I have been hanging out at the Chicago Portage lately and just when it seems like nothing is happening something almost always does. This post covers two visits: November 26 and November 29. And I’ve been trying to write it for several days, so this is It.
The surprise on the 26th was an American Kestrel sitting way atop a tree overlooking the stream. This is a small falcon, quite a bit smaller than a Peregrine, but because it was so far away I wasn’t sure what it was until it started to fly away and I could see the reddish coloring in its feathers. I was very happy to see all these photos blown up. Kestrels are less common here than they were several years ago.
There was an abundance of sunshine that day.
So sunny, in fact, that shadows were a bit of a problem in the photos below, but this was still a beautiful Fox Sparrow.
The Northern Cardinals were up to their old tricks of hiding in plain sight.
And it proved to be a great day to capture an oriole nest.
Then, three days later, by the bridge closest to Harlem Avenue, I was surprised to see a muskrat. When there was more water years ago, there were beavers too, but I have not seen either rodent for quite some time. This muskrat made up for it.
It was quite cloudy early on.
Below is what I first saw after crossing the bridge, looking back at the water behind me.
But later that morning the muskrat decided to put on quite a show.
I met Bob at the bridge after going around the trails, and we stood and watched the muskrat herding Mallards away from its territory.
Below is what one Mallard looked like when goosed by the muskrat from below,
There were some peaceful moments before and after all that.
It was cloudy earlier as I approached the second bridge and I was not seeing any birds. It took me quite a while to find the passerine flock.
I encountered a group of House Finches.
Perhaps my best subject was a White-breasted Nuthatch.
I have been back to the Portage the last two mornings, after taking a break from the weather on November 30. It’s a big decision around here not to go out for a walk in the morning.
I have this thing about extreme wind: I don’t know if I can ever get used to it, but I think it is the most constant reminder of climate change. It seems we have a lot more windy days all year around than we used to. And the winds, depending on what direction they are coming from, bring other weather events with them.
I will try to be back soon. I am singing in the choir Sunday morning so I can’t go out for a walk then, but I will be going to the Portage tomorrow morning for which the forecast is to be cold but sunny, to see if I can manage to capture a clear photograph of a Wilson’s Snipe that Bob found late Thursday morning. (Thanks, Bob! I will elaborate on this event in a future post.) I figured the bird would still be there this morning, which it was, but between cloud cover and missed opportunity I simply could not photograph anything but a blur. I hope to manage something better than this tomorrow.
The snipe is rare for this time of year, and generally rare at this location altogether, I think. They are just difficult birds to see under the best of conditions. So even if I don’t get a good photograph, it’s still exciting to know it’s there. And I give myself permission to “chase” a bird that’s only a few minutes away.