When I came back from Texas two weeks ago, the weather in Chicago was fairly pleasant and I mused I could have two springs! No matter that the Saturday before I got home there was snow on the ground. But just as we slipped into May, when it seemed reasonable to expect things would start warming up a bit, northeast winds picked up and although we weren’t freezing, the windchills were in the 30’s. It’s an understatement to say there has been a lot of rain. The downpours have brought most of the trees into leaf and encouraging emerging plant life everywhere. Then, this past Thursday morning, a lot of migrant birds were down from the skies from the previous evening’s rainstorm.
I’m too far away from the lakefront now to go off searching for rarities on my lunch hour, but I took Friday off so that I could scope out the Portage before my bird walk on Saturday. It turned out to be the nicest day of my three-day weekend. Although it started off chilly and windy, when the sun emerged a little before 10:00 AM all was forgiven.
I just finished getting through Friday’s pictures last night – it seemed there were way too many, but I discovered three more species in them to add to the list with a grand total of 54 species, 13 of them warblers. Which isn’t super fantastic but it’s credible for the Portage.
As for the Texas pictures, I managed to send some to Field Guides Saturday night and now with that off my plate I can go back through all of them and start developing for my own purposes. Time, technology and energy being available in inconsistent quantities, this will take me a while.
So in the meantime, here are some of the spring migrants from my walk on Friday, and there will likely be some more from this visit and Saturday’s outing as I try to keep up with everything that seems to be happening this month.
This is all I can manage for now. I hope to report back soon with lots more!
And continues and continues and…I have been so busy birding every weekend it’s taking even longer to process the pictures. These are from last week – October 13 – Thatcher Woods and the Chicago Portage.
White-Throated Sparrow at Thatcher Woods
The birds blend in more and more with their surroundings, but I find it so intriguing. Although it does take almost twice as much effort to get the camera to focus on the bird.
Lincoln’s Sparrow, Thatcher Woods
I was very pleased to find a Winter Wren hanging out with the sparrows and remaining warblers at Thatcher Woods. I always think of Don Kroodsma and The Singing Life of Birds when I see a Winter Wren, even if it’s not singing.
Much like two weeks earlier, there were still a lot of Palm Warblers and Yellow-Rumped Warblers at Thatcher Woods.
Here’s what the Portage looked like when I got there.
The Yellow-Rumpeds were foraging in the duckweed.
It was a pleasure to see several Hermit Thrushes. And nice to see them somewhere other than hopping around on park lawns downtown.
Hermit Thrush, Portage
I got a brief, lucky look at a Belted Kingfisher flying over the pond.
Some Song Sparrows are already practicing singing for next spring, which might explain why I have heard more than I have seen.
Out on the road overlooking the compost piles that now decorate the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District property, I saw this Red-Shouldered Hawk land in the tree and sit for a long period of time.
Other raptors flew overhead, including the Sharp-Shinned Hawk below.
It took me a while to realize that the birds below are Purple Finches. There seem to be quite a lot of them at the Portage this fall.
Not to be confused – much – with House Finches…
Ruby-Crowned Kinglets are still abundant. But the bird below right is a Golden-Crowned Kinglet. It was perched about a foot and a half in front of me and we bonded for a while, but it was much too close to get a picture of it then!
Still seeing Eastern Phoebes, although I expect fly catching is becoming more difficult as temperatures drop.
My last two photos are of Hermit Thrushes. The second one is for the russet color of its back in the sun…
I’ll be on a mission to get through my photos from this past weekend… Our weather seems to have calmed down a bit and we are in a crisp but sunny period. I love fall, maybe for its nostalgia…!
The weather has turned suddenly hot and it’s hard not to wonder what effect that’s having on spring migration. I sense that to a large degree, no? pun intended, the heat wave has sent those who move farther north packing. I had hoped we would still see a few warblers yesterday on my second time leading a walk at the Portage, but we only heard a couple Yellow Warblers and never saw them. I’ll be back later with a few pictures from yesterday. But this is a more historical post, with a few pictures from the trip two weeks ago to the Portage, and a few more from a walk I took at Ottawa Trail just to see what was going on closer to the Des Plaines River.
Magnolia Warblers move predictably enough to photograph. This time the easiest bird to capture was a female; I caught only glimpses of a male.
One bird that I haven’t seen in quite a while appeared toward the end of our walk two weeks ago. It’s a Yellow-Throated Vireo.
It’s gotten so hot in the last few days it’s hard to believe that last weekend it was still cool enough to warrant layered clothing in the morning.
The Green Herons were both on site two weeks ago, and the turtles were starting to emerge to soak up what little sunlight was occasionally available.
I think this was my last Hermit Thrush of the season.
I likely won’t see another Lincoln’s Sparrow until fall either.
But it looks like I might be seeing a Great Egret from time to time at the Portage this year. We saw it a couple times yesterday.
The pictures below are hardly worth sharing, but this is my last Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.
I used to see shorebirds more frequently but in the last couple years they have been few and far between, so I was happy we had a Spotted Sandpiper on the left, and the Killdeer on the right. I usually hear or see Killdeer flying, but sandpipers have been generally absent.
House Wrens are here to stay for the summer.
A female American Redstart below.
And more shots of a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. Yesterday we heard them constantly but didn’t see one.
White-Tailed Deer at Ottawa Trail
It’s rare to see a Chipmunk sitting still but this one wasn’t self-conscious at all.
Indigo Buntings, male and female.
And the surprise two weeks ago was an Orchard Oriole.
Often more heard than seen, the Northern Cardinal below, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a Song Sparrow, all at Ottawa Trail.
The heat may keep me indoors more than I’d like. That could mean more blog posts, however. For the moment it’s time to get out in the yard before the heat of the day takes over. Lots of work to do there. Happy Summer to All…
I almost could have called it “Suddenly This Summer” because on May 1 we skipped spring and went straight into summer temperatures by noon. But along with the sudden push of warm air from the south came a lot of migrating birds, and after all, it was finally the real start to Spring Migration.
As luck would have it I was near the lakefront for the last part of the stem cell procedure on my right knee, which consisted of a blood draw early in the morning and then having a few hours before a return to the doctor’s office for the final injection. I realized the location’s potential the week before when I had the major procedure done. The medical building is virtually right across the street from North Pond, which is a favorite hot spot with lakefront birders. The week before it was blustery and cold with only a few of the hardiest migrants. But now I had a birder in my friend Lesa to whom I am grateful for being my chauffeur for the day. I was walking without crutches if moving slowly, but I was walking, and slow is generally good for birding. The slower you move, the more birds you eventually will see. And seeing birds was a great distraction from whatever pain I was feeling.
Perhaps the first warblers to greet us were four or five Ovenbirds poking about in the grass. Even though the weather was warmer, the trees and accompanying insects had not caught up with it yet and so a lot of birds were foraging on the ground for something to eat. The ground is an Ovenbird’s preferred foraging spot anyway. Ovenbirds can be nearly impossible to see on their breeding grounds, but in migration on the lakefront they are all over the place this year. I have seen them since everywhere I go for midday walks near my workplace.
Then it seemed there were Black-Throated Green Warblers everywhere.
Predictably, especially in the grass, were Palm Warblers. A note about these pictures, being my first warbler photographs of the season. The morning started off a bit overcast, and then I had only my 75-300mm lens as it seemed ridiculous to be carrying around anything larger in my compromised condition, so I didn’t get quite the clarity I wanted for many of these birds. But it was just such a joyous way to spend a medical day and provided an extra therapeutic perk altogether.
I am always so happy to see a Lincoln’s Sparrow. It’s not quite rare, but you never see more than one of them at a time, and they’re such delicate-looking little birds.
Yellow-Rumped Warblers were predictable, but not easy to capture as they frantically searched for food.
Our look at the Pine Warbler below was brief, but this is a more unusual species in migration so I am glad I got this shot.
The three species below are Yellow, Black-and-White, and Nashville Warblers.
Another spring migrant that seems to be showing up in force is the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.
Meanwhile, on their way out were Golden-Crowned Kinglet on the left and Ruby-Crowned Kinglet on the right, below.
Then there are the migrating Thrushes. Two below are a Swainson’s Thrush on the left and a Gray-Cheeked Thrush on the right.
I have been out since last Tuesday and have a lot more pictures to process and share with you, but it’s been really difficult to get caught up. All I can say is every day I’m a little bit better and there have even been a few moments when I’ve forgotten about my knee altogether!
Below, two glimpses of a female Eastern Towhee…
I will be back soon with more from Instant Spring Migration. Until then, spring on!
I miss my crows. Terribly. I miss their inventive, gentle camaraderie and sense of humor. And their joy for peanuts. I will have to see if I can find them one of these weekends when I’m not conscripted to be elsewhere and it’s not pouring rain.
I started writing this in the midst of a constant downpour. Contemplating how I am getting more used to the new workplace. My mood improved about the new gig after managing to get out for a couple short walks along the river last week. Birding along the river wasn’t half bad.
It turns out the Black-Crowned Night Heron at the top of this post was a rarity for this time of year. I had no idea what it was when I took the picture, I only pointed my camera lens at it and followed it as it flew by. It was darker than a first cycle gull and that’s all I knew about it until I took the picture. And then checking it on the camera when I got back into the office I misidentified it, but kept thinking it over and later it occurred to me that it was a juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron.
Below, a more likely suspect for a darker bird – a first cycle Herring Gull.
Not to be confused yet, at least, with the more prevalent adult Ring-Billed Gulls that have not yet left the area.
I got over to the Boeing garden a couple times last week. On Thursday I was faced with convincing two security guards that I was not taking pictures of the building, but of birds. Not sure if showing them my American Birding Association cap helped, but they left me alone after kindly admonishment.
I pondered a spy novel about a terrorist disguised as a bird photographer but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. The Yellow-Rumped Warbler above was still hanging out in one of the young oak trees. (No suspense in that sentence.)
Below is one of my favorite migrating sparrows, a Lincoln’s Sparrow. This one has been hanging out by the train station.
Likely the last Golden-Crowed Kinglet I will see before spring.
A Gray-Cheeked Thrush…
And a more ubiquitous Hermit Thrush…
The White-Crowned Sparrow below flew into a plexiglas barrier and then I found it hiding in a dark spot by some low vegetation on Friday morning. I called Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and then, following their instructions, dropped it off in their parked vehicle, after placing the bird in a paper sandwich bag I have been carrying around for weeks just for this very purpose. It was taken with other survivors to Willowbrook Wildlife Center for rest and rehabilitation.
White-Throated Sparrow requiring help
Below, another White-Throated Sparrow and a Hermit Thrush foraging in the not-so-pristine leaf litter at Boeing.
Thursday was the last time I saw the Blackpoll Warbler that was there for a few days.
At last we are experiencing fall-like weather, finally, following the spate of weekend thunderstorms. As the weather changes, so will migration. I hope to find more birds following the river’s path.
After a very pleasant Thanksgiving dinner with friends, by the time I’m done with the normal weekend stuff, albeit at a more relaxed pace, the huge to-do list I planned to revive looks less inviting. Maybe I’m doing nothing remarkable these four days except hanging out with the home crowd and making a serious dent in a hundred pounds of accumulated junk mail, magazines I’ll never read and sizing up my response to those end-of-year donation requests which seemed to start arriving in May.
But I have a few photos from my last visit to the Chicago Portage to share. This was two weeks ago before I spent much of last weekend preparing to sing in choirs and doing so. I have noticed one thing about singing: if I decide to vocalize and practice before I leave, all the birds join in, which means they know a thing or two about singing in unison that maybe I don’t.
I have plans to go out tomorrow morning, as the best light and weather for the weekend are predicted, and while I never go with great expectations I hope I’m ready for surprises. If nothing else I need to keep in practice holding the monster lens. I am now looking forward to taking it with me to Nicaragua at the end of February for another episode of Operation Rubythroat.
I was happy to see the White-Breasted Nuthatch again, having missed even hearing it for quite a while, even if I didn’t get that great a picture.
Also a very cooperative but backlit Lincoln’s Sparrow.
Many of the birds were too far away even for the monster lens.
American Goldfinch taking a sip of water
And the best I could do with my first American Tree Sparrow of the season was its head.
The Fox Sparrow below was incredibly backlit until it decided to leave.
Perhaps the trees’ reflection in the water says it all.
And if you’re a female Mallard on a dead log you can get away with anything.
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, scaling a building wall next to 155 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago
I could just as easily re-title this post to “Where Has All The Time Gone?” since I’m still trying to make adjustments to my ever-changing schedule. But this will be a brief tribute to some of the birds I have seen passing through downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. (There will be still more photographs from the rest of the month in a future post.)
The following warblers were present at Lake Shore East Park on September 28. This was probably the last “peak” of warbler migration along the lakefront.
Yellow-Rumped Warblers tend to come through and hang around a bit later, so I was not surprised to see this one the following week.
Yellow-Rumped Warbler, October 6, 2015
But I was surprised to find the Connecticut Warbler below poking around in the grass as I was walking through Millennium Park on my way to Lake Shore East. There wasn’t much light and the bird was under some trees so this was the best I could do with the photograph.
Connecticut Warbler, Millennium Park, October 5, 2015
I have seen only a few White-Crowned Sparrows this fall, like the one below which popped out at 100 N. Riverside Plaza.
White-Crowned Sparrow, October 2, 2015
I think the White-Throated Sparrow below was also from this new location. I will have more pictures and more to say about this newly discovered green space area along the Chicago River in a future post.
White-Throated Sparrow, October 5, 2015
There have been a lot of Brown Creepers this fall migration.
Brown Creeper, Lake Shore East Park, October 6, 2015
And Ruby-Crowned Kinglets…
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Lake Shore East Park, October 7, 2015
For a couple weeks, almost, the most ubiquitous bird seemed to be Hermit Thrushes. I am still seeing an individual here and there.
Hermit Thrush, Lake Shore East Park, October 7, 2015
The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are now all gone.
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, October 6, 2015
At first I thought the bird below was yet another Hermit Thrush but on closer inspection I have decided it’s probably a Gray-Cheeked Thrush. Light can be tricky, but the heavy spotting on the breast and the darker flanks give him away almost more than his facial pattern.
Gray-Cheeked Thrush, Lake Shore East Park, September 28, 2015
And for the longer view, here he is again sharing tree space with a shy Lincoln’s Sparrow.
So the warblers are all gone until spring. I did have a late Black-Throated Green Warbler on October 22nd which I posted on my flickr page before I realized I could now just upload it directly into ebird. It was my last “rare bird” sighting.
Below is another picture of the beautiful Blackpoll Warbler from September 28.
I have more posts in mind and am just working on finding the time and mind space!
Back on the 10th of May I was at the Chicago Portage and counted 52 species. On the 17th of May, visiting with two friends, we counted 35 species. This afternoon, after gale winds in the morning and some rain, I went over to see what was up and counted 29 species.
Chicago Portage 5-10-15
Cape May Warbler, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
Eastern Phoebe, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
Three weeks ago was the height of spring migration, and already by last weekend it was slowing down.
Canada Geese at the Chicago Portage 5-10-15
Gosling, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15
Last week the goose family had dwindled to four goslings and today I was told by a woman I talked to on the trail that they were down to three. I did run into the geese today, but they were foraging in the grasses and I did not want to bother them, as they were pretty well hidden. So I am taking her word for it.
Red-Eyed Vireo, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
Lincoln’s Sparrow, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
The Red-Eyed Vireos are still present and singing, so they probably breed here, but all the thrushes except for American Robin have left, and the sparrow species as well. There was quite an influx of Veerys this year, I don’t usually see them.
White-Crowned Sparrow, 5-10-15
Green Heron, 5-10-15
But as the last of the sparrows were getting ready to leave, the Green Herons were returning. I believe there are two although I have not yet seen them both on the same visit. I think they also hang out at Ottawa Trail Woods which is also where we went last weekend. I have included a few pictures here are from Ottawa Trail Woods, as it is basically part of the same ecosystem.
Solitary Sandpiper, 5-10-15
Spotted Sandpiper, 5-10-15
Spotted Sandpiper at the Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
On the 10th I saw both Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, not on sandbars or mudflats but on dead wood in the water. The water levels were a bit lower though. I have not seen or heard any shorebirds since.
Scarlet Tanager, 5-10-15
The Scarlet Tanager above basically flew down and sat right in front of me. I was so surprised I barely got his photograph.
Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Myrtle female, 5-10-15 – You cannot see the yellow rump but this is the first year I have noticed they also have yellow on the crown
Yellow Warbler, 5-10-15
The only warblers willing to pose were the most common ones. The Yellow-Rumped Warblers are gone, but the Yellow Warblers stay for the summer.
Chicago Portage, 5-17-15
Indigo Bunting, Ottawa Trail Woods, 5-17-15
Barn Swallows, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15
Female Belted Kingfisher, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15
Indigo Buntings are everywhere. I have not seen the females yet but the Portage has at least four males singing on territory. I have also seen many Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Northern Rough-Winged Swallows.
Chicago Portage, 5-25-15
Baltimore Oriole, 5-25-15
Green Heron, 5-25-15 – Not as visible today as three weeks ago.
Eastern Kingbird, Portage 5-25-15 – There were two today, sallying for prey over the slough
Tree Swallow, 5-25-15
Red Admiral on a wildflower I have yet to identify – I should know it! But I have never seen it at the Portage before. Is this some kind of monarda?
I included the butterfly picture because to me it signals the end of spring migration and the beginning of summer, when butterflies and dragonflies vie for my attention.
Wood Duck, Ottawa Trail Woods, 5-17-15
I didn’t see any ducks today at the Portage. In years past there have always been a breeding pair of Wood Ducks, so I hope they are busy nesting.
A Mallard mom with eleven ducklings (they can’t be all hers?)! (Ottawa Trail, 5-17-15)
I hope to be back soon with a short report on birds in Berwyn. I just saw a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at my hummingbird feeders this evening, which gave me the perfect reason to clean and refill the feeders. While I was out in my yard my neighbor appeared and told me he saw the hummer yesterday! Maybe I’ll get a picture this year before September.
If I were better organized I would only upload pictures I was actually going to use in a blog post, but I am too often compiling posts on the fly and consequently I wind up making last-minute decisions of what to use and never going back to delete the unused, or “unattached” photos.
Black Vulture 4-26-14
So this is a photo essay with no particular subject, only some previously unattached, unrelated blasts from the past.
Bewick’s Wren, 4-26-14
Northern Cardinal, Lake Shore East Park, 4-23-14
Lincoln’s Sparrow, Songbird Meadows, 4-26-14
White-Winged Crow, Daley Bicentennial Plaza Tennis Court
While taking a break from getting organized and trying to locate the title to my old car… Every morning I look out the back window at the dead Ford sitting on the slab and vow to get rid of it. It’s only a matter of weeks before I will have to buy a new city sticker even though I’m not driving it. I’m sure the cat takes refuge underneath its rusting hulk when she isn’t hiding in the hostas. All reasons to motivate me to tear the house apart, calmly, until I find the misplaced title so I can donate the car to a good cause.
Here are a few pictures taken the end of last week, which was the last time I saw migrants in the city. Some are from 155 N. Wacker on my way into the office. The others were taken in Lake Shore East Park.
Up until Friday there was at least one White-Throated Sparrow at 155 N. Wacker who would start singing whenever I showed up, but Friday I saw a Lincoln’s Sparrow, which is highly unusual this late in the year. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Lincoln’s Sparrow vocalize, though.
Chestnut-Sided Warbler, 155 N. Wacker
There was a Chestnut-Sided Warbler at 155 N. Wacker as well, but the mainstay had been a male Common Yellowthroat who was on site for a couple weeks. As of Tuesday he was gone.
American Redstart, LSE Park
At Lake Shore East Park among the last migrants I saw last week were the female American Redstart, above, and a Least Flycatcher, below.
Least Flycatcher, LSE Park
But now the newest arrivals are fledgling crows. I think there are two, although I saw only this one being weaned last week. Oddly enough, there was never any sound to go with that wide gaping mouth. Perhaps there is a different protocol at hand for Lake Shore East Park and this youngster was instructed not to draw attention to itself by making a racket.
Crow Fledgling, LSE Park
That wide-eyed look of “now what?” is unmistakable.
A series of photographs as the parents’ body language tells the story: “We are not feeding you anymore.” I think I recognize the crow with the bouffant hairdo as a former fledgling from about 4 years ago. Notice how he tries to look profoundly disinterested in the interaction between the fledgling and its mother.
The ultimate insult, after waving the peanut around in front of the fledgling, she takes off with it!
On Tuesday I had some time to hang out with the crows. As far as I could tell, the youngster had not figured out how to do its own peanuts yet and was still falling into a bit of the gaping mouth routine.
By next year if it survives, this fledgling may turn into a peanut expert like the bird below.