Three Visits to Columbus Park

Two weeks after the last formal walk at Columbus Park on May 14, I joined the two Eds from those walks to see what was up after it seemed all the warblers were gone. Suffice it to say that the water birds made up for the lack of passerine diversity. In spite of an event going on at the park, two Great Blue Herons and two Black-crowned Night Herons tolerated all the noise and our attention and gave us some great looks.

There’s invariably a Great Blue Heron here but I’ve never seen one up in a tree like the one in the series below.

These photos are from April 16, May 14 and May 28 so the vegetation keeps changing.

On April 16 we were lucky to see an early Northern Parula.

Although I saw this species on a few other occasions these were the best looks I had all spring.

Also in the old reeds left over from last year was an American Tree Sparrow.

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow posed over the water

There was one little Field Sparrow back on the April visit.

There’s usually at least a pair of Wood Ducks but they don’t always offer such great photo opportunities.

Below from the last visit, a Wood Duck hen with six ducklings.

Once the Red-winged Blackbirds show up, they stay for the summer.

On the last visit there were some more grown up goslings than an on earlier visit.

Back in April, two Double-crested Cormorants swimming together.

The Black-crowned Night Herons are sometimes so well camouflaged.

Back in April I followed this Great Blue Heron in flight.

On May 14, there was a visible Red-eyed Vireo.

And on the last visit two weeks later, a Warbling Vireo made itself known.

Here’s an earlier photo of a Great Blue Heron.

The Black-crowned Night Herons are simply photogenic.

But I’ll let the Wood Duck have the last word.

A rainy forecast for today gave me the time to sit here and put this together. I’ll be back out on the trail tomorrow morning. There will likely be more photographs of dragonflies coming, like the female Eastern Forktail Damselfly below – if that is indeed what this is. I noticed it at Columbus Park on the last visit.

A Cloudy Morning in Riverside

We are rainy and still warm today so perhaps these photographs from Wednesday won’t look out of place. The forecast was similar to today’s, albeit almost twenty degrees cooler, but it didn’t rain while I was out. I nearly dashed out this morning when the sun broke through the clouds because spring migration is picking up, but I am not interested in playing chicken today with the forecast, and with predicted rain and storms there is wind that will eventually drive the temperatures back down to where they were when these pictures were taken.

The first thing I noticed looking over the river from the Lyons side was swallows. They were mostly Tree Swallows.

Except for a Northern Rough-winged Swallow I managed to capture, albeit blending in with the cloudy sky reflected by the water, which was moving rather briskly. I later tried to capture the “rapids” in the photo below the swallow.

For what it’s worth, there was also a Ring-billed Gull over the river at Lyons.

There were Yellow-rumped Warblers at the riverbank at Riverside, bugging in the mud.

Distantly perched, I barely managed to capture a Belted Kingfisher, a male this time.

Showing up for the count, so to speak, a female Brown-headed Cowbird was foraging in the lawn.

Over on the Riverside Lawn side of the Des Plaines things picked up a bit. There were numerous Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are slightly larger than Golden-crowneds, which makes them appear huge by comparison when you are dealing with birds this size altogether.

“No, I am NOT going to show you my Ruby Crown”

There were plenty of Golden-crowned Kinglets as well, with these giving me some nice looks.

At one point while I stood wondering where the birds were, a Song Sparrow came and sat right in front of me for the longest time. Here’s only a few of perhaps 20 photographs. He wasn’t singing, he was pretty silent, but he wanted me to notice him. Maybe this is the same bird that gave me a recital weeks ago. The third photograph shows his feathers ruffled up a bit by a wind gust. I don’t think the temperature had reached 50 degrees yet.

This Northern Cardinal looks a bit chilly as well.

It’s always hard to tell whether you are seeing the same birds that were on the other side of the river because they tend to fly back and forth, but I suspect these Yellow-rumped Warblers were different individuals from the mud bunch.

And then out of the blue, so to speak, I saw the flash of a Northern Parula. This was a bird I had seen on the weekend before at Columbus Park – and I will try to be back shortly with that report as I managed to get better images in much better light. This warbler has been showing up in various locations around the Chicagoland area the past week and it was still early on Wednesday. I was about finished with my walk when I noticed the bird was working along the riverbank and I followed it until I managed to barely grab these images. This bird seemed to prefer foraging in old logs.

I am always good for a quick White-breasted Nuthatch.

Blue Jays are starting to show up again. I have heard them on occasion all winter but now I am just beginning to see them.

Beyond that, a couple Mallard drakes for good measure.

And one more of the Northern Parula.

I will try to be back soon as I try to keep space on the old hard drive free for inevitably more photographs. It’s going to be a rather busy week as I keep practicing for the Spring Music Festival so I am not making any promises, but a rainy morning forecast helps the blog efforts.

I would also like to dedicate this post to the memory of my former first-alto Alice Muciek who was a force for nature and music, in whose memorial service I will be singing with the Unity Temple Choir this afternoon.

Fall Warblers – Getting Ready for Spring

I had planned on this post days if not a week ago… This could be my last ancient fall warbler photos post. Even though we will still have some cold weather to deal with, spring and the longer days are gaining attention from the birds. It won’t be long before the trees leaf out and warblers start to arrive. Red-winged Blackbirds have already started setting up territories as of March 1.

So here are a few reminders of what the warblers looked like in the fall. Below and at the top of the post is a Bay-breasted Warbler.

Below is one quick capture I managed of a Northern Parula.

Yellow-rumped Warblers like the ones below will look quite different in the spring.

Male Nashville Warblers have a tiny red spot sometimes visible at the crown. If you click on the first image below you might be able to see a hint of red on this one.

One sought-after warbler that I saw a few times but didn’t manage to photograph until a later visit in October was this male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

There were a lot of Black-throated Green Warblers this past fall.

And many Blackpoll Warblers were available for observation.

I will never tire of Magnolia Warblers although they were ubiquitous this past fall. I really think they like to flirt with the camera lens.

Not a warbler, but there was a very well seen Cooper’s Hawk that day.

Things are getting a bit more interesting as spring approaches and I will be back as soon as I can with more photos and reflections. Life goes on. Sometimes surprisingly so.

Oops, I almost forgot the obligatory American Redstart.

Catching Up

Here it is the end of September and I am just getting around to photos from the 10th taken at – where else? – the Chicago Portage. The activity seemed to die down a bit that day so there aren’t quite so many to sift through. Magnolia Warbler above and directly below.

I’m not 100% sure but I think the bird directly below is a Pine Warbler. One of those confusing fall warblers…

This was the first time I had seen a Northern Parula in a while. A not-so-common warbler around here.

A few other birds seen that weren’t warblers…

Red-eyed Vireo
For the record, a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird…
Swainson’s Thrush

Blackpoll Warblers have been everywhere, or so it seems. Below is another.

Never confusing, a Black-and-White Warbler below. I suppose if you couldn’t see them well you might mistake one for a nuthatch as they behave the same way.

This Nashville Warbler could have been in better light…

The other ubiquitous warbler that is easy to confuse with the Blackpoll is the Bay-breasted Warbler, below.

Chipmunks are everywhere too – it seems like a bumper crop this year.

One more of the Northern Parula.

I’m afraid I will be back shortly with another surfeit of something. This birding every morning to make up for not being able to do it while I was working is…almost like going to work. But I am enjoying myself and it seems imperative to pay attention and keep track of the birds while I still can. Learning how to navigate retirement with…a sense of purpose.

In Between

Black-Throated Green Warbler (female)

I’ve been trying to write this next post with photos from Kouchibouguac National Park taken on August 19, with the thought in mind that I might get around to more recent photos before I go on my next trip, and, well, you can see how it’s not been going as planned.

Anyway, I intended to post pictures from the entire day but there are way too many of them to make any sense out of, so I’m concentrating here on the sometimes frustrating looks we had at warblers who were just beginning to migrate, or getting ready to do so – and displaying plumages I likely will never see again.

Northern Parula

Northern Parulas were everywhere. Which is why I have entirely too many pictures of them. The Bay-breasted Warbler below was not entirely cooperative. But most fascinating to me was being forced to concentrate on the entire jizz of the bird instead of particular field marks, because many of them weren’t painted in yet…

Yellow-Rumped Warbler in a most undignified but revealing moment

I expect I’ll be back with the other intended half of this post pretty quickly, with most of it taken along the beach.

Black-and-White Warbler

For what it’s worth, the Magnificat last Sunday was pretty magnificent in its own right and I am grateful to have taken part in it. Beyond that I feel like the month has taken off at a frenetic pace that has not let up and I am on a timer, not just a treadmill. But I admire y’all with your holiday spirit and wish you glad tidings.

Slow Walks through the Portage

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Baltimore Oriole

I have never been a hurry-up-let’s-get-this-over-with birder, but I am certainly moving more slowly these days because of my knee. But life in the slow lane has its advantages and the reduced speed has paid off. Two weeks ago I managed to count 55 species when I visited the Portage for four hours instead of the usual two, and last week with my first group we had 51 species in nearly about the same amount of time due in part to the fact that we got off to a late start because of the weather. Between the two lists I had 73 different species total. Of course it is spring migration, and it is not hard to spend a lot of time when you keep seeing more birds. Needless to say I did not get pictures of them all, or some pictures were useful later only for the purpose of identification. But in spite of having hardly any time or place to bird during the week, I feel as if I have seen some nice migrants in spite of my physical limitations. I took these pictures two weeks ago. I felt bad about not being able to do the Spring Bird Count, but I’m glad I managed to get out.

Breeding birds are back, and the most numerous after the Robins, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Goldfinches are probably Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers.

Lots of Indigo Buntings are on site too. Many of them are first-year males like the ones below.

There are also several Warbling Vireos that have set up territories. I usually hear them more than I see them, but I got good views of this individual.

Some Yellow Warblers will likely breed here too.

I don’t think the Portage has breeding Ovenbirds but it was nice to see this one out in the open.

Two more warblers I was able to photograph…but they won’t be staying.

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Northern Parula

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Male American Redstart

My best surprise was to briefly see a Hooded Warbler and manage to get a picture of him. These are far less common. I used to see them on the lakefront occasionally. This was a real treat.

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Hooded Warbler

The Great-Horned Owls appear to have just one owlet but it’s gotten pretty big and last week we saw all three of them all take off from their tree. I took these pictures of junior and mom two weeks ago.