More Birds on the River

As exciting as it was to see the Osprey featured in my last post, there was even more going on last Wednesday on the Des Plaines River by Riverside, such as a rather unusual confrontation between a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret. It was surprising enough to see them together, but they were getting along until they weren’t. It has been so dry, the river is way down and I imagine the search for prey getting more contentious. Below is a series of photographs I took leading up to the one above.

The river was so low this past week, almost anyone could wade into the middle of it. Perhaps that was the animating force behind the Great Egrets moving around, trying to find the best place to fish when there was so little water. I captured the egret below perched on this debris-adorned rock after it had chased off the Mallard that was sitting on it.

Later on from the foot bridge I took this sequence of a Great Egret capturing its prey. This was several feet from the shore.

Cedar Waxwings are showing up everywhere lately. They’re about the only birds not on the river itself.

The Killdeer have been hanging out on the rocks by the Hofmann Dam all summer. They have multiplied.

Also on the rocks by the former dam, a Great Egret.

Seeing Common Grackles again down by the shore. This one was sporting several colors.

The Rock Pigeons caught my eye – flying in formation.

Canada Geese are starting to show up again.

Even House Sparrows were getting into the act in the river.

Mallards could stand in the middle of the water too.

Mourning Doves were noticeable above the river.

A few flight shots from two Great Egrets.

There were a couple Spotted Sandpipers with the Killdeer on the rocks but I was unable to capture them. However I did manage to zoom in on this one by the shore not far from the footbridge.

For a change of pace, a confusing juvenile bird which I determine to be a young Northern Cardinal.

These Blue-fronted Dancers are simply everywhere.

I think that about takes care of everything else on that day. I went back on Friday morning and the water was still low. We have since had some rain and I hope the river will look a bit fuller tomorrow morning when I plan to visit again.

One thing I am enjoying very much in my retirement and more-relaxed state of mind is encountering strangers and making new friends as I walk these places more often. Whereas before when I was working I was in a mental hurry to cram in as much birding as I could manage in my free time, weather permitting, I now feel freer to engage in conversation. I meet some lovely humans, learn some interesting things, and hope I am being a good ambassador for the birds.

(A Little) Riverside in July

I visited Riverside only twice in July, specifically July 7 and July 20. I’m not exactly sure why I made it to this near location only twice last month, except that when I look at my “drivel” which is a monthly accumulation of journaling, it seems I thought about it often enough. Perhaps it had more to do with the weather – did it rain the night before, was it particularly hot? – or other things that come up and compel me to action or inaction.

There were not a lot of birds on either occasion, but I managed some interesting captures anyway. The light on the 7th was full of stark contrasts. The pose of the Great Blue Heron below intrigued me as he emerged from a dark background.

When I moved and took his photo again through some vegetation he appeared a bit brighter and still looked as if he was laughing or trying to say something. Maybe he was just hot.

Later, a Great Egret was also available for a distant pose.

There were some Common Grackles on the shore. This may have been the last time I saw them.

House Sparrows rarely pose for a picture, so when this one posed, I obliged.

I don’t remember exactly when we had the big storm that knocked down the trees but it was back in June. In any event, a couple large logs remain on the trail. I am able to scale the one below, and the other one is now a walk-around, unless the river gets really high as the detour runs very close to the water.

There has been a Mallard hen and her ducklings tucked into one of the little inlets by the Riverside Lawn trail and I have been monitoring their progress. Here’s what some of them looked like on the 7th.

Red-winged Blackbirds were scarce. I barely recognized the darker one.

But it was a good day for turtles.

This was not the most beautiful background for an Eastern Comma Butterfly, but I took its picture anyway. I’m just happy to see any butterflies these days.

On the 20th, a Great Blue Heron was present again. The water levels were low that day.

I counted three Great Blue Herons that morning. The one below is fond of this spot on the Indian Gardens side of the river.

It was another day of bright and dark contrasts.

Brown-headed Cowbirds

This White-tailed Deer was in the tall grass close to the paved walk in Riverside.

The shallow water left a raised area out near the middle of the river where it turns a corner, and there was a lone Killdeer foraging in the mud.

There are usually a few Mourning Doves near the foot bridge…

Mourning Doves

A view from the foot bridge yielded distant birds standing in the shallow water.

Canada Geese were lounging on another rocky raised area.

And at the end of my walk, a Mallard, still a bit wet, was walking out of the water.

As of this morning, I have been to Riverside four times already this month and have seen more birds, so I hope to be back soon with more photos. And as long as my knee holds up and the weather is nice, I will continue to go out every morning. Because you never know what you may see.

McGinnis Magic

I went to McGinnis Slough yesterday morning. It’s been on my mind for a week, and since there isn’t a lot of trail on the east side by LaGrange Road, I decided I could manage it with my knee, which I later took to the pool for a therapeutic swim. The Slough, of course, looks more like a bog.

But it was good to be somewhere else for a change and at first I didn’t see very much. There was a nice Eastern Kingbird. This seems to be the bird of the week.

The Rose Mallow is in full bloom. I always look forward to seeing this.

There was a beautiful Great Black Wasp on some Queen Anne’s Lace.

Walking north toward the overlook of the slough, I saw two Eastern Kingbirds in the Elderberry.

And there was an obligatory Rabbit.

There are usually a lot of dragonflies here but it was cool and a bit overcast so I only managed to capture this Blue Dasher Dragonfly and a Blue Fronted Dancer Damselfly, species I have been seeing all summer.

There seemed to be what looked like Evening Primrose all over the place. I used to have some in my yard years ago.

There was virtually nothing to see without a scope over the slough, and I could barely make out seven or eight Great Egrets, but that was a sign of things to come.

As I walked back south along the trail that follows some nearby open water, such as it is, I encountered a few delightful House Finches. They appeared to be juveniles and as curious about me as I was about them.

And then, through the tall grass, I saw a Great Egret perched on top of a branch of a fallen log that I have seen other birds on before.

As I tried to capture the Great Egret clearly through the grass, I noticed something else. Lo and behold, two Trumpeter Swans and their three Cygnets. I saw this configuration last year, but it must have been earlier because the Cygnets were much smaller. It’s good to see these three have survived to this age.

It then became evident that the Wood Ducks were hanging out on their favorite fallen log nearby.

Here’s a closer cropped image of the transforming male in the tree above.

But that’s not all that was going on. There was a Great Blue Heron behind all the ducks.

I was back there for some time, and not terribly far away from the birds, but I guess they felt safe behind all that grass that got in the way of my photos.

Then at some point another Great Blue Heron flew over, squawking somewhat vociferously,

There wasn’t too much to look at in the rest of the open water, but this little group was nice.

2 Mallards and 2 Wood Ducks

On my way out, as I stopped to look at something in a tree, I noticed there were three Great Egrets perched in another tree which reminded me of how this place used to look years ago when there were scores of them.

Needless to say I was restored by my encounter with these birds. And then swimming made it a nearly perfect day as I was able to work on my knee without injuring it further. I’m trying everything. Exercise, different shoes, whatever. It’s encouraging. Then I celebrated by getting my second Covid-19 booster, figuring it was probably a good idea to get it done before choir rehearsals start soon. The booster has left me feeling a little down, but I guess that means I needed it. Who knows? Everything is a gamble these days. Playing fast and loose with an ice pack on the futon.

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.