Black-Crowned Night Heron (BCNH) on the Chicago River – Part One

BCNH LaBagh 5-23-15-3229

Black-Crowned Night Heron, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Almost every work morning without fail, even in inclement weather, I have hauled the camera backpack downtown so I could be prepared, should the Black-Crowned Night Heron I have been seeing every spring downtown on the Chicago River show up again. Up until now I have not kept track of its visits on ebird, so I don’t know exactly when I saw it the last two or three years. I did find a picture of a piling in the river from June 4, 2014 on my cell phone, which must have been when I saw it last, but it’s hard to even see if there was a bird in it.

So I did take pictures of a Black-Crowned Night Heron at another part of the Chicago River, specifically LaBagh Woods, on May 23 this year when I joined Chicago Ornithological Society on a field trip. This was the first time I had been to the slough part at LaBagh. I hope I can find the slough again on my own next time I visit. It’s a magical place, reminding me of the Chicago Portage. The rest of the pictures in this post are from the LaBagh trip.

Mallard on Nest, LaBagh

Mallard on Nest, LaBagh Woods

I had all but given up on seeing the Black-Crowned Night Heron downtown, but I have been thinking about him, so I decided to do this post anyway today featuring the other one I saw up river last month.

Great Blue Heron, LaBagh, 5-23-15

Great Blue Heron, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Eastern Phoebe, LaBagh

Eastern Phoebe, LaBagh Woods

As luck would have it, this morning, on the way in, as I was walking north along the river which I have started doing now that the work has been completed that the city or the building owners were doing on the west side between Adams and Madison–there are enough trees and low-lying plants that make me think this could turn out to be a good place to visit during migration–I suddenly saw the downtown Black-Crowned Night Heron flying across the river and landing on the other side! By the time I took out my camera and put it together, it had flown back across the river again, underneath me, to where I could not see it.

Swainson's Thrush, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Swainson’s Thrush, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Eastern Kingbird, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Eastern Kingbird, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

But I did get pictures when it flew again, and I will post them tonight! I find it amusing that I was focused on seeing the heron and then it showed up this morning. Who was sending who messages?

Gray Catbird, LaBagh Woods

Gray Catbird, LaBagh Woods

In previous years I can recall only seeing the downtown heron for one morning, but now I believe anything can happen.

Blue-Gray Gnatcacher on nest, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Blue-Gray Gnatcacher on nest, LaBagh Woods, 5-23-15

Most Frequently Seen Fall Migrant

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush

Never uncommon during fall migration, this year Swainson’s Thrush wins my award for Most Frequently Seen Fall Migrant. And although all these pictures were taken at LaBagh Woods on Sunday, where there may have been 100 but I reported 45 of these birds, I have seen Swainson’s Thrushes downtown daily and there were plenty at Columbus Park on Saturday, though not always offering themselves up for photographs. I’m sure Safety In Numbers had a lot to do with the pictures I took Sunday. Not that there were that many other birds vying for my attention.

SWTH LaBagh 9-14-14-5987SWTH LaBagh 9-14-14-6209SWTH LaBagh 9-14-14-5880SWTH LaBagh 9-14-14-5869SWTH LaBagh 9-14-14-6316

I give the bird below the award for Best Concealed Swainson’s Thrush Out In The Open.

SWTH LaBagh 9-14-14-6375

I hope to be back with more from recent near travels. I might not get out to see birds this weekend at all, so that could give me time to sit at the computer: I have a wedding to attend Saturday and rain is predicted for Sunday morning.

One Species at a Time

Blackpoll Warbler, Columbus Park

Blackpoll Warbler, Columbus Park

I have been trying to catch up with my blog and everyone else’s to no avail, so this is a quick one-species-post offering in the meantime. Over the weekend I attended the Chicago Ornithological Society walk through Columbus Park on Saturday and then went to LaBagh Woods on Sunday. Two bird species outnumbered all the others. In the warbler category, the most prominent was the Blackpoll.

Blackpoll Warbler, LaBagh Woods

Blackpoll Warbler, LaBagh Woods

This is the time of year when Blackpoll Warblers don’t look like Blackpoll Warblers do in the springtime. They are often confused with Bay-Breasted Warblers. Sadly I don’t have any recent Bay-Breasted photographs to compare these with. Overall, they appear more yellow than they do black and white (as in spring).

BPWA LaBagh Woods

BPWA LaBagh Woods

BPWA LaBagh

BPWA LaBagh Woods

B{WA Columbus Park

B{WA Columbus Park

BPWA Columbus Park

BPWA Columbus Park

The cool thing about going through so many shots in different settings is that I learn more about the “gizz” of the species through the constant review. So that next time I see a Blackpoll Warbler walking down the street in a crowd I will be able to pick it out immediately!

BPWA Columbus Park

BPWA Columbus Park

I will be back as soon as possible with photos of the Most Prominent Species (not a warbler) from last weekend.

Right in My Own Backyard

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, LaBagh Woods

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, LaBagh Woods

Thanks to all for the good wishes as I set out for Texas with the rest of the Four Elles. I am back, but still succumbing to Migration Madness.

The weather was too good this weekend to sit around in front of the computer, so I paid attention to spring migration and went birding Saturday and Sunday…only to spend hours Sunday evening clearing space on my hard drive so I could download the weekend’s pictures. I will get back to the pictures from the Texas trip which will fill several posts, but it will take a little while longer.

Chicago Portage 5-3-14

Chicago Portage 5-3-14

In this brief post I am featuring what seem to be the most numerous species this spring. Every year is different, and you never know which species will seem omnipresent. So I began Saturday morning at the Chicago Portage.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Chicago Portage

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Chicago Portage

Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers seemed to be everywhere. There were also numerous Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Palm Warblers and more predictably, Yellow-Rumped Warblers. I then moved on to Ottawa Trail Woods. (More about that experience in a subsequent post.)

Ottawa Trail Woods

Ottawa Trail Woods

Very much the same situation there bird-wise, at least with Palm Warblers and American Goldfinches. These pictures are individuals from the Portage, but the two areas are right next to each other, and I had plenty of these birds at Ottawa Trail too. More about that experience in a later post, perhaps.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Yesterday morning I went to LaBagh Woods, which is a little over half an hour away. I am determined to drive more now that I have the new car, in part because the car needs its exercise too. Noticed yesterday that it is so quiet I have to be sure squirrels in the road see me…

LaBagh Woods

LaBagh Woods

LaBagh was covered with little yellow flowers underfoot. I have to figure these out as I have some in my backyard too. Whatever it is, this year’s crazy weather seems to have provided perfect conditions for it.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

In addition to scores of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, LaBagh had incredible numbers of Black-Throated Green and Black-and-White Warblers.

Black-and-White Warbler

Black-and-White Warbler

There was a Clay-Colored Sparrow at LaBagh hanging out with three Chipping Sparrows, but I did not get the camera on it. Then later in the afternoon I looked out the kitchen window and saw a Clay-Colored Sparrow foraging in my not-yet-planted vegetable patch. I grabbed the camera and took some awful pictures through the windows, then went outside a few moments later and sat for half an hour or so, until I managed to get a few clearer photos, like the one below. This is a new bird for my yard!

Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow

The week promises to be insane but I will try to be back soon. More to come from destinations both near and far.

First-Year Migrants

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Imagine what it’s like to experience your first spring migration. Maybe you have some idea of where you’ve stopped since you made it through fall migration, but it’s been a while. After birding LaBagh Woods this morning, where I found these first-year warblers, I could barely remember where I parked my car. These guys are flying hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles and they’re not lost.

American Redstart

American Redstart

I knew about first-year male American Redstarts, but this is the first time I’ve thought about first-year Northern Parulas since I haven’t seen that many Parulas in my birding lifetime.

It was a beautiful day in Chicago, if a bit on the chilly side this morning. The birds became more active when the sun took hold.

I will try to post more from LaBagh and some other spring haunts, but I’ll be out of town two days for work this week and in northern Michigan for Memorial Day weekend. The garden has suffered through all this: I just started digging out my vegetable patch this evening – but at least that made my robins ecstatic.

A few more pictures of the Northern Parula and the American Redstart. For one year, they almost look alike.

N Parula IMG_0111_1

Northern Parula

Redstart IMG_0080_1

American Redstart, first-year male

N Parula IMG_0113_1

Northern Parula, first-year male

An Abundance of Swainson’s Thrushes

Swainson’s Thrush, LaBagh Woods

Every migration season is different, and if one species dominates this fall migration in Chicago, it has been Swainson’s Thrushes – I have seen them everywhere, almost every day, and this has been going on the entire month of September.

In the forest preserves I have counted so many they have sometimes seemed to outnumber the Robins. The second most numerous species in the preserves has perhaps been Northern Waterthrushes. But I have seen Swainson’s even in downtown Chicago.

155 N. Wacker

It has gotten to the point where I have stopped taking pictures of the Swainson’s Thrushes because it’s unnecessary just to document their presence. But then every once in a while there have been models that were hard to resist.

Today at LaBagh Woods, the Robins and the Swainson’s Thrushes were foraging from rocky shoals in the Chicago River.

Thrushes in the Chicago River