We Pause for a Brief Message from…The Crows

crow-cancer-survivors-2-6-17-7464Today may be Monday, but it was also a beautiful day, with ample sunshine at least in the morning and early afternoon hours, and we warmed up to 54 degrees, which is downright balmy. So I went for a walk this afternoon in search of…birds.

Unlike my most recent visits, there were no Cardinals or White-Throated Sparrows to be seen, although I heard one or two. The Black-Capped Chickadees were more vocal but hiding.

I checked the two usual places in Millennium Park before I set off for the Cancer Survivors Garden and then as I approached. I thought I saw four large black birds perched in a tree down at the southeast end. Could it be…?

crows-cancer-survivors-2-6-17-7427Yes, they were Crows. And there they sat, silent and still. I wondered if maybe one of them was the individual that had flown by on Thursday and since today was such a nice day, it gathered friends to hang out with to see if I was for real.

I put peanuts and some pretty-stale-by-now Birdz cookies at the base of the tree they were in. And the Crows just sat there in the tree, still, silent.

I went to a far bench where I could sit and watch them, and they remained stone-faced. After a minute or two I decided I should probably go back to work. It was only as I started walking away, they all followed me.

I didn’t mind being tricked out of more treats. I put peanuts and the rest of the stale cookies at the base of one of the trees where we used to hang out, and sat down and watched them party. Two Chickadees showed up and also got to work on some birdseed. The Crows started to call a little bit. It was like seeing old friends and picking up right where we left off.

All I can hope for is that this is not a singular occurrence and that we meet again on a regular basis. I realize I have to hold up my end too: it’s up to me to show up more often as well.

Spring is coming.

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t talk politics. In fact it occurred to me later that the Crows really don’t like crowds, and maybe the protests and marches kept them away, so it was only fitting they had me to themselves for our reunion.

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Reflections on a Post-Groundhog Day

noca-millennium-2-2-17-7364This really has nothing to do with Groundhog Day except that, according to the official Groundhog, we are in for 6 more weeks of winter. I can tell you that as annoying as that prospect might be, it’s nothing compared to dreading the “what next?” incredulity of news coming from the nation’s capitol.

The Northern Cardinals have been hanging out at the northwest corner of Millennium Park by the entrance to the Boeing Gallery.

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This is not going to be a political rant, indeed, I’m trying to escape our new reality for a few moments of sanity, as long as birds are still around to help. Sometimes I have to wait a while before the birds show up, but eventually they do. All these photos are from the last week or so, Millennium and Maggie Daley parks in downtown Chicago.

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Both colorations of White-Throated Sparrow

I haven’t seen my Crow Friends downtown for what seems like months and probably is. At least too many weeks.Here we had been spending winters together,  but this winter they have all disappeared. I am all but lost because, especially when life gets too confusing, the crows are of invaluable comfort and perspicacity. I live in hope that they return in the spring. I think they will. Where they have gone for a retreat, I have absolutely no idea. But in what seemed like an omen, as the sight of a crow often does, Thursday as I sat quietly on bench at the Cancer Survivors Garden, one crow flew silently across the sky going north, and did not stop or acknowledge my calls, but still the sight of it gave me hope. I was so hopeful I almost forgot to take a quick picture for posterity.

The Cancer Survivors Garden which has now been absorbed by Maggie Daley Park is for the most part asleep for the winter, with no birds present. I suspect every last berry has been picked off of every last bush.

The usual suspects are still around elsewhere. White-Throated Sparrows usually call before I see them, but if I stop with some treats they come out fearlessly. It’s the City Sparrow-Country Sparrow phenomenon again, like the City Mouse and the Country Mouse. The White-Throated Sparrows in Chicago’s Loop parks have likely learned how to take advantage of human generosity from the House Sparrows that honed it down to a fine art.

The Black-Capped Chickadees are good at this too but they often move so quickly they’re hard to catch with the camera.

Dark-Eyed Juncos are still around too, not so many, perhaps, and on a dark background on a dark day, well, here you have it, but I was lucky to catch the one on the left with its tail feathers spread out, as you usually don’t see the white feathers except when they’re flying away from you.

And then there are those moments when we bond.

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One of the White-Throated Sparrows was starting to sing last week. Could have been this guy.

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For humans, the ice rink is a popular pastime these days.

And another popular pastime, below.

Unless something newsworthy occurs in the meantime, I’ll be back next with more from the Galapagos.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Gray Catbird, Thompson Center 12-30-2014

Gray Catbird, Thompson Center 12-30-2014

2014 goes out with a shiver for us. Yesterday the temperature dropped to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (that was the high), and today it’s even colder with a wind chill of minus 15 below. I am blessed to have the day off from work, which turns out to be that much more fortuitous since the trains were not running this morning due to mechanical failure and I would have been shivering at the station shelter trying to figure out the next best way to get to work.

Chicago River Fog

Chicago River Fog

There was ample sunshine yesterday which is often the way with extra cold temperatures, so I stopped by the Thompson Center on the way in with the camera already assembled this time to see if the Gray Catbird was available for a photograph. I found it first shivering under a bush and looking not too happy.

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Then when a woman asked me for directions, it gave the Catbird a chance to perch on a twig while I wasn’t looking, and when I turned back to see, it posed for several photos before taking off for the top of one of the small trees planted in the sidewalk by the curb. The next time to check on this bird’s status will be Friday, the second day of the new year.

Gray Catbird Thompson Center 12-30-14-9563Gray Catbird Thompson Center 12-30-14-9570

Later, after noon when the sun was shining full blast, I set out for the lakefront parks to see if I could visit some crows before next year. It’s been weeks. I decided to check out Maggie Daley Park first as it is partially open in time for ice skaters to use the skating ribbon.

Skating Ribbon Maggie Daley 12-30-14-9578 Skating Ribbon Maggie Daley 12-30-14-9577

While a lot of trees have been planted and there is sod and whatever else, the immediate lack of green space and preponderance of human kitsch is disappointing to me.

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I suspect this is the “Climbing Wall”…?

Another View Maggie Daley 12-30-14-9581

I have no idea what this bodes for hungry migrants along the lakefront come spring, but I suspect I will continue to find more migrants at Lake Shore East Park than at Maggie Daley for quite a while.

Another view - the lakefront is beyond. Are those wooden trunks recycled trees "planted" upside down?

Another view – the lakefront is beyond. Are those wooden trunks recycled trees “planted” upside down?

I hated Millennium Park when it was first built, but after I started seeing things like a flock of Golden-Crowned Kinglets on the lawn and the crows adopting the Pritzker Pavilion for a nesting site, not to mention the birds that visit Lurie Garden, it has become bird friendlier with time. So maybe in 5-10 years Maggie Daley will be okay for birds too. But I feel as if the more improvements being made lately to the lakefront, the less friendly they are to any species other than humans. Which in the long run means they’re not really human-friendly improvements either.

"Howdy, Stranger"

“Howdy, Stranger”

It wasn’t until I was practically on my way out of Millennium that I found my crows.

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There were some adjustments to be made. Has it been so long since we had peanuts that we can’t remember how to carry more than one at a time to a cache location?

Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9622 Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9619 Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9615

Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9624Eventually I was joined by a few Black-Capped Chickadees, and almost out of the park I located the Northern Cardinals I heard earlier but they were not interested in becoming visible. Maybe they’re waiting for snow because they know it makes a better picture.

BC Chickadee Millennium 12-30-14-9640N Cardinal Millennium 12-30-14-9647

I think I will stay inside most of today. The sunshine does a good job on the indoor crowd, we all feel a bit more possible. Maybe I can post an update of the indoor birds’ status for the new year.

Happy New Year and Thank You to All Who Visit, Read, Follow, Comment, and Fly By my blog – Who ever thought we’d see a year called 2015? This is pretty amazing. 🙂

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Park’s Progress

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According to a website complete with site cams I have just discovered, Maggie Daley Park progress is moving apace, and the first trees will be planted, it looks like, before the end of the summer. I suspect that wildlife will start moving in before the space will be open to the public, and am hopeful that at least more green space will attract avian visitors for fall migration.

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I have no idea whether this is an observation deck for the construction workers or a permanent fixture in the park, but I suspect the latter, or maybe a little bit of both. It looks too elaborate to function solely for the construction effort.

Going down to Lake Shore East Park which is north of Millennium and the Maggie Daley project, there is a stair-wall to be navigated from the west side. The park looks lush, green, and…pretty birdless.

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I did manage to hang out with American Crow families a few weeks ago while the kids were still young and begging, but I have not seen them in recent weeks. I suspect, as always, they have taken the weaned preteens off to learn how to be crows in larger, less-peopled spaces.

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Occasionally I encounter a single crow somewhere who shirks its sentry duties and partakes of peanuts.

Crow with Peanut 6-9-14-1401 Crow with Peanut 6-9-14-1422 Crow with Peanut 6-9-14-1411

There was a semi-photographable Red-Winged Blackbird in the Lurie Garden last week.

RWBB Lurie 6-19-14-1826

The only thing that kept me from going to any parks on Monday was lugging two boxes of blueberry coffee-cake scones downtown for Kim’s birthday. Too hard to lug the camera. So I can no longer take a walk without a camera. Tsk, tsk.

Blueberry Coffee-Cake Scones

I played hooky today (albeit planned ahead of time) and bought a vehicle sticker for the new car, worked in the yard, and put away all my tax receipts for the last 8 or 9 years while still trying to find the title for the old beater. No luck yet, but I will be organized after all this. I also baked pineapple bread and made some delicious cabbage/carrot slaw. Weather-wise it was a glorious day to do anything. I am claiming the entire weekend’s excellent weather for my birthday, so there is no need for anyone to elaborate further on that event, since nothing can top the gift I have already received.

Getting up early to go somewhere. Report to follow. Happy Independence Day to all U.S. readers!