A Kinglet-Sized Rescue

Portage with Mallards - 10-28-18-3924I had no plans to go out yesterday. I slept in and so did my birds, even after one or two Zebra Finches announced theoretical sunrise around 6:28 a.m., because it was dark and cloudy. But then the sun broke out during breakfast and after I checked the radar it looked like we had a two-hour rainless window so I decided to see what was happening at the Portage. No sooner did I leave than the sun went behind the clouds.

Photography in next-to-no light was almost not an option, but I couldn’t imagine going out without the camera. I hadn’t gotten too far beyond the Mallards and Canada Geese before I encountered a Golden-Crowned Kinglet in distress.

GCKI Rescue - 10-28-18-3997The bird had a long, skinny twig caught in its primaries. I put my camera down to help, but when I reached for the bird it flitted a few inches to avoid me. I managed to grab the offending plant matter and the Kinglet immediately wrested itself free. Glad I could help this little bird continue, and it gave some purpose beyond my need to escape the “other reality” for a while. After the encounter, it seemed I was seeing more Golden-Crowned Kinglets than anything else. Unfortunately they move so quickly they were hard to capture in low light.

GCKI - 10-28-18-4023

It just so happened that I had to replace my cell phone on Friday. It was a case of new software meets old hardware: the latest update wreaked havoc on the old phone. So I put the new cell phone camera to use to capture some stirrings of autumn color at the Portage.

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Hawk migration continues. Below, some aerial dynamics of a Northern Harrier.

I was going to visit the dirt road that runs along the railroad tracks and faces the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District property but when I encountered the buck below staring at me, I changed my mind.

Buck - 10-28-18-4016

Common Milkweed was everywhere this past summer and I have a feeling it will be even more prevalent next year.

Milkweed pods - 10-28-18-4018

Two Turkey Vultures flew over in the grey sky…

The only birds that stood up to the lack of light were Mallards and Canada Geese, and then just barely.

Not much else to report, really. I’m surprised the Mourning Doves showed up as well as they did.

MODO - 10-28-18-3990I still have images from the previous weekend’s last organized walk…and then I’d better be focused on preparation for the choir’s three-day tour to St. Louis. I may not be seeing many wild birds for a few weeks. Maybe I can recruit the indoor crowd.

img_0020Tree Fungus - 10-28-18-4047

Goose Lake Prairie and Copley Nature Park

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

I don’t know what it is about Goose Lake Prairie, but I like going there, so that was my destination on the Fourth of July. I didn’t get out as early as planned but after the hour-plus drive I was walking the gravel trail from the Visitor’s Center around 7:45 AM. The Visitor’s Center is always closed on the Fourth of July. One of these days I’ll have to go when it’s open.

Pollen Orgy: Bee in the Bergamot

Pollen Orgy: Bee in the Bergamot

Not seeing a lot of bees these days so I try to pay attention when I do. This bee appears to be virtually bathed in pollen. I think it’s the little hairs on the flower petals that make it look that way. Click on the picture to see.

The first bird I managed to photograph was a Common Yellowthroat. From the coloring it looks like a juvenile.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Female Common Yellowthroat 7-4-14-0520

But there were still plenty of males singing on territory, like the one below. A sample of his song is in the link between the pictures. You might also hear a Song Sparrow and an Eastern Meadowlark singing in the background of the recording: the Common Yellowthroat is the one singing in triplets.

Male Common Yellowthroat

Male Common Yellowthroat

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Common Yellowthroat 7-4-14-0569

I also saw a male Northern Harrier soon after I started out, but only because it had been chased into and then out of a tree by a flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds. It was the only raptor I had until I saw a Turkey Vulture from the car as I was driving away.

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Below, some of the many juvenile Red-Winged Blackbirds hanging out in groups.

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbirds

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbirds

The Tree Swallows below were probably too far away to photograph, but I like the tandem effect of this picture anyway.

Tree Swallows

Tree Swallows

For the record, here’s a juvenile Song Sparrow. I could not seem to locate the adults that were singing.

Juvenile Song Sparrow

Juvenile Song Sparrow

This is the time of year when anything that flies catches my eye. One thing I’ve noticed is the different dragonflies as they occur in different habitats. Butterflies, anywhere, are entirely another matter; they seem to be scarce and do not like to be photographed except from far away.

Widow Skimmer Male

Widow Skimmer Male

Female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

Female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

The other prominent singer yesterday was a Dickcissel. The bird below eventually tolerated my presence so I could get these pictures. One version of his song is in below his pictures.

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

Dickcissel 7-4-14-0833

Although the weather was relatively cool starting out, the sun was hot and by 10:00 a.m. or so I felt I had probably seen all I was going to see. It’s not the kind of place you want to go off trail.Hunting Sign 7-4-14-2356

Hunting Sign 7-4-14-2367

I decided to stop by Lake Renwick on the way back home, which has a heron rookery. There is a small viewing area at Copley Nature Park, accessible from Route 30 at the edge of Lake Renwick. Lake Renwick rookery itself is closed during the breeding season. This is another place I need to check out when it’s open for business.

A distant family of Great Blue Herons tempted me to shoot a few fuzzy pictures.

Great Blue Heron Nest, Lake Renwick

Great Blue Heron Nest, Lake Renwick

Great Blue Nest Lake Renwick 7-4-14-0895

And birds flying by, like this Double-Crested Cormorant, with its distinctive silhouette.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

Perhaps the most numerous species of the day besides Red-Winged Blackbird was Eastern Kingbird. There were many at Goose Lake and several at Copley Nature Park, this one being particularly cooperative.

Eastern Kingbird Lake Renwick 7-4-14-0950

In case I had any doubt about the heron rookery, this Great Egret flew overhead after I had been out of the car only a few minutes.

Great Egret Lake Renwick 7-4-14-0885

Oh well, one more early morning and then it’s back to business as usual. I’m joining Chicago Ornithological Society at Bartel Grassland in Tinley Park tomorrow. It’s an early start and an hour’s drive away, so I should be turning in very soon. After three days off I feel like I’m just beginning to get the hang of it. Being off, that is.

Today also marks my third year blogging with WordPress. I feel like I’m just beginning to get the hang of that too. Thanks to you all for making it fun! 🙂

Raptor Reminiscence: Hawks on the Move

Turkey Vulture, IBSP

Turkey Vulture, IBSP

Two Sundays ago, I joined a field trip organized through the Evanston North Shore Bird Club to the hawk watch at Illinois Beach State Park (“IBSP”). I have known about the hawk watch for years but never managed to get there until now (it’s an hour-and-a-half drive, which usually discourages me). But it’s a treat to visit IBSP altogether. The expanse of fairly undisturbed habitat along the lakefront is restorative.

IBSP Hawk Watch 1I2A3583

The hawk watch is a special, different kind of bird watching. Basically it’s sitting or standing around and waiting for raptors to fly over. And when the raptors are too far away to identify by field marks, it’s great to have the counters available to help you identify them by shape and flight pattern. Luckily not all the birds were that far away.

Red-Tailed Hawk, IBSP

Red-Tailed Hawk, IBSP

Red-Tailed Hawk, IBSP

Red-Tailed Hawk, IBSP

Northern Harrier, IBSP

Northern Harrier, IBSP

Then this past Sunday I birded much closer to home. My friend Lesa met me at Miller Meadow and we walked around there for a couple hours.

American Kestrel, Miller Meadow

American Kestrel, Miller Meadow

From the beginning, we kept running into this American Kestrel who was hunting the preserve. Eventually we were treated to our own miniature hawk watch. As we started to turn back, we counted a Cooper’s Hawk, four Red-Tailed Hawks, a Northern Harrier, a Golden Eagle and fifty-five Turkey Vultures.

Northern Harrier, Miller Meadow

Northern Harrier, Miller Meadow

Turkey Vultures kettling, Miller Meadow

Turkey Vultures kettling, Miller Meadow

Turkey Vulture, Miller Meadow

Turkey Vulture, Miller Meadow

I did not manage to get pictures of all the birds that flew over but considering that most of the year you feel lucky to see one or two raptors on an outing, seeing so many fly overhead was quite exciting.

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Earlier in the day, we also had a migrating juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron… sometime before the 200 or so Canada Geese that had been feeding in the fields took to the air.

Geese 1I2A3696

Canada Geese

Northern Harrier

I went to Goose Lake Prairie today, and I will have more to say about it in a future post. But I want to devote this space to a female Northern Harrier who was willing to show off long enough for me to get my camera to cooperate.

I had been walking around on the trails for nearly two hours and was waiting for the visitor’s center to open; I thought I had seen pretty much all I was going to see, when I flushed a Northern Harrier from the grass near the path. It was a juvenile.

Juvenile Northern Harrrier

I watched it fly around and shot a few pictures. At one point there were two harriers in the air, but my pictures were fuzzy and I didn’t think much of them, so I kept walking. I began to hear a lot of Henslow’s Sparrows I could not see. And then, a Harrier came back to distract me.

She had a kill, which looks to be a bird but I cannot identify it.

She swooped and darted and called. I now think she was displaying probably for junior’s benefit and not mine, but I was an inadvertent witness.

What a beautiful bird she was. I felt so lucky to see the show.

Harriers are always exciting to see as they fly low over open fields and they have distinctive markings. That white band on the rump is diagnostic.

Eventually she came to rest on a stump. I took one more picture and thanked her for making my day with her regal beauty.

More about Goose Lake Prairie to follow later this week.