Riverside Walks

I hadn’t walked around Riverside for a while so I took a walk Monday while it was still comfortable to be outside. There were lots of Canada Geese and only a few Mallards but I was happy to see the hen below with her two ducklings. I admit I cropped dad out of the picture.

It was also nice to see herons on the water. There were two Great Egrets but they were quite distant, so I photographed only one. I also saw one Great Blue Heron. The water level is so low they are standing in the middle of the river.

I was reminded of the storm the week before, both by the paved walk and later on the Riverside Lawn trail where I had to negotiate three downed trees.

I love the spotty plumage on young American Robins like the one below.

The damselfly treat of the day was a Blue-fronted Dancer.

I often see Common Grackles in the rocks by the river. This is a female.

Almost two weeks earlier, on June 8, I visited Riverside and the first bird I saw was a Cliff Swallow sitting on the wire for quite a while. I don’t see this species very often.

It was a cloudy day. and it was much cooler as well. Again, a Common Grackle caught my eye, this time, a male.

It seemed unusual to see a feral Rock Pigeon on the riverbank.

Canada Geese were in the river. Nothing unusual about that.

There was this little family taking a walk.

I struggled to see and photograph Killdeer that day. They blend in well with the rocks by the former Hoffman Dam.

Here are the first photos I took, literally just pointing the camera in the direction I was hearing the Killdeer.

At some point there was a Turkey Vulture being chased by a Red-winged Blackbird. I love to see the vultures in flight, they are so graceful. A series of several photos is below.

I managed to capture a Baltimore Oriole that day. The photo opportunities have decreased since nesting season has taken over everything.

Here’s one more of the Cliff Swallow.

There were a number of Variable Dancers on the Riverside Lawn trail. They are very tiny,

Summer is official now and hot weather is baked in, so to speak. I have a busy agenda this week and heading into July with the possibility of a house guest for a couple weeks, so my posts may be a little scattered or scatterbrained, but after all it is summertime. Hope you are enjoying the longer days and staying cool enough, wherever you are.

Warming Up … Two Steps Forward

On this first day of a four-day warm up not to be missed, I visited the Chicago Portage. I have been there several times in the past few weeks, alternating between the Portage and Riverside, but have not had a chance to do another post for over a week and I apologize. Things have just suddenly gotten so busy I have gone out in the morning when the weather has been tolerable, but have not been able to catch up with my photographs. I apologize for my temporary abandonment of this blog, but this is just a short post before I have to re-immerse myself into figuring out how to play and sing a somewhat complicated arrangement of a song for the Spring Music Festival next week. I spent hours and hours writing out the score just so I could identify where and what chord changes occur. It’s been about 40 years since I last did this sort of thing…

It started out a bit cloudy and cool but the sun emerged and with its warmth came the beautiful bright blue sky which I could not ignore.

Somewhat surprisingly, there was not a lot of new bird activity this morning. I heard far more birds than I saw. But we had some rain yesterday and there are likely storms ahead tomorrow, which just might encourage more birds to visit. I was most thrilled to see a Great Egret at the far end of the stream as I was walking in its direction. I proceeded as slowly as possible but knew that I would eventually be closer than it could tolerate, especially on such a quiet morning this early in the season. But this is the first Great Egret I have seen this year, which makes it likely to expect numbers of them on the Des Plaines River at Riverside where I have been looking out for them. And it’s so special to have a heron on the water at the Portage after last year’s drought made them so scarce. I am hoping for Green Herons to return.

As can be expected, Red-winged Blackbirds were going about their business.

Also on the water, there have been Blue-winged Teal for the past couple weeks. I counted 14 on April 19. Today there were two pair. I didn’t get great photos through the vegetation but at least this couple perched conveniently on a log. I promise more Blue-winged Teal photos when I start getting caught up with previous visits.

In the sparrow department I heard Song Sparrows but didn’t get on them with the camera. I did manage to record a couple Fox Sparrows though.

The Northern Flickers are doing everything they can right now to avoid my lens. It should be easier to capture them later.

With the sunshine, turtles emerged.

For what it’s worth I found some interesting white foliose lichen growing on a dead log.

For the most part there were a heck of a lot of American Robins. Everywhere. So I have to give them some credit, even if none of it is terribly interesting.

American Robin in flight

So, that’s it for my short post today. I hope to be back sooner than I think I can make it. If it rains as predicted tomorrow, maybe I can catch up a bit with some photos from other locations as some warblers are starting to arrive. Indeed I was a bit surprised I didn’t have any warblers this morning as I had several individuals yesterday in Riverside. So I guess I know what my next post should be!

Long Before the Rain

It’s been almost 3 months, which seems hard to believe, but this is a more historical account from McGinnis Slough for birds seen on September 19th, when the slough looked more like a marsh at best. Yet there was more bird activity and a couple less common sightings.

It started off inauspiciously with a European Starling.

But at some point I found a Northern Waterthrush, which is a warbler species I haven’t seen in a long time. They aren’t particularly rare but they don’t travel around in warbler flocks and are often close to water and the ground.

One of my first White-throated Sparrows of the season was in the grass.

Perhaps the bird of the day as far as offering itself up for photographs was Palm Warbler.

Among the land birds was this Swainson’s Thrush.

The Double-Crested Cormorant below gave me several expressions of its flight pattern.

More views of the faded-looking Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly at the top of the post.

I never know exactly where I can expect to see a Great Blue Heron here but I practically always do.

More flying birds to capture – a Great Egret and, of all things, a Blue Jay or two, which don’t normally make themselves so available.

Two warblers – a Nashville and then below, a female Common Yellowthroat.

I saw Gray Catbirds at this location more than once.

The light played interesting tricks on these two Wood Ducks flying through the marsh.

The rose mallow flowers seemed late and sparse but they prevailed.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler blending in below.

More flying birds. Cedar Waxwings directly below, and below them, the inevitable Canada Geese.

A couple views of the parched-looking slough.

And a closer-cropped view of the Great Egret seen in the flight sequence above, after it landed.

I have been seeing some amazing birds all week which has kept me more than busy. Even though migration has slowed down, there are still birds to be seen. I will be back as soon as possible with more recent sightings.

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.