Battening Down the Hatches

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Dark-Eyed Junco

The cold is upon us. The possibility of winter seems suddenly everywhere. I wrote those two sentences two days ago, hoping I would want to change them, but we are heading into freezing temperatures overnight, so I may as well say “stet.”

Very busy at work, no weekday birding, and the weekends have been either rained out or too preoccupied as well. So here are a few pictures from a little time spent in the backyard the last couple weekends. Likely I will continue to see most of these birds, but the backdrop has already started changing.

I decided to not ignore the House Sparrows just because there are so many of them. Whether hanging out with a Mourning Dove above, or preening, hanging out at the bird bath, or eating peanuts below, House Sparrows, however ubiquitous, can be charming in their own right.

Preening HOSP 10-29-17-6819HOSP 10-29-17-6944HOSP 10-29-17-6979House Sparrows are also capable of aerial feats.

My last sighting of a White-Crowned Sparrow below was on my neighbor’s fence two weekends ago. Also had a visiting American Goldfinch.

The last bit of color in the yard before the leaves began turning was from the sedum in the pictures below.

And I had a short visit from what looks like a brand new male Downy Woodpecker.

DOWP 10-29-17-6863The Common Milkweed proved to be very good for Milkweed Beetles.

My last butterfly was a Painted Lady. I won’t see them again until next summer. But the squirrels and the Northern Cardinals aren’t going anywhere.

Painted Lady Butterfly 10-21-17-6782Squirrel 10-29-17-6984

NOCA 10-29-17-7050NOCA 10-21-17-6800This Dark-Eyed Junco was very comfortable and happy in the yard that last sunny weekend day. I’ve never seen a Junco try to eat peanuts before. Impressive.

I will be busy these next few days getting ready to go on what will likely be my last international trip for a while. I’m going back to Ecuador over the Thanksgiving holiday week. So I may not be able to manage another post before I leave.

Painted Lady Butterfly 10-21-17-6765If you are in  celebrating Thanksgiving, or wherever you are, my best wishes for days filled with peace and love.

The Essence of True (Crow) Love

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Ah…Birdz Cookies!

Or you could just say Food is Love in just about any language. Like Music…

In the midst of this miserable cold, my crow friends and I are reunited in thought and purpose. Last week they sent me a request for Birdz Cookies, and so it was Birdz Cookies on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, I put out lots of peanuts and broke up the cookie pieces on top of them, and the Crows went straight for the cookies.

Then yesterday, after two days of cookies, why not some of those delicious hot dogs I used to bring?

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Between my knee event (which I am happy to report is totally over), the weather, the baby boom indoors and other distractions, I haven’t managed to get up early and visit the crows an hour before work all winter, so I have focused on the Millennium Park bunch whenever I get out for a late lunch break, and now that my knee is working properly the weather becomes less of an excuse for staying inside when I realize my friends don’t have that choice.

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White-Throated Sparrow

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Sparrows, mainly House

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Northern Cardinal and House Sparrow, both males

This has also been good for the Cardinals, Chickadees, White-Throated Sparrows and House Sparrows.

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On Monday, the male Northern Cardinal actually came toward me and posed for pictures when I pointed the camera at him. It had to do with the peanuts I shelled and left for him on Friday. He was asking me to repeat the favor, which I did after taking a few more pictures. Then later he was down on the ground sampling the general offering.

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On Tuesday I was surprised to see the Robins back at what I believe must be some type of hawthorn trees in the northwest corner of the park, I guess to clean up every last fruit they might have left on their last visit.

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The Black-Capped Chickadees have been more about food than enticing me to take their pictures.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

But from time to time the female Cardinal wasn’t too shy to engage the lens.

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NOCA 2-17-15-4325So as cold as it is I will probably venture out again today. The sun is shining brightly, and it is always a bit warmer by the lake, even in this extreme cold. It’s amazing how much even one or two degrees makes a difference.

WTSP & NOCA 2-17-15-4079 Cookie Crow 2-17-15-4417

The “what-to-feed-the crows next?” question has been on my mind, since after cookies and hot dogs, simply peanuts seems too mundane. So I rustled up an omelette this morning with about 10 eggs that have been in the refrigerator too long to boil for the indoor crowd’s egg food. I figure the crows have probably sampled Egg McMuffins and will recognize an omelette (indeed I think one crow sent me the thought on the way in that I could have added cheese — ha!). Plus it’s eggs in a cache-and-stash form.

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White-Throated Sparrow

I do intend to wade through the Gull Frolic pictures by the weekend…but the park birds were making it a lot easier for me to post about them sooner.

Home, Home on the Futon Part II

Zebra Finch w Fledgling 1-4-15-1684I’m really not spending all my time on the futon but it’s been a rough week weather-wise so it’s perfect to sit with my feet up under the quilt, watching and listening to the birds.

When I last posted about the indoor crowd, there was only one fledgling, a Society Finch I think I just named Treasure. In the last week, five Zebra Finch Kids have fledged, and they are somewhat easy to tell apart for the moment as they are all varying shades of gray. One in particular is much lighter than the others (a sibling of the first to fledge group of three), and the last two are quite a bit darker than the rest.

The Zebra Finch adult couples hang out together quite a bit, going on foraging expeditions, and then at other times they get into territorial squabbles that sound ferocious to my ears, but nobody’s suffered so far from being chased.

Zebra Finch Fledglings 1-11-15-0123I have noticed today that the fledglings are still begging noisily but they’ve been ignored at times. They have also started picking at spray millet and experimenting with foraging in general, so I suspect they will be weaned very soon.

The video has the new fledglings eventually all on one perch, and Arturo T. singing half his song at the end.

I have no new pictures of the last remaining Budgie and the Diamond Dove, but Blue Budgie sits in the kitchen and serenades Dudlee Ann, the Diamond Dove, from time to time. He is absolutely smitten with her. Whenever she comes out into the living room, he is right by her side. When she takes off for the kitchen he zooms right after her. She is fond of him, but feels a duty to sit on her plastic eggs. Last night she came to join him briefly on his perch in the second finch cage, but then left for her nest.

During the week, Dudlee talks to me and tells me when I come home from work that she wants to go back into the kitchen and sit on her plastic eggs, after spending the day with the other birds.

Society Finches and 2 Zebra Finch Fledglings

Society Finches and 2 Zebra Finch Fledglings

The Society Finches will increase by at least two, as far as I can tell from the sounds coming out of Phoenix and Rikki’s nest. I suspect they are Trevor and Phoenix’s offspring.

The nicest thing about all this is that everybody has settled in, we are comfortable with each other, and now I have birds born in the house again. I am looking forward to seeing the Zebra Finh fledglings turn colors, become either girls or boys, and particularly to hearing the boys working on their songs. Arturo T. and Ricardo M. keep working on their songs and they have fleshed them out considerably since they arrived fresh from the pet store. Arturo T. has the most lyrical song, and I have figured out how to put “Arturo, Arturo Toscanini” to it. Ricardo’s song is more percussive and I haven’t figured out how to add his name to it yet.

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Meanwhile in the yard this morning the House Sparrows were all hanging out at the pool. My view through the kitchen window.

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It is snowing again. Cold, but not quite as sub-zero as last week. I hope to visit my crow friends soon.

Cabin Fever Blues

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Female Northern Cardinal on the sunflower seed feeder

I’ve got the Cabin Fever Blues. Don’t bother watching the news. (Random thoughts after shoveling…)

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Chicago Lakefront view from the office

It’s the same old thing. Still snowing.

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Snowtracks in the Cancer Survivor’s Garden

I’ve got the Too Blues too.

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House Sparrows at the Cancer Survivor’s Garden

Too cold, too windy.

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Snow-capped temporary hill made from dirt removed from Daley Bicentennial Plaza

Too many Toos to handle.

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Dark-Eyed Junco at the Cancer Survivors’ Garden

(I did manage to get down to the lakefront once last week, but after that, it wasn’t possible.)

Sub-zero has many faces.

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American Robin, yews, Cancer Survivors’ Garden

Ice and hard, sculpted snow.

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Slipping and sliding, or crunching and sinking.

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The sun looks like the moon

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And the clouds like an ocean.

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I guess this red hedge sculpture by the yacht club is designed to brighten up the place. This was a couple weeks ago after the thaw…

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Better Crows 1-17-14 3075.jpg-3075White-winged Crow 1-22-14 3323.jpg-3323

There’s even a little white in the left wing of this cold snow-crow…

I See The Light(room)

Millennium Park Crow

Millennium Park Crow

Over the past few days I’ve been struggling to figure out the new laptop and its operating system/software…making illogical mistakes as I go, losing sleep. I hanker for some of those missing keys like “home” and “end” while I’m typing too but I suspect there are substitutes to be discovered later. Oops, just found one – control-arrow.

Lurie Garden in Winter

Lurie Garden in Winter

It’s the kind of annoying stuff I dream about as the unsolved problems keep recirculating in the background of everything else I do. Reminds me of years ago when I first learned how to type on a PC, I was blocking and copying in my sleep…

Yesterday morning on the way in to work, my brain muddled with questions about why this or that wasn’t working logically, after a frustrating session trying unsuccessfully to move photos from iPhoto into Lightroom… suddenly about two blocks away from the office came the clarion call: “CAW, caw-caw.” One of my Loop Crows. My mind cleared immediately. I stopped to smile because the Crow’s presence put me directly in the moment. When I first looked up, I could not see him. He cawed again, with the same phrase (“CAW, caw-caw” has been the Crows’ announcement of my presence for years). Then the Crow flew to the top of the nearest lamp post ahead of me. As it happened, I was carrying peanuts, so I removed my gloves and laid a few choice nuts on the sidewalk next to the trash bin. He would have to wait until rush hour had subsided before he could fetch them, but somehow I knew he would. I had to thank him for clearing my mind. And confirming that I am so well-trained.

Millennium Park Crow with Peanuts

Millennium Park Crow with Peanuts

The photos are from the last two days’ afternoon excursions to Millennium Park and have nothing whatsoever to do with the post, except that I am so excited to be able to process things again. And I have no one but yesterday’s Loop Crow to thank, because he cleared my mental block.

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Of course I purchased books to learn all the new stuff and started reading online help forums, but in the end I managed last night to intuitively figure things out myself, maybe nudged slightly by things I had read. But in general I tend to resist direction and submit to trail and error. Whatever it is or was, I am now in control of the photos I loaded on to the new laptop and looking forward to taking on the Trip Photo Task this weekend.

House Sparrows

House Sparrows

I still credit the Crow for enabling me to stop my circular thinking long enough to find a solution.

American Robin

American Robin

It was a sign, too, last night after I realized that the San Francisco symphony concert was playing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, which is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. Although not what I might have chosen to accompany my victory over the software problem, it still confirmed my elation.

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal

The Loop Crows were waiting again for me this morning on the way in: there were two of them this time. I crossed the street to where they were hanging, but thought better of leaving peanuts on the sidewalk, crossed back and was on my way when one reminded me loudly that I could still leave some peanuts somewhere. I put a few on top of a transformer box. It just occurred to me that there are cameras on every corner recording traffic and pedestrian activities. “Look at this. There she is again. Leaving peanuts.”

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

We are experiencing a bit of a thaw. The warmer temperatures are welcome.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

I hope to return soon with safari snapshots.

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P.S. Elation made it no better, I was up late again. My indoor birds would like you to know that they have had enough.

A Midweek Visit to Millennium Park

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Nicer weather and the tourist influx makes Millennium Park challenging for birdwatching on my lunch hour, but it’s closer to where I work so when I don’t have a lot of time, the park beats sitting in the office. Sometimes having lower expectations brings surprises. One thing is certain: my beloved crows are not hanging out there too much. They are shy of most people and even avoid interacting with me in crowded situations. It’s certainly beneath them to beg along with the park’s summer residents that include Common Grackles and Ring-Billed Gulls in addition to Rock Pigeons and House Sparrows.

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On Thursday I made my way over to the Lurie Garden at the south end of Millennium Park, which is in its first glorious phase of a full bloom cycle.

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Lurie Garden

I am particularly fond of Prairie Smoke, which reminds me of cotton candy in its air-blown wispiness. It’s not in the photo above – the plants on the bottom right are Bergamot – but was elsewhere in the garden, and close up below. It’s one of the first flowers to bloom.

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Prairie Smoke

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On the way back I ran into a couple young Grackles,who had just fledged, by the appearance of their pin feathers.

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Common Grackle Fledglings

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And the Ring-Billed Gulls were still trying to drum up business. My friend Karen once called them “prima donnas.”

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Ring-Billed Gull, begging

More to come from the City Parks. I was planning on birding the Portage this morning early, sort of doing a self-styled breeding bird survey, but one of my brake lines failed last night when I moved my car back to my side of the street, and my car is in the shop. It’s old and rusty, like its owner. 🙂

2013 off to a lazy start…

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I confess, I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn to welcome my First Bird of 2013…but I filled the feeders and the birdbaths last night and hope that was welcome enough. As it turned out, it was a beautiful day: bright sunshine, hardly any wind. Cold, but clear. As much as we need precipitation, I cannot complain about the year starting out sunny.

I did finally manage to get through the rest of my Brazil pictures on flickr anyway and edit them so they have the correct date taken. Of course doing this pulled me back into South America and its birds and renewed my resolve to spend time on the rest of the identification challenges that remain.

In keeping with the Brazilian theme, I celebrated the new year by making farofa to have with my New Year’s dinner. I am pleased with the results and looking forward to further experimentation.

Around two this afternoon, after playing Bach for the birds, I donned long underwear and warm outerwear and went out in the yard to wait for birds to come back to the feeders. Two in the afternoon is not prime time, but I wanted to have the sun behind me since my yard faces west.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

The Black-Capped Chickadees were the first to return. I’m always happy to see them, and Dark-Eyed Juncos…

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Dark-Eyed Junco

Perhaps best of all was to witness two White-Breasted Nuthatches in the yard simultaneously. I wasn’t sure until today that there were still two, since I never see more than one at a time hanging on the peanut feeder…

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

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on the peanut feeder

…unlike the House Sparrows.

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The House Finches were more challenging to capture today.

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Female House Finch

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Male House Finch

 

And it was definitely the wrong time of day to see either the Cardinals or the Downy Woodpeckers: they tend to show up early and late.

 

 

 

 

 

But here’s a photo of the male Northern Cardinal through the window last weekend.

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Northern Cardinal

Back inside, I was happy to read in The New York Times “Science Times” section that researchers have discovered birds react emotionally to music like we do. This is something I observed from the very beginning when I started playing music for birds: I was most attracted to them because they seemed to be listening to music much like I do, and that is where our conversation began. Now we have scientific proof. Always a good idea.

It has been a deliciously lazy day and it will be hard to go back to work tomorrow.

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