Birding the 3-day Weekend

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American Goldfinch (female)

I’m finally getting around to these pictures from the Memorial Day weekend. On Saturday morning I led the second walk at the Portage and the weather could not have been more different, shall we say – weather is becoming more than an idle topic for conversation lately as we keep having these 40 degree temperature swings in either direction – than the first walk which was rainy and chilly: this time we had plenty of sunshine and it was getting downright warm. We saw fewer species than the first group, as migration had progressed substantially in the two weeks between walks, but we had a good time.

GREG 5-26-18-4606It was nice to get good looks at the Great Egret that seems to be back in the area. The Green Herons were absent this visit but I suspect all the herons go back and forth between the Portage, Ottawa Trail and the Des Plaines River, so I am sure they are still around.

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers were a presence. We didn’t even hear a Downy Woodpecker which is really unusual as I always expect to see or hear at least four any time of year but they must have been very busy being quiet.

It’s occurred to me that Song Sparrows are likely the only breeding sparrows at the Portage. Habitat requirements being what they are, I never thought this was odd but at the same time it seems there are a couple Chipping Sparrows that come back to my neighborhood every year so I wonder even about that. I guess it’s location, location, location.

Early on we saw one of many Warbling Vireos we would hear constantly.WAVI 5-26-18-4581And the Indigo Buntings did not disappoint.

This was as close as I could get to a Northern Flicker.NOFL 5-26-18-4620Two surprise birds below, neither of which were very visible, but I can now look forward to finding them again. Great Crested Flycatcher on the left, which we saw on our way out, and the camera just barely caught the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo on the right. I had pointed the camera lens at its curious-looking eyes peering out at me from where it was perched, and then it flew. I’ve heard cuckoos before at the Portage but have never seen one there until now.

For all the warmth and midges swarms, there weren’t many swallows that morning. Below is a Tree Swallow taking a break.

TRSW 5-26-18-4642There were likely more Common Grackles than we saw, but this one was foraging in the bottomlands by the Des Plaines River.

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Two days later on Memorial Day, I decided to go birding early at McGinnis Slough and then swim in the Orland Park fitness center pool, my dream scenario ever since I’ve had to go to Orland while my usual swimming hole has been under remodeling. I’ve been driving by the Slough at night after work to go swimming, often seeing deer foraging in the grass before the days got longer and thus lighter at that hour, but now I had the entire day free and it was hot so a swim after birding seemed to be the perfect idea. I haven’t been able to swim well with my knee out of whack, but the pool has been excellent therapy.

Below is a Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, which we also had at the Portage. A reminder it’s time to get ready for dragonfly identification again.

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Wood Duck

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Double-Crested Cormorants

It was nice to see families at McGinnis, like the Mallards below.

Red-Winged Blackbirds are more numerous here.

RWBL 5-28-18-4745RWBL 5-28-18-5043Two distinct silhouettes below: Double-Crested Cormorant and Turkey Vulture.

Song Sparrows like McGinnis too.

Another Goldfinch…

AMGO 5-26-18-4685Waterfowl at McGinnis are usually distant and hard to see. Sometimes I take pictures and blow them up later to see what I was looking at, not that I ever get a very good image. Below the Mallard family are a couple pictures of a Great Blue Heron in flight and more Wood Ducks. I was surprised to not see any Great Egrets yet at McGinnis, as they can be everywhere. Likely they’ve been thrown off by the crazy weather too and I’m more confused than they are. I’m sure I’ll see them as we slide into summer.

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Here’s one more picture of a most accommodating Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

RBWP 5-26-18-4695I’ll be staying close to home, there’s much work to do in my yard. Not feeling up to rushing yet. Still savoring life in the slow lane.

 

Breeding birds at the Chicago Portage

Young Rabbit

I dropped by the Portage early this morning trying to beat the heat – we went up to 97 degrees today. After I was greeted by this rabbit, I saw 39 species. Not remarkable, but not bad given the strange weather we’ve been having. There has been no rain lately, so the water level is way down at the Portage and the nearby Des Plaines River.

But breeding birds have returned, and I managed to get some pictures of a few. Almost from the very beginning I heard Red-Bellied Woodpeckers calling, so perhaps it was inevitable that one would be available for a photograph.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The House Wrens are back in full force too.

House Wren

A female Wood Duck sat on a log with her seven ducklings. I imagine the youngest was staying closest to mama.

A Great Blue Heron flew over faster than I could get its likeness clearly. But down below, one of the two Green Herons that I have seen here every summer was trying to stay cool.

Green Heron

Indigo Buntings were singing everywhere, and doing their best to elude the camera. Here’s one not completely hidden.

Male Indigo Bunting

I have been awaiting the return of Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings

Song Sparrows are on their territories, singing, of course.

Song Sparrow

It’s sad when I think of this beautiful Yellow Warbler…

Yellow Warbler

being a favorite prey species of the female Brown-Headed Cowbird. Cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests so the other birds can raise them, often at the peril of their own offspring. Note how this Cowbird matched the twig she’s behind so well, it looks like part of her.

Female Brown-Headed Cowbird

On my way out I stopped on the north bridge, where I saw the other Green Heron in the distance, but my attention was drawn to two Great-Crested Flycatchers setting up housekeeping. Look carefully and you can see the male sitting below left and the female hanging out from a cavity at the right of the frame.

Great-Crested Flycatchers

The male flycatcher remained on lookout while his mate investigated the cavity in the dead tree for nesting possibilities.

Great-Crested Flycatcher

Southern Illinois paradise

Sandstone cliff

I have been in the southernmost part of my state the past few days and I may as well have been in another country. I had no Internet access but did not miss it. The pristine habitat of the Shawnee region is so remarkable, it is easy to slip into a sense of timelessness. And there is no limit to the discoveries one can make. Our stay was much too short.

Summer Tanager

Warbling Vireo

There were birds everywhere.

Black and White Warbler

Eastern Phoebe

Great Crested Flycatcher

The most elusive birds periodically became cooperative.

Prothonotary Warbler

This Prothonotary Warbler has staked out his territory in the wonderful Heron Pond portion of the Cache River Basin.

A boardwalk invites us into the thick of it all.

It was hard to leave.

We heard Kentucky Warblers everywhere we went, but did not see one until the morning of our departure.

This Kentucky serenaded us from his digs in Giant City.

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warblers spend a lot of time furtively foraging on the ground which makes them hard to see, but this one was nice enough to fly up and perch just above our heads almost at eye level. What a beautiful bird.