My Reward for Taking Too Many Pictures

I went to the Riverside trail on October 15. It was extremely cloudy and I had no idea what I could muster photographically under such conditions. I walked as far as I was going to go in one direction along the river and then turned back, and found a very green-looking warbler foraging low in front of me. When I got home to review my photographs, I could not for the life of me figure out what it was. I could only surmise what it wasn’t. The pale-looking eyebrow, the darker green primaries didn’t fit the Orange-crowned Warblers I was used to seeing.

After a good night’s sleep it occurred to me that perhaps the way to approach the bird’s identity was to look closely at the bill shape and size. Color and feather arrangement might seem changeable in a photograph but the bill shape would be constant. And that led me to thinking this was a Mourning Warbler.

As it turned out, when I opened my copy of The Warbler Guide, I found one small photograph that exactly matched my bird. She is a first-year female Mourning Warbler. I was excited as it has been years since I’ve seen a Mourning Warbler altogether. I added some of my photos to my ebird report and made the email-generated Cook County Rare Bird Alert (“RBA”) – I guess she’s a little late making her way south.

A distant Northern Flicker accented the cloudy background.

I have really become familiar with Orange-crowned Warblers this fall. And while I’m looking at bill size and shape, this species has a distinctly small, sharply-pointed bill. Some photos of an Orange-crowned Warbler are below.

For comparison, below are some more photographs of the Mourning Warbler.

Fall is a good time for woodpeckers.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Orange-crowned Warbler

Fall is also a good time for squirrels and nuts…

A cloudy sky.

I have really enjoyed seeing Great Blue Herons here.

And Great Egrets were present too.

Only Mallards are showing up in the waterfowl department.

There are always some Northern Cardinals but this was not a good day to capture one.

The other bird that made the RBA was the Gray-cheeked Thrush below.

Golden-crowned Kinglets have been fun to follow the past couple weeks.

A fall tangle of leaves.

The river looks a little fuller than it did. I envision being unable to do this trail when we start getting a lot of rain…

Here are a few more photographs of the Orange-crowned Warbler who was my best model.

Below is a female House Finch.

I thought the Great Blue Heron against the clouds was worth capturing.

One more of a Northern Flicker…

I have been back to the Riverside trail twice since this cloudy day. We are finally starting to cool off. This morning the Great Egrets were all gone. To be continued… but now, I need to get ready for choir rehearsal.

Of Yellow-Rumpeds and Kinglets

Fall migration always seems to take a turn with the sudden arrival of scores of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, the latter two species that were called “Old World Warblers.” It turns out that Old World refers to a genus that the kinglets shared with other birds of the world (the Sylviidae) before they got split off into Regulidae. But suddenly all new world warblers – the wood warblers, or Parulidae – you may have seen over the past few weeks are less commonly seen and these species are abundant. Not to confuse you – the Yellow-rumpeds are wood warblers and still being seen.

It was a cloudy morning, ahead of some significant rain in the forecast, and I went to the Portage last Tuesday to see if any birds were about. At first, due to the cloudiness, there were distant Red-Winged Blackbirds moving about and a couple Woodpecker species, but I really didn’t expect to see much of anything. And then, perhaps due to the still-warm temperatures and the sky brightening up a little bit, I found one of those Magic Trees, this time, through the break in the fence and on the trail leading toward the train tracks. Magic Trees host a flock of foragers, and this one was no exception. I should note that it was a Hackberry, as have most active trees been this season.

Anyway, I was delighted to find the three photographs below, taken in rapid succession, of a Golden-crowned Kinglet. I love his “ta-da” wingspread in the third photo.

Below are some Yellow-Rumped Warblers. I stole the picture of the one at the top of this post simply because the lighting was better when I took it and the one below was just a little too dark.

Sparrows are starting to come through. Below is a White-Throated Sparrow, often the first to show up.

Below are Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I seem to be seeing fewer of them than the Golden-crowned but it could just be the Golden-crowned getting more of my attention.

The lack of light didn’t do this Nashville Warbler any favors.

Magnolia Warblers have managed to show up the greatest length of time, from the very beginning until just a couple days ago.

Hanging out in the same spot where I found the kinglets this time was a very cooperative, and I guess hungry, juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

I am trying to remember what the bridges looked like years ago before these were installed, but I can’t seem to conjure images up in my brain. I know the path to them was not paved. Not sure I have squirreled away any photographs either. In any event, they got painted over this summer to cover up some graffiti. But they are still fairly attractive, even if it gets harder and harder for me to peer over them with the camera as I continue to shrink.

Some scenes of the Portage showing what I guess will be the fall colors…

Two more of the Grosbeak.

When I got home I found this bee enjoying the asters blooming in the front yard.

I am taking way too many pictures every day to keep up with this fall deluge of migrating birds, and as long as the weather is good, I will be going out and taking more. I figure I should go for as much sunshine and good weather as I can before the inevitable cold and snow. Maybe I will get caught up some snowy day.

Return to Riverside

I parked in Lyons on September 27th and got out of the car, assembled my gear, and started walking barely a few steps when I looked up and saw this juvenile Osprey perched in a dead tree right above me. That was an auspicious beginning to a nice walk.

I crossed the bridge after not seeing any other birds on that side of the river. A fellow blogger, Tootlepedal, has suggested my last mention of the bridge was illegal without a photograph of it, so I did my best to frame it, but between my big lens and no way to get far enough away to capture it at a distance, this was the best I could do. I will keep trying, but I haven’t found this bridge’s aesthetic value yet…

Right off the bridge there has been a Great Egret, this time on the rocks that have been exposed due to the lack of water in the Des Plaines River.

The Great Blue Heron close to it was in a much wetter-looking spot. Actually this is right around the spot where there once was the Hofmann Dam, which has been removed.

The Red-winged Blackbird below could barely keep his perch.

Magnolia Warblers were still visible and this one was posing.

A handsome Turkey Vulture flew over, enhanced by a clear sky.

Two different species with the same color palette: they were both in the pokeweed.

White-throated Sparrow
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (immature)

It’s somewhat comforting to know the water is still deep enough in a few places for Double-Crested Cormorants.

I was very happy to see a Golden-crowned Kinglet well. They usually don’t sit still for too long.

A couple more of the juvenile Osprey. There were actually two of them flying around but I didn’t get photos of the action.

I went back two days later and got more pictures that I still have to process. Migration is slowing down a little bit, but I’ve also had a lot of work to do. I will be back with another report soon.

I am happy to note that we are finally getting some rain. It’s not going to make much of a difference in the water levels of the river, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

Looking Back to Spring Forward

I started writing this post to coincide with setting the clocks forward, and now it’s taken me over another week to get back to it. But when considering all the photographs were taken a year and a month ago – on April 19th, 2020, to be exact – and I never got a chance to finish processing them until now, it’s taken even longer! I hope it’s kind of a sneak preview of what to expect in the coming days and weeks as spring unfolds at the Portage.

One of my first encounters was a pair of Downy Woodpeckers exhibiting their exuberant version of courtship behavior. At first I thought they were arguing! I have never witnessed this before so I’m glad I was able to capture it. If you click on the right panel and keep going you can see the sequence.

It appears I had way too many photographs from this excursion which might explain why I never managed to post them. Still it’s nice to revisit them, like the female Northern Cardinal below.

Below, often the first warbler to visit, a Myrtle Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

Surprised to find this photograph in the mix – likely my first sighting of an Eastern Bluebird last year.

An Eastern Phoebe, dreaming of flying insects, perhaps.

Another Downy Woodpecker.

Song Sparrows…

Red-winged Blackbirds…

I don’t think there’s enough water on site anymore to attract herons, but there is plenty nearby so I should still see them flying over on occasion.

A Northern Flicker showing just a little of its golden shafts.

There were two Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers on this tree and one flew away.

A Black-capped Chickadee showing off.

A singular turtle…

An assortment of early fungus, moss and flora.

A singing American Robin

Here’s a Golden-Crowned Kinglet – unfortunately the lighting didn’t do its colors justice.

This Brown-headed Cowbird was foraging on the ground.

Canada Geese and the clouds…