I keep updating this post because I haven’t gotten around to finishing it. So before it becomes completely ancient history… this is from the beginning of the month of April. Still this year…! It was Saturday, the 3rd, and it started out a bit chilly but by midday we were experiencing summer temperatures which stretched into the weekend and beyond. Since there was plenty of sunshine I made sure I got out both weekend mornings. I visited the Portage on Saturday and McGinnis Slough on Sunday.
I have since been back to the Portage, last weekend just to get out – it was barely drizzly and very cloudy, so I did not get a lot of action. But we have since burst into more green and buds and flowers and the feeling is spring, full speed ahead. That visit will follow if I can get my act together.
I have not been able to discern whether a pair of geese are actually nesting at the Portage. Unlike previous years I haven’t seen any territorial fights breaking out.
If nothing else there were a lot of Northern Flickers. Not close enough to get great shots but I did manage to focus on them from a distance. They certainly were making a lot of noise.
Also taking advantage of the sunlight was a Northern Cardinal singing away above me.
Just before I left, a Red-Tailed Hawk decided to fly over and show off.
Something about the shape of the tree below and the clouds behind it captured my imagination.
Here’s another brief look at the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet at the top of the post. Oddly enough it was the only one I saw that day, although I heard a few more. They are usually good curious sports, albeit lightning quick ones.
One turtle and a couple Mallards – not a lot going on.
A Killdeer flew over, confirming I had actually heard at least one.
Barely hints of green among the ghosts…
Nothing like ducks and Duckweed… the smallest flowering plant on earth. I don’t know that I will ever get close enough to see the flowers.
The best bird of the day was the one I barely spotted flitting about as I sat on the bench near the parking lot, at the end of my walk – an Eastern Phoebe. Not a great photo, it was so far away. But I am always thrilled to see flycatchers return.
I am going to try to report back before ultimate migration madness takes over. I will go out this weekend for sure – I don’t know how much sunshine I can count on – and the winds have been blowing from the wrong direction lately. But there is no rain in the forecast
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. 🙂
The 4th of July always reminds me to make my annual visit to Goose Lake National Prairie. I am not exactly sure why I don’t visit at other times of the year, and maybe I will decide to visit more often if I ever retire, but I like to go at this time because it’s not crowded, the prairie is beautiful and in bloom, and I can usually count on seeing Dickcissels and Henslow’s Sparrows.
As it turns out, this year it was particularly “not crowded” – I was the only human the entire length of my visit. I went on July 3rd instead of the 4th. It was already hot and sunny at 7:40 a.m. when I got out of my car and saw Killdeer in the parking lot.
As I started to walk the trail that goes out from the back of the Visitor’s Center, I was welcomed by a few Barn Swallows, one of which was having fun swooping close to my head. Perhaps it was trying to startle me, because it was pretty persistent, but I am quite used to birds flying around my head! My challenge was to try to capture the bird in flight. When I used to go down to the lakefront in the summertime on my lunch hour, there were swallows swooping around constantly close to people, but people were everywhere and pretty unavoidable. On this occasion, the handful of Barn Swallows outnumbered me.
As for “target” birds, I saw only one Dickcissel and it was quite far away. I didn’t hear any more of them, either. I neither heard nor saw any Henslow’s Sparrows. I heard a lot of Marsh Wrens but could not see one.
But you can’t go birding on expectations and then be disappointed when they don’t pan out. There’s always a surprise or something interesting. I was delighted to see an Eastern Meadowlark.
Common Yellowthroats seem particularly abundant this year. I think that is making them less skulky.
The prairie wasn’t in full bloom, but the Monarda and Prairie Spiderwort were attractive. At least I think it’s Prairie Spiderwort and not Ohio, although the leaves looked thicker than the variety I have in my backyard. Either one is native to Illinois.
It is always nice to see Orchard Orioles. I found a female perched and one male in flight.
Song Sparrows were abundant.
A distant male Northern Harrier was harassed by a few Red-Winged Blackbirds.
I think this was the same Great Egret I saw perched at the pond by Cragg’s Cabin later.
One tern flew by. It didn’t stay long enough to fish. There is a big man-made lake nearby, Heidecke Lake, which was formerly a cooling reservoir. That could be where the tern hangs out more often.
Two Great Blue Herons flew by. Likely one of them was the individual below who was fishing from the partially submerged boardwalk that is no longer functional for human use but served this bird’s purpose.
Red-winged Blackbirds typically outnumber everything else. But it seems like every place I go, I hear a new vocalization from them. Listen to this little trilly sound below.
Eastern Kingbirds were the prevalent flycatcher species.
There were a few Field Sparrows, not very close but still delightful to see and hear.
On my way out, a Kildeer flew by.
The last bird I saw was a House Sparrow by the Visitor’s Center.