I participated in the Christmas Bird Count on December 19th. It was a cloudy, cool day. Not great for photographs, or for a lot of birds either, at least where I was, but it was good to see more people participating. I took both cameras with me, not knowing what I expected to do with either one of them.
If I start thinking about how long it has taken me to get back to finishing this post I won’t do it, so strike that thought and keep going. Below is a look at how the Fox River looked that morning.
I started out with the mirrorless and managed to get a rather nice view of this Red-bellied Woodpecker. Actually all the bird pictures in this post were taken with the little camera. I didn’t have to fuss around with adjusting for no light as much.
At some point we had stopped to listen for birds and saw this amazing honeycomb hanging from a tree.
We had Downy Woodpeckers (below) and a Hairy as well.
It was almost not worth taking these photos of flying geese but you can appreciate just how dark and gloomy it was.
Learning more tree bark – this is a cherry tree, which the person who identified it said it looks like “potato chips.” I guess.
The Cedar Waxwings were the most cheerful sight.
It’s hard to motivate myself to do anything beyond the have-to’s, these days. In particular, after the coup attempt – which is hard not to take personally – as much as I want to continue hoping I can exude a positive vibe that will land somewhere it’s needed, it’s hard to fight sheer exhaustion. But this comes and goes in waves. It’s been cold and gloomy too, which does not help. Time to get up and do something! I need to play some piano every day for the birds. Music is life.
I’m adding this White-Breasted Nuthatch that somehow didn’t make it into a Portage post of October pictures. Another mirrorless capture.
I’m not making any promises about when I’ll be back, but sooner or later I’m sure I will. It’s been confusing to be anywhere lately. Everything has a veneer of unreality to it. Maybe it’s just time to start asking the old questions again, even if we still can’t answer them.
I think I will limit my posts to one-day experiences and work my way backwards in time since I won’t be taking m(any) pictures one-handed for a while…
The Red-Breasted Nuthatch at the top of this post was one of a few fall migrants I saw the last Sunday in August at the Portage. I regret missing seeing any birds the long Labor Day weekend save the ones in my yard, but I have rescheduled my first bird walk that was to have occurred on the 12th for the 19th, and hope to see many birds then, if not be able to chronicle their passage with photographs.
It’s always a pleasure to see somewhat elusive Swainson’s Thrushes.
I had a brief encounter with the Ovenbird above, after hearing his loud, cheery song. A few Downy Woodpecker photos below, and one of a Hairy Woodpecker for comparison…
I happened upon two Warbling Vireos disagreeing about something…
My last Baltimore Orioles of the season…
Below on the left, a bird hadn’t seen all summer, a Brown Thrasher. Also in the gallery, a Cedar Waxwing and a male Northern Cardinal.
My favorite fungus, a butterfly,and pokeweed berries…
A few more of the Red-breasted Nuthatch…
My last glimpse of Indigo Buntings – all juveniles…below.
Northern Flickers were abundant.
A small gaggle of geese flew over, and then surprised me by landing in the duckweed pond – I don’t know what else to call it at this point. I wondered if they were standing in it.
Scenes of the Portage.
And regulars are always welcome… American Goldfinch and Black-capped Chickadee…
My elbow surgery Friday morning went well. Courtesy of the hospital gown, the nurses showed me the immense bruise on my left upper thigh which confirmed the source of my pain upon standing and walking. I’ll be slowed down by my injuries for a while, but as I regain my strength I hope to return to this page more frequently. Thanks for making it this far with me. I treasure you all.
When I came home from the Portage on the 4th, I found the female American Goldfinch above and some butterflies enjoying the front yard. The Common Milkweed was blooming with its heavy perfume. The blossoms are all gone by now and it’s moving on to seed pods.
The little girl below (female Ruby-throated Hummingbird) was visiting the hummingbird feeder hanging on my front porch, where I was sitting with my camera. She took offense to the camera and landed in a nearby tree where I got this shot and the one below.
One morning when I was out walking before work, as I approached my house, I saw her checking out each of my neighbors’ porch fronts to see if they had feeders hanging. Smart little bird. I like her logic. Unfortunately, my neighbors don’t have feeders on their porches.
There have been a few butterflies, individuals of different species.
These photos are from early July. The yard looks a lot different by now. July has been a busy growing month for everything.
Then there is the backyard. When I try to sneak up on the birds here, I am often unsuccessful, but on the 16th I did manage to capture a few images below.
I haven’t seen a lot of House Finches, but that could change as the season progresses.
The challenge has been keeping up with four suet feeders this summer. The House Sparrows are very good at clinging (I have seem them climb brick walls), so the feeders designed for Woodpeckers are not challenging to them. They have their own feeder with room for two suet cakes. but it empties out every day. I have come to the conclusion that the reason why suet is so popular in the summer is because it is cheap and easy to feed to offspring. The pictures below were through the back porch windows. I apologize for their softness, but I have a female Hairy Woodpecker who has become a regular, even though I have yet to capture a decent picture of her.
I’ve ventured out every weekend including this one and will have a lot more to post soon, if I can just stay inside and do it. This afternoon is likely a good day to sit inside – it’s very hot now. I am glad I got up early to roam a wild space such as it is still available. It’s reassuring to visit p[aces that in essence remain the same, even as they themselves are changing: my tonic for facing all the rapid and sweeping challenges we do not want or need.
It’s all I can do to keep up with migration this spring, let alone the pictures I have taken…So I’m attempting to do this in chronological order but it won’t be easy. This past Saturday started out cool but sunny. I decided to start my walk in the opposite direction of what I normally do. Then I realized that I had forgotten to put my little portable stool in my backpack so I decided to walk back to the car to get it. As I walked, I heard the Great-Crested Flycatcher, and then saw him in one of the Redbud trees bordering the lawn behind the statue. The morning had promise.
Last Saturday was a riot of colorful birds. I counted a dozen male Indigo Buntings. They were everywhere and they were not particularly shy, so I took advantage of their fearlessness. You can see how the light affects the hue of the blueness, when actually their feathers are all black.
I ventured out to the gravel road that runs along the MWRD property and found two male Scarlet Tanagers. They were trading songs.
But I discovered a glimpse at a Summer Tanager later in my pictures.
For all the male Baltimore Orioles singing and displaying these last few weeks, I have seen only one or two females so far. But that’s because they’re busy tending the nest.
Yellow Warblers may stay and breed at the Portage. Invariably I hear them but don’t always see them. So I was glad to capture this one.
White-Breasted Nuthatches are present all year, but are not seen or even heard frequently now.
The female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak below is the last one I have seen. I am not aware of any starting families at the Portage, but it could happen.
We have had a lot of rain, and even more after these pictures were taken. There were two Canada Geese trying out the newly flooded waters.
So this time of year of course I’m looking for warblers wherever I can find them. I just calculated that over the last couple of weeks I have seen 21 species total. I haven’t been able to photograph them all, but most, sometimes discovering them in my photographs. I will try to post as many as possible. They won’t always be textbook-looking photos. For example, the Golden-Winged below I barely captured but it was the details from the photographs that I was able to identify it as a likely female.
Then there are the flycatchers. They can be confusing. I have since seen the Eastern Wood-Pewee again in the same location looking more like himself so I am guessing he was having an off day (typically he would look more pointy-headed).
On this day I saw this Turkey Vulture being escorted away by a Red-Winged Blackbird.
Song Sparrows are present, singing, and likely staying to raise families.
i keep hearing and sometimes seeing Chestnut-Sided Warblers every time I have been to the Portage since my first intimate encounter with one last Tuesday.
There’s a little rapids under the first bridge where the water runs out of the Portage. No water ever runs into the Portage, as far as I can tell, but It’s still nice to see the flow over the rocks.
More often heard than seen, Blue Jays are out and about but rarely available for photos, so it was nice to see this one.
I found this female Common Grackle to be attractive in her own way.
I had noticed this nest before but wasn’t sure anyone was using it until I managed to capture these two Goldfinches. You will probably have to click on the first photo to see the female poking her head out of it. I have since not been able to find the nest, which was not far from the trail, but it could still be there and hidden in all the plant growth that has occurred since.
Sadly, Black-Capped Chickadees are getting harder and harder to find. Long taken for granted, I am convinced they are in decline, at least locally. I caught this one in a hurry.
Here’s my Robin photo of the post.
As the leaves are finally coming out, it’s interesting to see how the spaces change.
Below is one of my favorite birds, a Blue-Headed Vireo. I have seen them a couple times this spring which is surprising to me, as I don’t think I have seen one for years.
Woodpeckers are busy everywhere.
And last for the moment, I finally was able to catch the male Eastern Bluebird in focus. He has a habit of posing in difficult places, but he sat long enough this time. And although I think I heard him this past week, I haven’t seen him since. I hope the pair is still nesting and I will be looking for baby bluebirds this summer.
I have been to the Portage four times since last Saturday! I am beginning to feel like I live there. Every time I have gone, there has been a different species or a special encounter with one I’ve seen so far this spring. As many people have remarked, the cool start has been difficult for the birds migrating to their breeding grounds. I can only hope those who have visited the Portage are finding what they need in this little hotspot and will survive and flourish on the rest of their journey.
I will be back with lots more. Thanks for checking in, and I hope you are safe, well, and able to get out and enjoy this spring.
After last Sunday’s chilly, gloomy rain, I had my eye on Tuesday morning and notified the work team that I was taking it off. Tuesday came, starting out cool but sunny, and I went to the Portage to see if any warblers I barely glimpsed at on Sunday were there for a better view.
The green-up is in progress and the treetops are full of tiny bugs and worms we can’t see, but the birds know where to look for them.
After hearing and then eventually seeing a couple Chestnut-sided Warblers, I was lucky enough to have an intimate moment with this individual. We exchanged thoughts about spring and sunshine.
I always hear five or more House Wrens, but rarely see them. Tuesday morning was a special day, though, because it seemed like all these guys were out and showing off. The very last photograph below shows one going into his nest.
Another very vocal group rarely seen are the Warbling Vireos. I followed this one around with the camera.
There were still a couple Ruby-Crowned Kinglets here and there. Only now, like the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, when you’re looking for warblers, these birds become “distractors,” to quote one of my favorite guides, Mitch Lysinger.
Even Blue Jays seem to be more visible. I’ve had one in my yard all week, too, although he leaves the minute he sees me.
On this beautiful morning I was delighted to find one of my favorite sparrows, Lincoln’s.
There were still a few Blue-Winged Warblers. It’s been a good year to see them.
Female Goldfinches never get much press so I thought I’d share these two photos.
I always hear White-Throated Sparrows’ little chip notes before I see them. It was nice to have one posing.
In the Big Bird Flyover Department, it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen an Osprey. I used to see one flying over the Des Plaines River when I visited Ottawa Trail, but that location is no longer available. I haven’t been back since they built a levy. It will be interesting to see what happens with the river, with all the rain we are getting this week.
A rare glimpse of Mrs. Bluebird Tuesday morning.
Early on I saw this Least Flycatcher from the bridge, at quite a distance.
Most of the warblers were distant and high in the trees, so much so that I didn’t always know what I was looking at until I processed the photos.
Black-and-White Warblers have been a bit evasive this year.
Something about the cool, slow start to spring has made the moss look happier.
Here’s a bird I never thought I’d see. It was really far away so I had no idea what it was until later.
Palm Warblers are still around but blending in too well with their surroundings.
One of my favorites, Canada Warbler, was down low but in the shade.
Here’s one of two female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks I saw together in the same location.
I first saw the man below a couple weeks ago, I think. He was playing loud music from that speaker thing he’s got in his right hand. Keeping my social distance, I cupped my hands over my ears. The next time I heard him coming, he was playing “Scotland the Brave”. I thought about whatever PTSD he was suffering from, it was too bad he had to foist it on other people, but I decided not to let him bother me and maybe it was a good thing he was walking his dog in the woods. Anyway, it’s likely he’s been out every day since the lockdown began.