I haven’t been able to go forward too far so I am going backward in time. These photographs are from one lovely day in the middle of July at the Portage. A highlight was a pair of Orchard Orioles. The male is at the top of this post.
Even though the Green Herons did not have enough water to make a go of it this summer, they still came to visit.
Pollinators were busy.
Below are some more images of the male Orchard Oriole, and one of the female in the same frame as a Red-Winged Blackbird female. They were foraging in the vegetation that sprung up in the absence of water this summer.
A female Red-Winged Blackbird is showing off below.
Male Northern Cardinals aren’t typically willing subjects, so it was a rare treat to capture this one.
Robins were present in all stages of plumage.
Not sure but this might have been my last opportunity to photograph and record a singing male Indigo Bunting.
It was a good year all around for seeing Eastern Wood-Pewees. I usually always hear them but rarely see them. Something about the change in habitat, I suspect.
The Goldfinches spent a lot of time foraging in the duck weed. I didn’t realize that the Portage has a storyboard describing duck weed as the smallest flowering plant until I led a bird walk recently.
Not a very good photograph, but I this was the last time I saw a Great-crested Flycatcher.
The Gray Catbird below epitomizes the attitude of these loquacious birds.
The days are dramatically shorter and the heat has been on in the house for over a week. But now it looks like we are due for a spell of pleasant temperatures before the cold takes over. I am healing from my fall and always seem to feel better in the evenings. Thanks for stopping by!
After groveling about making the long drive all the way up to McHenry County around Memorial Day, I went back on July 5th to celebrate my birthday and then again on July 25th. Needless to say now I’m getting used to the drive and the trail and I may have a hard time staying away before October which is when I plan to go back for Sandhill Cranes that purportedly congregate in the fallow farm fields.
I feel like I could start giving some of the individual birds names, like the Willow Flycatcher at the top of the post. I even heard a confirming “fitz-bew” on the last Saturday.
I expected to see more Yellow-headed Blackbirds. On the fifth, the males were really too far away for decent photographs, but I did get to see a female close to the observation deck. I went back on the 25th because I wanted to see many juveniles like I did years ago, but I couldn’t find one Yellow-headed Blackbird anywhere. I must have just missed them. But that’s okay, because I saw some other interesting birds, and it’s just so peaceful to be there. In fact on the second visit when I got there, I had the whole place to myself. I didn’t stay long though because it was very hot.
I found the Gallinule below in my photographs from both visits. This is a great place to go if you carry a spotting scope. But I don’t have the energy to carry a scope and a telephoto lens. Perhaps I should rethink my philosophy of cutting corners. For instance, the combination of two visits in this blog post – it’s becoming evident as I write it that it’s entirely too long.
I did see a pair of Sandhill Cranes on each visit. I have not seen any with offspring, which is a bit disappointing.
Another “only in my photos” discovery – a last Black Tern seen on the 5th. Well, my camera saw it.
Here’s the turtle covered with duck weed that appeared in the background of one of the Yellow-headed Blackbird photos above. If you click on the pictures you can see how the duck weed makes it look like something from another planet.
There are still a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds here and everywhere. They are in no hurry to leave, I suppose, because they won’t have so far to go in the fall.
I was hoping I would find a Yellow-headed Blackbird when I blew this up but it turned out to be a Red-winged Blackbird. That’s okay, it’s kind of nice to see the feather pattern, albeit faded. Below the photo, two different Red-winged calls I heard on these visits.
The “other” blackbird – Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Dragonflies like this place.
On both occasions there were swallows, but in particular on the 25th there seemed to be a lot of them. It was nice to see the Bank Swallows – I don’t see them very often.
The Song Sparrow below was on the 5th. There are two more individuals further down the post whose songs I recorded and put underneath their photographs.
This Yellow Warbler was the last one I saw, on the 5th.
I am quite sure this is probably the same Great Blue Heron, although the photos are from both occasions.
I always seem to startle this Great Egret, which must have been right by the viewing platform as I approached.
A Green Heron flew by twice on the 25th.
Here’s Song Sparrow No. 1 and Song Sparrow No. 2. Song Sparrows reportedly have thousands of songs so it’s not unusual that they were singing different tunes…
And another singer I was happy to record – and manage to photograph, as they are often elusive in the marsh – a Marsh Wren.
My most cooperative subject at this location has been a Willow Flycatcher.
There were a couple distant Wild Turkeys hanging out not far from the Sandhills on the 25th.
Always happy to see a Monarch Butterfly… – I stand corrected. The two on the left are Viceroys!
I think it might be a ground squirrel on the left… there are holes on the trail that look perfect for a ground squirrel. But they could both be Chipmunks…
I found this feather interesting on my walk back to the car on the 25th. I thought it might belong to a hawk or a turkey, even, but none of the extensive feather identification webpages have given me the answer. My first thought was a crow, actually. Maybe I should go with that…
My reward for showing up on the later visit was to see these two Black-crowned Night-Herons arrive and perch not far from the viewing platform. One is an adult, and the other a juvenile.
Many thanks for making it to the end of this long post. As hot as it was a week and a half ago, as I finish writing this, we have dropped down into fall-like temperatures for a couple days. A reminder. I suppose, that nothing stays the same, as if I needed it. No, honestly, it’s absolutely delightful to have the windows open: I feel less confined and it’s delightful. Stay safe and I will see you again soon in another post. 🙂
I spent the mornings of July 4th and Sunday, June 28th, at the Chicago Portage, mainly to see how the birds that spend their breeding season there are doing. Fledglings are starting to show themselves. Sometimes they look so different from the adults it takes a moment or two to figure out exactly who they are.
A Green Heron occasionally stops by to see what’s happening, perhaps to see if the water it used to fish in has returned. I suspect the herons miss the water even more than I do. A frequent dog-walker I have exchanged conversation with for years told me that he heard the amount of water flowing into the Portage was being controlled to discourage beavers. That’s extremely disappointing to me, if true. I had read somewhere that efforts were being made to restore the habitat to its original state but I really don’t know how that could happen. I will keep trying to find out the true story. In the meantime the habitat change attracts other species that were absent before, but I miss the old “regulars.”
Something else: just as I was beginning to explore farther afield, the fence gate has been closed and locked. I am not surprised, with all the extra foot and bicycle traffic – I am sure it is a matter of liability between the water reclamation district and the railroad. Of course I would be able to crawl through the opening on the righthand side of the gate but I don’t think it’s worth doing now. It might be hard to resist during fall migration though. I guess it will depend on how many people are still using the trails.
So the stars of both visits were the male Indigo Buntings. There were plenty of them everywhere and quite a few volunteered for photographs. Since I always take too many pictures and have a hard time deciding which ones to use I have just piled them up here.
There seems to be a good number of Northern Flickers this year.
I am always happy to see a Monarch Butterfly. But sadly I haven’t seen more than two at a time.
Starting to see more dragonflies too.
European Starlings always look more interesting to me in their juvenile plumage.
I never know when I’m going to run into a deer.
Red-winged Blackbirds are less visible now that they’ve accomplished their mission of setting up territories and making babies. This may be the last time I will have seen a male singing.
I found the photos below confusing until I realized, upon closer inspection, that the breast is yellow and the tail has rufous coloration to it. Voila, this is a juvenile Great-crested Flycatcher. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a juvenile before, so I am really happy I managed to capture it.
Another Indigo Bunting…
Here’s a Baltimore Oriole feeding his fledgling.
These are juvenile Red-winged Blackbirds checking out their surroundings.
This is the time of year when robins take on all kinds of plumage variations, particularly among the juveniles.
Below are photos of an adult Red-bellied Woodpecker and a juvenile, for comparison.
I was intrigued by the House Wren below who disappeared into the cavity in the tree…
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher below seems to have a strange sort of tumorous growth on its back.
My lucky one-shot of a juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I haven’t seen any of this species otherwise for quite a while so it’s nice to know they are here.
Well it’s taken me almost two weeks to write this post… I will try to keep up with posting. Today was a gift in that there were clouds and thunderstorms to keep me inside and less tempted to go out. If it were up to me, I would have as many mornings as I wanted each week to do everything I like to do.
The Memorial Day weekend this year offered three beautiful days of birding at the Portage. I had no desire to go anywhere else; rather, I was interested to see what different birds I might discover each day, enhanced by the fact that a lot of birds were finally on the move to their summer homes. Here are photographs from Saturday, May 23rd.
While I think this was the last day I saw the male Scarlet Tanagers, there were plenty of Indigo Buntings. I am not aware of Scarlet Tanagers breeding at the Portage, but the Indigo Buntings certainly are a presence now every year. I suspect some of them that return may have hatched at the Portage.