More Summer Portage Passages

We have threats of thunderstorms this morning and perhaps later in the afternoon, but like yesterday so far it seems to be a waiting game with periods of drizzle.

The last time I saw a Great-crested Flycatcher at the Chicago Portage was on July 22nd. I imagine they’re still around but I am not sure I have heard them lately either. This one was just close enough to capture with the 400mm lens.

I managed to focus for a while on a disheveled-looking Northern Flicker. I waited and waited for him to take off, hoping to capture him in flight, but he beat me to it.

A Spicebush Swallowtail was present both days.

You might expect the beetle below to be named after its vibrant color but instead it’s named after six tiny little white spots which might be more visible in the second photograph.

Whatever the attraction is to the dirt path, this female Powdered Dancer damselfly stayed there long enough.

Tadziu the Indigo Bunting is just as fond of his sunshine perch as he is of the other one across the bridge in the shade.

When there isn’t a lot going on to distract me, I tend to focus on whatever activity exists. Starved for action, I could not resist taking pictures of two young-looking Warbling Vireos who were busy in the mulberries. Berries require less work for them than bugs, I imagine. And as for me, it’s only a matter of time before I get to apply these skills to fall warblers.

The contrast between July 22 and July 25 before and after some rain is evident in the photos below of the bottomlands by the Des Plaines River.

It’s usually easier to get a decent photograph of a female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer.

Female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

This is pretty much how the water looks at the Portage these days. A sea of green.

I have some photos from two more visits at the very end of July, and then it’s looking for signs of more activity in August as fledglings turn into juveniles and thoughts of fall migration start to emerge.

In the meantime, sitting on my front porch yesterday afternoon, I had a brief visit from a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting in the apple tree. I hope to eventually get a few photos of her in action at the flowers or the feeders.

Summer Passages at the Chicago Portage

Although I’ve been to the Chicago Portage more recently, I’m posting some photographs and a couple recordings from last month that hadn’t made it into posts anywhere near the days I took them. These are some views of likely suspects from visits made on July 6 and July 10. I then plan to be back with two or three subsequent installments after I process four more recent July days’ worth of photographs. Depending on what happens, I could sneak in another location here and there…

For the record, the male Indigo Buntings that were everywhere singing last month are still singing but not as much and they’re less visible than the one below, taken on July 6.

Tadziu the Indigo Bunting was available on July 10 for photographs and additions to his Greatest Hits, but the lighting was poor for the former. However, I feel obligated to share his portrait anyway.

And here are the last recordings I made of my celebrity.

Tadziu with American Robin and House Wren in the background
Tadziu with Northern Cardinal, House Wren and Warbling Vireo

American Goldfinches have been busy in the duckweed.

Perched over the water and then taking off for better prospects, a Green Heron was distantly available on July 10.

Just by chance I happened on an Eastern Towhee family. You have to look at the second photo below to see the juvenile which is somewhat obscured by the female in the first photo. I heard the male Eastern Towhee singing this past Tuesday, but did not see him. It would be nice to see the family again before the end of the summer.

It was still hard to resist photographing the Prairie Coneflower and whatever the second yellow flower is, that I see blooming upon first entering the woods from the south paved trail.

I got lucky on the 10th and managed a few photographs of a Warbling Vireo. They are still around but not as vocal as they were, so these days it’s hard to tell how many might be present.

Another species becoming more visible lately is Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.

I have barely heard or seen a White-breasted Nuthatch. This one was on the 6th.

Also on July 6th the House Wren below was flying out of my frame.

The Brown-headed Cowbirds were still all over the place too, on July 6.

The Northern Flicker below wasn’t too easy to see, but I was intrigued enough by all the colors on him, popping out from behind the leaves.

Below is an unusually visible Gray Catbird, and below it, an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

And American Robins are always up to something.

I will be back with more composite posts from the Chicago Portage. In another week or two I expect to see more birds, with the added confusion of molting and juvenile plumages.

Beauty Beyond Warblers

The big push of migrants that began a couple weeks ago just as the leaves were finally starting to emerge on the trees brought some lovely birds to the Chicago Portage along with the anticipated warblers. These photographs are mostly selected from May 9 and May 12 visits.

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a Scarlet Tanager. Below are photos of both sexes.

The trees were still just beginning to get heir leaves, which made seeing the first migrants a lot easier. Below is a Great-crested Flycatcher that just sat while I clicked away.

I saw a female Eastern Towhee at a distance on May 8, four days before I saw a male.

The male Eastern Towhee was quite striking.

A Swainson’s Thrush barely stands out against a muddy-looking background.

It was about the last time I was going to see a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher well. They are still around but busy nesting.

I can almost count on seeing male Baltimore Orioles but the females are less visible, so it was nice to capture this one.

Yellow Warblers are still around, those that stay to breed here, but now that they have established their territories they have all but vanished.

Indigo Buntings, the summer show-offs at the Portage are back in good number. I will have a lot more photos of these guys.

Most rewarding has been the return of Green Herons now that there’s some water.

Northern Flickers aren’t always easy to see.

Here’s one more of this stunning male Scarlet Tanager.

I am pretty much over my breakthrough Covid infection, but even though it was fairly mild, it’s not something I want to repeat, so I am not considering myself invincible from this latest “booster”. I am more determined than ever to wear a mask in any indoor setting.

It’s raining this morning and cool. But we will be heating up just in time for the Memorial Day holiday. I still have a lot of photos from the last couple of weeks to share and I hope to be back soon.

My Reward for Taking Too Many Pictures

I went to the Riverside trail on October 15. It was extremely cloudy and I had no idea what I could muster photographically under such conditions. I walked as far as I was going to go in one direction along the river and then turned back, and found a very green-looking warbler foraging low in front of me. When I got home to review my photographs, I could not for the life of me figure out what it was. I could only surmise what it wasn’t. The pale-looking eyebrow, the darker green primaries didn’t fit the Orange-crowned Warblers I was used to seeing.

After a good night’s sleep it occurred to me that perhaps the way to approach the bird’s identity was to look closely at the bill shape and size. Color and feather arrangement might seem changeable in a photograph but the bill shape would be constant. And that led me to thinking this was a Mourning Warbler.

As it turned out, when I opened my copy of The Warbler Guide, I found one small photograph that exactly matched my bird. She is a first-year female Mourning Warbler. I was excited as it has been years since I’ve seen a Mourning Warbler altogether. I added some of my photos to my ebird report and made the email-generated Cook County Rare Bird Alert (“RBA”) – I guess she’s a little late making her way south.

A distant Northern Flicker accented the cloudy background.

I have really become familiar with Orange-crowned Warblers this fall. And while I’m looking at bill size and shape, this species has a distinctly small, sharply-pointed bill. Some photos of an Orange-crowned Warbler are below.

For comparison, below are some more photographs of the Mourning Warbler.

Fall is a good time for woodpeckers.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Orange-crowned Warbler

Fall is also a good time for squirrels and nuts…

A cloudy sky.

I have really enjoyed seeing Great Blue Herons here.

And Great Egrets were present too.

Only Mallards are showing up in the waterfowl department.

There are always some Northern Cardinals but this was not a good day to capture one.

The other bird that made the RBA was the Gray-cheeked Thrush below.

Golden-crowned Kinglets have been fun to follow the past couple weeks.

A fall tangle of leaves.

The river looks a little fuller than it did. I envision being unable to do this trail when we start getting a lot of rain…

Here are a few more photographs of the Orange-crowned Warbler who was my best model.

Below is a female House Finch.

I thought the Great Blue Heron against the clouds was worth capturing.

One more of a Northern Flicker…

I have been back to the Riverside trail twice since this cloudy day. We are finally starting to cool off. This morning the Great Egrets were all gone. To be continued… but now, I need to get ready for choir rehearsal.

Bemis Woods Twice

I decided to visit Bemis Woods a couple times two weeks ago as it is on the way to the grocery store where buy my organic veggies and then I wouldn’t be wasting a trip running all the way over to the store just for a couple items the first time, and my weekly groceries the next. I have now changed my shopping day to Friday instead of Saturday, so… visiting Bemis could become a weekly event.

I wasn’t sure if I would ever visit Bemis after the installation of a “Go Ape” Zipline feature a couple years ago. It’s right off the parking lot. but I thought I would see how it was to walk the trails, figuring the pandemic had probably put a damper on Go Ape for a while. While it doesn’t take up the whole preserve, that much human activity, in addition to plenty of bike riders, walkers and runners…well, you get the picture for a slow-moving quiet person like me. Bemis is also huge and there are trails sprawled out leading to oblivion, or so it seems, but luckily the GPS on my phone confirms I am going back in the right direction.

Black-throated Green Warblers have been everywhere this season. Period.

I was delighted to find the female Black-throated Blue Warbler below in my photos.

I could not resist documenting this Blackpoll Warbler’s struggle with its prey.

Not to be outdone by the warblers chasing bugs, this Black-capped Chickadee showed me there are other interesting things to eat.

I have no idea what the plant below is but I liked the way it has gone to seed.

Another view of part of Bemis that is not woods.

Bemis is otherwise thick with tall trees like the view below, which makes seeing anything a challenge.

The Salt Creek runs through the preserve and there were Mallards at least one morning. It was nice to see some water still deep enough to afford waterfowl.

The asters below caught my eye. There are so many different types of asters, the more I learn the more confused I become. I’m glad the bee in the right-hand photo has figured it out.

Two more views of the Northern Flicker at the top of the post.