Back to the Slough

It was a nice weekend – two cooler mornings before the anticipated heat returned. I went to the Portage on Saturday morning and decided to visit McGinnis Slough Sunday. This is a brief summary of the McGinnis encounter.

There is very little water. Maybe it’s a little more water than last summer, but some birds I could always count on are not present. I saw no evidence of Trumpeter Swans, for instance. And last year there was a pair of Sandhill Cranes, but I haven’t seen any of those either. There was only one Great Blue Heron fishing close to the log where the Wood Ducks hang out. I could barely see anything through the reeds.

Later I managed a somewhat clearer picture of the Great Blue Heron and a couple deer.

I was surprised to see more people at the preserve than I expected, but I had forgotten that it was a holiday – Father’s Day – and beautiful weather, and why not? I got there fairly early anyway and first encountered a group of Tree Swallows.

This is always an attractive place for dragonflies and I found several beautiful Blue Dashers. I am always chuckling to myself as I try to do macro photography with a 100-400mm lens.

There were a lot of Song Sparrows singing. I only photographed this one, but recorded another briefly. Then at one point I just stood and recorded all the songs of several species I was hearing.

Song Sparrow song
Song Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird singing
Marsh Wren, Red-winged Blackbird and Common Yellowthroat singing

I barely managed to capture a male Common Yellowthroat who had retreated to a perch inside a small tree.

At one point I noticed a Downy Woodpecker feeding its fledgling.

A young American Robin was looking out over the vast expanse of the slough from its perch near the path, as if to reflect upon the world now at its wingtips.

Another young American Robin caught my eye. More of a keeping cool perch.

The water alongside the trail going north

I kept hearing a Virginia Rail, but never even hoped to see it. I followed it with my ears as it moved around, at times not too far from the center lawn that juts out into the slough from the parking lot. Before I left, I sat at a picnic table there to cool off and just observe, when I caught a distant view of a Common Gallinule in my binoculars. It was nearly impossible to photograph but I tried anyway. I have never seen one of these here before. Perhaps this is an indication of the habitat changing.

There was a very tiny Least Skipper.

Least Skipper

And I was surprised this Chipmunk stuck around just long enough for me to snap its photo.

Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere but this female turned out to be my best photo op.

Here’s one more of a Blue Dasher.

I don’t know how much energy I will have tomorrow, but with any luck I will be back with more sleepy summertime photos. As luck would have it — tomorrow being the summer solstice and the longest day of the year — it may be the hottest day we have had so far. I almost look forward to the days getting shorter.

Quick Visit to McGinnis

So while I had other things in mind, after a quick visit to McGinnis Friday morning I decided to make this my next post. Singing Marsh Wrens greeted me, You can hear a little snippet of this one’s song below.

Marsh Wren

I never know if I am going to see these guys, but sometimes I get lucky and this time I did.

There were Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons at a distance and I tried to leave them be. They managed to rearrange themselves in spite of my caution anyway.

The only decent photograph of a Great Egret was in flight. I managed to count four of them but they were distant.

There’s usually Wood Ducks by the same fallen log.

On my way to the overlook of the main slough I encountered this Great-crested Flycatcher.

I can never predict these days when or where I will see a European Starling.

There was a very vocal pair of Eastern Kingbirds.

So far I have only had one token Double-crested Cormorant flying over anywhere and this location was no exception.

But that might be easier to understand here as there was barely any water. What looked like the slough a couple months ago – April 4 to be exact – now looks like a bog.

You can’t totally ignore the Red-winged Blackbirds.

There was a tiny Pearl Crescent.

Lots of things to do with performances to attend and things opening up everywhere. I am still trying to be cautious but it gets harder the better I feel. There’s a nugget of wisdom in there somewhere that escapes me. I’ll try to be back soon.

Return of the Slough

All the rain we have had has made McGinnis a slough again. The water levels are now deep enough to support a lot of birds and to attract visiting American White Pelicans. I read someone’s post about seeing them flying over McGinnis Slough on Sunday, which would have been a lovely sight, but that was enough to motivate me to see if perhaps some had decided to stay. I remember seeing hundreds of them years ago. I was happy to see perhaps forty or so, albeit too distant for a decent photograph, on Monday morning.

Even if there weren’t a lot of birds that I could see very well, it was good to see the slough again.

There were Bufflehead and Ring-necked Ducks at a distance, as is everything at McGinnis right now. I did manage to see one male Ring-necked Duck near enough for a photo. I haven’t seen these birds in a while. Look closely and you can see the ring on his neck.

Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of American Coots, some of which I inadvertently disturbed walking back through the trail.

Also predictably, there were a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds deciding on their territories. I took too many shots of this one trying to hold onto his perch in the wind.

Below, another male and a female, perched in the marsh.

Toward the end of last summer the water was non-existent. It’s good to see it again.

It started to get really cloudy before I left.

There were several Pied-billed Grebes but they were too far away to photograph except for maybe this one.

I barely captured this female Northern Cardinal but she proved how few photo opportunities there were.

The next series of photos is from one of my last visits on November 8 of last year. There were not many birds on that visit either although I attribute much of that to the fact that the grass was being cut very noisily.

The water levels were returning by November, which I guess was attractive to some Ring-billed Gulls.

Song Sparrows were still around here and there.

There were several Pied-billed Grebes that day as well.

And the American Coots were less skittish.

Canada Geese in formation

Now I will be start going to McGinnis more often. I will likely branch out and visit more places in the Palos area too, as there are a lot of them.

I am looking forward to choir rehearsal tonight. We sang half-masked on Sunday. The sanctuary was full of congregants so it was slowly starting to feel a little bit more normal. One inch at a time.

Long Before the Rain

It’s been almost 3 months, which seems hard to believe, but this is a more historical account from McGinnis Slough for birds seen on September 19th, when the slough looked more like a marsh at best. Yet there was more bird activity and a couple less common sightings.

It started off inauspiciously with a European Starling.

But at some point I found a Northern Waterthrush, which is a warbler species I haven’t seen in a long time. They aren’t particularly rare but they don’t travel around in warbler flocks and are often close to water and the ground.

One of my first White-throated Sparrows of the season was in the grass.

Perhaps the bird of the day as far as offering itself up for photographs was Palm Warbler.

Among the land birds was this Swainson’s Thrush.

The Double-Crested Cormorant below gave me several expressions of its flight pattern.

More views of the faded-looking Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly at the top of the post.

I never know exactly where I can expect to see a Great Blue Heron here but I practically always do.

More flying birds to capture – a Great Egret and, of all things, a Blue Jay or two, which don’t normally make themselves so available.

Two warblers – a Nashville and then below, a female Common Yellowthroat.

I saw Gray Catbirds at this location more than once.

The light played interesting tricks on these two Wood Ducks flying through the marsh.

The rose mallow flowers seemed late and sparse but they prevailed.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler blending in below.

More flying birds. Cedar Waxwings directly below, and below them, the inevitable Canada Geese.

A couple views of the parched-looking slough.

And a closer-cropped view of the Great Egret seen in the flight sequence above, after it landed.

I have been seeing some amazing birds all week which has kept me more than busy. Even though migration has slowed down, there are still birds to be seen. I will be back as soon as possible with more recent sightings.

Water Returns to McGinnis Slough

This will be brief. I went to McGinnis Slough last Sunday to see if maybe I might be present when some Sandhill Cranes were flying over, or just in general to see what the water levels were like. All the rain had made a difference. Where there was no water to be seen before, now the slough looks like a slough again.

No Sandhills flew over. Indeed, not much was flying.

I saw my last Yellow-rumped Warblers of the season.

Red-winged Blackbirds linger.

I’m always happy to see a Pied-billed Grebe.