Portage Potpourri

It’s time to go back and sift through the summer’s photographs so I can start making room for the always anticipated overload of fall migration. As usual I find I have way too many photos that I had forgotten about. The ones in this short post go all the way back to June 4 and June 9 which don’t even qualify for summer yet, but the breeding birds had already been busy.

So this is a female Indigo Bunting. I love her delicate colors. And below her photo is a male, possibly my friend I have named Tadziu.

One bird I haven’t seen all summer, although they typically breed at the Chicago Portage, is the Yellow Warbler. I expect to see some in the next few weeks during fall migration. If I was seeing them so regularly in June they must have been nearby all summer.

I found this little bird’s photos and had to think for a moment what it was. I’ve concluded (with the help of other photographs online) that it can only be a very young Warbling Vireo.

For a short period of time, Gray Catbirds were making themselves available for photos until they disappeared later like nearly everybody else.

I’m beginning to realize this was an absurd idea because more recent photos are starting to accumulate quickly on my hard drive and I won’t be able to review older ones much longer.

Yes, a Chipmunk

House Wrens have been abundant all summer, but not always easy to see.

And every once in a while, an Eastern Phoebe would pose.

I am grateful for the many times I have seen Eastern Kingbirds.

Red-winged Blackbirds are due to start showing up in huge flocks before they take to their more southern destinations. They have disappeared from their breeding grounds. I suspect they have been busy educating the youngsters about self-reliance and survival.

American Robins are perhaps the most adaptable birds, thriving in and out of the human disturbance.

I was intrigued by the capture below – it looks like a very young Red-winged Blackbird.

Baltimore Orioles have been much harder to see long enough to capture lately.

I saw a Daddy Long Legs only once… and my favorite grass, the Squirrel Tail Grass, doesn’t look like this anymore, indeed, I haven’t noticed it at all lately.

Also well-adapted to us humans are American Goldfinches. They always seem so cheerful.

I don’t know what happened to the Song Sparrows at the Portage. I am not sure if any stayed to raise families.

The White-tailed Deer are making less frequent visits than they were earlier.

Another American Robin

Here are two quick and slightly blurry photos of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

I have never seen this yellow iris before…or since.

Here’s what the cottonwood seeds looked like in the beginning of June.

As if to prove my earlier point about adaptability, one American Robin built a nest on the edge of the shelter in spite of the spikes to deter such activities.

I have so much going on right now I can’t say when or with what I will return. But I figured as long as I started this post a couple days ago I may as well finish it.

We had our first choir rehearsal last night, and we are singing this Sunday. I was a bit surprised at how good it felt to stand together and sing, albeit still masked. And so we take the plunge into another year. And I will have to start getting up earlier – in the dark – as the fall bird walks start again next week.

End of July Tidbits

Here’s what was going on at the Chicago Portage the mornings of July 29 and 31. Pretty much what can be expected mid-summer. Feeding fledglings and molting. A busy time for the birds.

On July 31st there was what appeared to be a family of Eastern Kingbirds.

I didn’t manage to get them all in one photograph but there were four Eastern Kingbirds total.

I can expect to see an American Goldfinch in the duckweed this time of year, and I can never entirely resist documenting its presence.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were here and there, if not always easy to see. But then they hardly ever are. The bird in the tiled series looks to be a juvenile.

After barely seeing a Downy Woodpecker out in the open for a few months, it was nice to see this one out and about. It looks to be a young bird as well.

Tadziu the famous Indigo Bunting was busy with his feather upkeep, on a fallen log close to his bridge.

The distant Indigo Bunting below was more disheveled.

A young-looking Marsh Wren was investigating this fallen log.

A young American Robin was curious about the camera attention.

The American Robins below appeared to be sunbathing on the gravel path. I tried not to disturb them for as long as I could.

An juvenile American Robin caught in flight, below.

It’s not often that I catch a Northern Flicker still for a moment.

Below, two Red-bellied Woodpeckers. The first appears to be a juvenile.

The bottomlands near the Des Plaines were flooded both days. A little less on the 31st than the 29th.

My “first” bridge is the southernmost one, and here’s the view I’m getting these days from it.

In the photos below, first a Blue Dasher Dragonfly visible from the bridge on July 31. I saw the turtle covered in duckweed later after I set out on the path after crossing the bridge.

The Hobomok Skipper Butterfly was available for photos on July 29. You can get an idea of how small this creature is by the leaves it’s on.

It seems lately I have been seeing one female Brown-headed Cowbird on every visit. This was her best photograph.

The trees that darken the path over on the north side are such a contrast to the open areas of the preserve. Some are purportedly hundreds of years old.

Here’s another profile of the Eastern Kingbird who was featured at the top of the post.

I was in Riverside yesterday morning and I will have a post soon with what’s going on down by the river there. I had planned to go elsewhere this morning, but I am temporarily catering to the complaints of my right knee which caused me to wear the brace again and venture no farther than the grocery stores. If I can walk well enough tomorrow morning I will go out again.

More Summer Portage Passages

We have threats of thunderstorms this morning and perhaps later in the afternoon, but like yesterday so far it seems to be a waiting game with periods of drizzle.

The last time I saw a Great-crested Flycatcher at the Chicago Portage was on July 22nd. I imagine they’re still around but I am not sure I have heard them lately either. This one was just close enough to capture with the 400mm lens.

I managed to focus for a while on a disheveled-looking Northern Flicker. I waited and waited for him to take off, hoping to capture him in flight, but he beat me to it.

A Spicebush Swallowtail was present both days.

You might expect the beetle below to be named after its vibrant color but instead it’s named after six tiny little white spots which might be more visible in the second photograph.

Whatever the attraction is to the dirt path, this female Powdered Dancer damselfly stayed there long enough.

Tadziu the Indigo Bunting is just as fond of his sunshine perch as he is of the other one across the bridge in the shade.

When there isn’t a lot going on to distract me, I tend to focus on whatever activity exists. Starved for action, I could not resist taking pictures of two young-looking Warbling Vireos who were busy in the mulberries. Berries require less work for them than bugs, I imagine. And as for me, it’s only a matter of time before I get to apply these skills to fall warblers.

The contrast between July 22 and July 25 before and after some rain is evident in the photos below of the bottomlands by the Des Plaines River.

It’s usually easier to get a decent photograph of a female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer.

Female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

This is pretty much how the water looks at the Portage these days. A sea of green.

I have some photos from two more visits at the very end of July, and then it’s looking for signs of more activity in August as fledglings turn into juveniles and thoughts of fall migration start to emerge.

In the meantime, sitting on my front porch yesterday afternoon, I had a brief visit from a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting in the apple tree. I hope to eventually get a few photos of her in action at the flowers or the feeders.

Summer Passages at the Chicago Portage

Although I’ve been to the Chicago Portage more recently, I’m posting some photographs and a couple recordings from last month that hadn’t made it into posts anywhere near the days I took them. These are some views of likely suspects from visits made on July 6 and July 10. I then plan to be back with two or three subsequent installments after I process four more recent July days’ worth of photographs. Depending on what happens, I could sneak in another location here and there…

For the record, the male Indigo Buntings that were everywhere singing last month are still singing but not as much and they’re less visible than the one below, taken on July 6.

Tadziu the Indigo Bunting was available on July 10 for photographs and additions to his Greatest Hits, but the lighting was poor for the former. However, I feel obligated to share his portrait anyway.

And here are the last recordings I made of my celebrity.

Tadziu with American Robin and House Wren in the background
Tadziu with Northern Cardinal, House Wren and Warbling Vireo

American Goldfinches have been busy in the duckweed.

Perched over the water and then taking off for better prospects, a Green Heron was distantly available on July 10.

Just by chance I happened on an Eastern Towhee family. You have to look at the second photo below to see the juvenile which is somewhat obscured by the female in the first photo. I heard the male Eastern Towhee singing this past Tuesday, but did not see him. It would be nice to see the family again before the end of the summer.

It was still hard to resist photographing the Prairie Coneflower and whatever the second yellow flower is, that I see blooming upon first entering the woods from the south paved trail.

I got lucky on the 10th and managed a few photographs of a Warbling Vireo. They are still around but not as vocal as they were, so these days it’s hard to tell how many might be present.

Another species becoming more visible lately is Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.

I have barely heard or seen a White-breasted Nuthatch. This one was on the 6th.

Also on July 6th the House Wren below was flying out of my frame.

The Brown-headed Cowbirds were still all over the place too, on July 6.

The Northern Flicker below wasn’t too easy to see, but I was intrigued enough by all the colors on him, popping out from behind the leaves.

Below is an unusually visible Gray Catbird, and below it, an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

And American Robins are always up to something.

I will be back with more composite posts from the Chicago Portage. In another week or two I expect to see more birds, with the added confusion of molting and juvenile plumages.

A Visit to Goose Lake Prairie

On July 9, I went to Goose Lake Prairie for my annual summertime visit. There were not a lot of birds available for viewing, but enough of the usual suspects were present for the most part and I had a good time observing a few individuals.

Song Sparrow

It was hard to find a Dickcissel close enough to the trail until I had walked quite a ways and meandered farther. The bird in the middle photograph below is a female.

The wind sweeping over the prairie made it difficult to get clean recordings, but below is a sample of a Dickcissel song.

Dickcissel

I was stumped by this Meadowlark – and wondered if perhaps it was a Western instead of a more likely Eastern – but I remain stumped and have decided whatever it is, it is a juvenile. I took way too many photographs of it but none have clarified the identification.