Two Visits to an Old New Place

Thanks to a dog walker I met twice last week… I visited a new-for-me place which has been in my backyard, so to speak, all along. I had been meaning to check out the Riverwalk on the Lyons side of the Des Plaines but never realized the other side had a park along the river called Indian Gardens. Many thanks to Ken the architect from Riverside who told me about it. It’s actually closer to home than the Portage, even, by about a couple minutes.

These pictures are from two days’ visits. I parked on the Lyons side and then walked across the bridge and through the Indian Gardens park. I didn’t venture past the tennis courts the first day, but on the second day I walked through them and found where there is an “unmanaged” trail along the river where I will be going more often.

The Lyons side has a fantastic Hoffman Tower which provides a place to hang out for a sizable number of feral pigeons. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a flock of pigeons in flight for quite some time.

Walking through Indian Gardens

Blue Jays seem to be everywhere lately. They’re carrying on noisily and are even sometimes visible.

Time to get your fill of Magnolia Warbler photographs because I just barely saw one the last couple days – I think they have moved on, after dominating the warbler migration scene for two weeks. You can click on any of these pictures to get a better view.

Monarch Butterflies are still migrating here and there.

There are a lot of Northern Cardinals at this location, but they are more often heard than seen. I did manage to capture a few females, though. I’ve never seen one capture an insect – it looks like a grasshopper. And then the one perched in a tree with its leaves already turning – she nearly blends in.

It’s absolutely wonderful to see the Great Egrets – even if it’s mainly due to the fact that we haven’t had any substantive rain for at least a couple weeks and it’s been hot, so the middle of the Des Plaines River is very low – perfect for waders.

There were 4 Great Egrets on my last visit – only 3 visible in this photograph

Gray Catbirds have evaded my lens nearly all summer and now they are getting bolder as they prepare to fly south. The young bird amongst all the dead leaves was right at my feet on the Lyons side.

Canada Geese are moving around and I always love to see them in flight.

Not as many Great Blue Herons as Great Egrets but they are also taking advantage of the shallow river.

On occasion, a Double-Crested Cormorant. Since they are divers, I can’t imagine this bird was too happy with the shallow water situation.

European Starlings are not in huge flocks like they were several years ago. Here’s a few staked out on a dead tree.

I was delighted to see a Belted Kingfisher fly by noisily on my second visit, as I crossed the bridge.

A sneaky closer view of this Great Egret.

Below is a busy Blackpoll Warbler, blending in with the leaves.

Blackpoll Warbler
An American Robin – I liked its perch choice

I saw the Osprey on both visits. On my second visit, just as I discovered the access point to the trail closer to the river, I inadvertently disturbed the Osprey – it was perched in a large tree right past the trail head, until I approached – so I will be more careful to look for it before I venture forth next time. The bird flew across the river to perch on the tree below. It was quite something to have a bird with a 63″ wingspan take off right over my head.

I was happy to find a Canada Warbler and took advantage of its willingness to stick around for several shots, albeit at a distance. This looks like a first year bird, with a faint necklace.

Swainson’s Thrush

I was trying to capture the Gray-Cheeked Thrush below and was photo-bombed by a Magnolia Warbler.

I thought it would be easy to combine all these photos into one post but it seems I have overshot my limit again.

Many more photos to come – if I can keep up with it. I have to get used to my new routine, while it lasts anyway. I have a feeling I will be delving into the archives over the winter months playing catch-up. This morning started off cool and cloudy at Columbus Park where we had a scheduled walk. We didn’t see very many birds and those that we did were not easy to capture in low light. I feel like I’ve been given the rest of the morning off to finish this post.

Sundays at McGinnis – Part 2

As promised, here’s my last visit to McGinnis Slough. I have been out birding every morning since, mainly at the Chicago Portage but a couple other places too, and fall passerine migration is in full swing. I don’t know if I will ever get through all my photographs, but I intend to start posting them soon as much as possible.

It was delightful to spend a little time with a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher at McGinnis.

This Song Sparrow perched nicely for me.

Another bird I felt very privileged to see well was the Marsh Wren below. I could hear wrens in the reeds but they are always nearly impossible to see. Then, while I stood in the same spot looking at whatever waterfowl I could see, this one popped out in a bush to get a closer look at me.

I also saw a Brown Thrasher – a bird I used to see a lot more of but now rarely. And then my first Palm Warbler of the fall season.

A few more of the Marsh Wren…

Finally, a cooperative flower. It appears to be a hibiscus. But I am used to seeing the big pink rose mallow flowers that bloom here every year and they have been few and far between.

More views of the American Redstart that is at the top of the post.

I wonder if the slough will ever have enough water again to host the hundreds of ducks that usually show up in the early spring.

Common Green Darner

Tall Boneset is now blooming with the Canada goldenrod.

Several Barn Swallows took a break from scooping bugs out of the air…

And there was one lone Tree Swallow.

I managed to barely see the Trumpeter Swans – and noticed there was only one Cygnet. I fear the other two did not survive. I suppose the likeliest predator would be a coyote.

Peter Mayer has just written a beautiful song called “Trumpeter Swans” which I have already listened to maybe a hundred times…

The Herons were all hanging out in what little water is left.

And I caught a Wood Duck in flight.

I was a little surprised to see Northern Shovelers.

These fuzzy-looking acorns caught my eye. They are not acorns. They are called “hedgehog galls” and are formed by wasps.

Northern Crescent

This Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is probably halfway to its winter home by now.

Okay. I hope to be back very soon with a feast of warbler photographs. There have been other interesting birds too. Thanks for checking in!

Sundays at McGinnis – Part 1

This is the first of two short posts from recent visits to McGinnis Slough. I visited the slough the past two Sunday mornings. The 29th of August was cloudy as reflected in these photos. Just as I was about to leave, it started to rain, thus the rainbow farther down the page.

There were not many birds to photograph. The Wood Ducks were visible through the vegetation that has taken over much of the slough.

The Common Green Darner below is a marvelous dragonfly. This is the female of the species.

A brief visit from a Red-tailed Hawk…

A few Great Blue Herons remain on site.

These berries caught my eye – but I bet they’re all gone by now.

I don’t know why I try to capture swallows in flight, but sometimes I almost do. Barn Swallow below.

When I sat down on the picnic table at the north end, I inadvertently disturbed an American Toad that was sitting underneath it.

Milkweed beetles, chicory flowers and a Monarch Butterfly.

One more of the Great Egret that’s also at the top of this post.

The Rainbow

I came home to a cloudy situation in the yard, not many birds available, but sort of captured this female House Finch leaving.

I’ve been busy birding every morning and now I have to keep up with all the photographs as fall migration kicks off.

I’ll be back with another brief stop at McGinnis from yesterday and some different birds.

Summer Slough

Even though it’s not a great photograph, I am leading off this post from McGinnis Slough on July 17 with this rather rare sighting of two Trumpeter Swans and their three Cygnets. While one can normally count on seeing the swans, albeit from a great distance way on the other side of the slough, the largest part of the slough has virtually no open water, so the swans moved to the small portion of water that is closer to LaGrange Road. I saw them through the tall grasses and reeds that grow close to the trail. I posted close-ups of the adults in March of 2019 when there was excessive flooding which enticed them to check out what this side of the slough was like. Here’s a link to that post. https://wordpress.com/post/musicbirdblog.com/21280

Below are two photos of what the larger body of water looks like without much water in it. If the swans nested in their traditional location, I wonder how difficult it was to move the kids all the way across this marsh.

I heard more birds than I saw. The Marsh Wrens are always frustrating to me this time of year. I hope to start going back next weekend as fall migration approaches, and maybe I’ll get luckier. In the meantime, below are some more photos of the swan family. They were joined briefly by a Wood Duck.

Butterflies are not in great numbers, and I missed seeing the dragonflies I would expect to see. But it’s always nice to see a beautiful Monarch.

Below you might be able to see the Great Black (Digger) Wasps on the Red Milkweed along with the butterfly.

Northern Crescents seem to be everywhere this summer. They are very tiny but colorful so they stand out.

Here’s a new wildflower discovery for me. It’s called Self-Heal or prunella vulgaris.

A little more water…but no birds in it.

There were a few Great Blue Herons – which I managed to capture off and on.

And it’s bunny rabbit season…

I am trying to stay grounded but it’s hard. I am in limbo, shuffling work, my envisioned future without the stress of it, and the shape-shifting present we all share. Swimming, music and the birds will keep me going. I have had enough of the summer heat and look forward to spending more time outside. Fall migration will begin soon, and with it I will be leading several Saturday bird walks. I dream of visiting more places once with my weekdays are free.

Thanks for stopping by, I treasure your interest and support!

Goose Lake Prairie

Cragg’s Cabin

I missed my annual visit to this place on the July 4th weekend. Then two Sundays ago, I decided to see what it looked like two weeks later. Weather conditions were favorable and I had no other plans, so it seemed like a good thing to do after I psyched myself up for the nearly hourlong drive. How spoiled I have become zipping over to the Portage in five minutes every weekend.

I got my yearly Dickcissel fix…

I don’t know why I have never bothered to look at the signs before but this time I paid more attention to them. The one below, however, is the only one the birds did not decorate. The rest, which explained more about the plants and the history of the place, were too messy to include here.

The parking lot was empty. However I was greeted by a Killdeer. If I remember correctly, there was a Killdeer here last time I visited. I suspect they nest near the Visitor Center. Also below is a recording from the parking lot.

I always count on seeing and hearing Dickcissels here and I was not disappointed. Except there seemed to be fewer individuals to photograph. The one below, perched and singing which is how you normally find them, was still farther away than I would have preferred. The Dickcissel’s song is below the pictures and there is also a Field Sparrow singing in the background.

Field Sparrows are lovely little birds and I was happy to see and hear them.

I got a closer look at this Field Sparrow with a worm.

View of the Visitor Center from the trail

I heard more Common Yellowthroats than I saw, which is typically the case. This one would not turn around and face me.

It took me quite a while to find a Song Sparrow, of all things.

I decided that the prairie plants were as spectacular as the birds and easier to photograph. I was a little disappointed to find the Purple Loosestrife as it is not a native species.