly last Saturday. I saw the Monarch again yesterday but it did not stay, only flying over the entire yard and right past me a few times, I suppose because the one milkweed blossom is spent and there was little else of interest. Next year, I promise, will be different.
There were two Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in the purple coneflowers last Saturday. They wouldn’t pose together but this one was available.
And yesterday I finally managed to get a Red Admiral to cooperate.
Young birds are now in the yard in droves. Last Saturday, they were still begging a lot.
Juvenile House Sparrow
Juvenile House Finches
Juvenile House Finch
Adult Male House Finch
Last Saturday I had the windows open and heard Chipping Sparrows in the yard. I could not photograph them outside, as they were right by the back door and I would have scared them away, but I managed to get a few pictures through the kitchen window.
Juvenile Chipping Sparrow
I suspect there is more than one pair breeding in south Berwyn.
Adult Chipping Sparrow
Someone else I can only photograph through the window, as she is well attuned to the squeaks of my back doors…
I discovered this spider last weekend in a shady spot.
The front yard is more established this year, one year after its planting. This is the main section, the other smaller portion being on the other side of the front walk. I have seen butterflies now and again but the biggest hit lately was the Sweet Joe-Pye Weed: the bees were literally bathing in it. But this weekend it’s looking rather spent and frazzled. I watered it last night and am hoping we get some rain.
Bee in the Joe-Pye Weed
I seem to have two types of cardinal flower. The first photograph is from the ones that have been in the backyard for years, and the second from the new one in the front.
Below is a plant that mystifies me. I have no idea where it came from but it planted itself between two bricks. I don’t recall if it flowered last year but this year it has done a nice job. Even if it is an invasive, it doesn’t appear to be spreading. It’s in one shady spot under the hawthorn. If anybody knows what this is, please let me know.
I don’t know what this is but it is growing between two bricks for the second year in a row
I thought there was something a bit different about this fox squirrel. For sure, it’s a she. The one I am used to seeing all the time has been a male. She is a bit shy, but every bit as polite as he is.
Invariably dill comes up here and there in the yard. I thought I planted some this year but it didn’t come up where I put it. Nevertheless a few plants have managed to grow and I leave them hoping they will attract female Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies to lay eggs. I was very happy to see this caterpillar yesterday. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen one of these in the yard. I’m going to plant more dill for next year too.
Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on dill
I did manage to work in the yard even though it was nearly midday: it wasn’t buggy and my trees keep me cool. At any rate, it’s looking a little tamer I suppose because we haven’t had too much rain lately so the weeds actually stay pulled for a while. I think I will start photographing and cataloguing all the weeds before I yank them out next weekend, in part because I see them often enough elsewhere, and in the process of looking them up I will learn about others. I know a lot of them by sight but have forgotten some of their names. The macro lens is making a nerd out of me.
I will be back later with a few photos from my weekend excursion.
The weather exerted such force today it was hard to sit still, although I think without the help of a pot of coffee I might have given in to a long nap just in hope everything would be back to normal when I woke up.
Male Northern Cardinal, through the window
Part of what kept me going was hoping my male cardinal would give me a picture in the snow, not that he ever has. So after I filled the feeders I hung out with the House Finches and Dark-Eyed Juncos for a while, and the Fox Squirrel too, until I could stay outside no longer.
House Finches at the feeder
Later I went upstairs to get more winter work clothes (yes, it’s January and I’ve been in denial this long) and decided to look out the back to see if there were any birds other than those I had already calculated–only to find the snow falling steadily and squalling miserably.
Yard view from the attic
As the available light deteriorated even further I finally settled down to the task of going through my pictures from the East Africa trip. As of today I have gone through only three days worth of photos from a trip that lasted three weeks! And I thought I’d be done by now!
One more through the porch windows
But I must say after looking at enough birds like these Bee-Eaters, I wanted to stay with the photos, not face the reality of trudging off to the train in the snow and cold tomorrow morning.
Click on any of the photos for a better view..
Little Bee-Eater with bug
Hope to return soon with more photos and less snow! …Happy New Year!!
I certainly don’t have anything as exotic as a Varied Thrush visiting my yard, but last weekend before I took off on the owl excursion, I managed to get pictures of an American Tree Sparrow who seemed not only to know he was the only one of his species foraging in my space but also recognized my awareness of him, and did not disappear on account of it.
I first thought I spotted him out the back window, which, between the screens and the frames, is a pretty lousy view, so I decided to go out with the camera to test the light for my later adventure and maybe get a photo of whoever was out there.
(The yard was blissfully free of the Gray Squirrels who are aggressive feeder-raiders. I love my Fox Squirrels, that have better manners.)
One of many Juncos…
and a female Cardinal…
Female Northern Cardinal
Lo and behold, it was indeed an American Tree Sparrow and after a few minutes of clicking away watching him forage, I got the picture below.
“You lookin’ at me?”
Then he flew into a tree and “challenged” me again.
I don’t think this is a new species for my yard, but I am almost reluctant to check, because then I tend to wonder what else I might have been missing while I’m away at work. I’m just glad to have had this encounter with the visiting American Tree Sparrow.
Sunflowers are blooming early this year. Planted by the birds and squirrels from the seeds spilled from the feeder, they grow tall and, depending on how much rain we’ve had, they can produce huge flowers that weigh them down. But since it’s been very hot and dry, the sunflowers are of a smaller variety. No matter, for they still attract the goldfinches.
Male American Goldfinch
I took the day off to take care of an accumulation of errands around the house that would have decimated a normal weekend’s worth of time. Before I left for my first stop, I was delighted to be out in the yard when goldfinches were flitting around in the sunflowers. I ran back in the house to get the camera and was rewarded by their stay.
Juvenile American Goldfinch
Even the goldfinches are nesting early this year. I did not expect to see a juvenile so soon.
Sunflower seeds feed the squirrels too. I don’t mind when they eat the spilled seeds on the ground, but keeping them off the feeders is an increasing challenge as the trees start forming a low canopy in my yard. Here’s one of my nemesis Gray Squirrels who likes to raid the feeders.
And here’s the Fox Squirrel who has much better manners and does not seem to be spending all his energy trying to outsmart me.
While I was trying to get pictures of the goldfinches, I caught a Mourning Dove leaving.
A female House Sparrow on a bare branch of the ailing Horse Chestnut Tree.
The ubiquitous House Finches are all paired up and they’ve fledged clutches by now. They may be working on a second batch.
The goldfinches still visit the thistle socks too. I will have to fill them up again tomorrow morning.