City Stopovers

Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, Lake Shore East Park

Fall is suddenly upon us with cooler temperatures, shorter days, and finally some rain. It has been raining all day today, true to the weather predictions which the past couple weeks have not held, at least in my neighborhood. So we were pretty dry until now. I finally gave in to reality and decided to get caught up on indoor chores, rather than go out on the migrant quest. But over the past week there have been birds arriving at the two spots I can visit regularly downtown, 155 North Wacker Drive on my way in to work and Lake Shore East Park on my lunch hour, in particular on Friday after the cold front pushed more birds down to us.

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush, 155 N. Wacker Drive

Tennessee Warbler behind glass at 155 North Wacker deli

Tennessee Warbler behind glass at 155 North Wacker deli

At 155 North Wacker I never know where I’m going to see birds, so the waterthrush flew up onto the top of a wall on Wednesday, and on Friday, the Tennessee Warbler was stuck inside the deli. I called the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors without realizing I had not told them exactly where I was but by the time they got there the worker inside the deli whom I had been trying to help get the bird down and out the door managed to catch the warbler in something net-like, brought it out to me, and as soon as I could say “it’s fine” the Tennessee escaped his hand and flew into the trees. I would have rather gotten a picture of him free, but he was not having anything to do with us after all that.

Female American Redstart, Lake Shore East

Female American Redstart, Lake Shore East Park

Redstarts have been most abundant. Of course this time of year a lot of them look more like Yellowstarts. The first year males are distinguishable from the females such as the one above by their more brightly-colored feathers and the prescient orange look to the yellow on the side of the breast. The young male below was a bit puffed-out looking through a lot of the shots; I hope he’s feeling better.

First-Year Male American Redstart

First-Year Male American Redstart

Swainson’s Thrushes have also been here and there. Not as many as I would have seen in the larger park space but still you could pretty much count on seeing or hearing one somewhere.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush, Lake Shore East Park

Below is a not great picture of what may be the first Blackpoll I’ve seen this fall. There were other shots that fill out the whole bird a bit more but none as revealing. That’s one thing about taking pictures of warblers. You might end up with the tail feathers in one picture and the breast or head in another. Or you might just get a good look at the underside.

Blackpoll Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Blackpoll Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Below is a Female Wilson’s Warbler. Again not a great picture but a nice bird to see, nevertheless.

Female Wilson's Warbler, 155 N. Wacker Drive

Female Wilson’s Warbler, 155 N. Wacker Drive

Friday there were at least a dozen Palm Warblers foraging in the grass and in the trees in Lake Shore East Park.

Palm Warbler, Lake Shore  East Park

Palm Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

The third most common bird has been Magnolia Warbler. Below is what looks to me like a nice first-year male.

Magnolia Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

Magnolia Warbler, Lake Shore East Park

If I can get up early tomorrow I might try the lakefront before work. If nothing else, I owe my crows a visit.

City Visitors…Part Two



The Chicago Loop migrant watch continues. There was a lone Gray Catbird at 155 North Wacker Thursday morning, but yesterday he was gone. Mostly the last couple days I have been enchanted solely by Ovenbirds at the train station and Lake Shore East Park. However many times I have seen them downtown before, they never cease to bring a smile to my face. The one above was at Lake Shore East Park yesterday afternoon, blown about by blustery, cold north winds. Hey, it’s only May…!

What I don’t understand is why small birds I have never seen before seem to want to engage, interact, communicate with me on some level, once they have gotten over the fact that I am paying attention to them. Perhaps they are just curious, as I am. Why would I be bothering to pay attention to another species when all those other big clumsy humans milling by noisily never notice?

Lake Shore East Park IMG_5848_1

Lake Shore East Park IMG_5847_1

Above, a couple views of Lake Shore East Park from the street level before I descend down the steps to get to it. I’ve decided the steps are good exercise and I can already feel a slight difference in agility and strength. The crumbs you hang onto with age!

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush

The only other warbler since the Kentucky last week is a Northern Waterthrush, who was still there yesterday, when I counted two Ovenbirds, one Waterthrush, about 37 White-Throated Sparrows and maybe 10 White-Crowned Sparrows. I didn’t see the Red-Breasted Nuthatch that’s been hanging out in the pine trees, though he might still be there. Not to mention that he was barely visible last time I saw him, below.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Here’s one of the White-Crowned Sparrows.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

And I will never, ever be done taking photographs of White-Throated Sparrows. They seem to be clamoring for their own post soon.

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

The white blossoms blown off the trees yesterday reminding me of snow, combined with the frigid temperatures. To get back to warmer thoughts, here are a couple more Ovenbird photos.

Ovenbird IMG_5882_1

Ovenbird IMG_6674_1

Think Spring!

Hungry Birds

American Robin – Chicago Portage

Fall is upon us. The days are ever shorter, and there’s a chill in the air, all that much more unexpected after the summer heat wave. Although I feel energized by the cooler weather it was not so easy to get up as early as planned yesterday morning to visit the Portage. But maybe my timing was right after all, because I got to see a flock of robins descend into my young Hawthorn Tree to devour its bright red berries. The robins have all but disappeared from the neighborhood, their breeding season over, they’re moving in flocks looking for fruit. I feel honored that they chose my yard (and relieved that the squirrels have not eaten everything). A little piece of heaven on earth.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

There were kinglets in good number at the Portage, both Golden-Crowned and Ruby-Crowned. The Golden-Crowned were a little harder to see.

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Tennessee Warbler

Many warblers were feeding low, the available insects half-asleep and staying closer to the ground.

Northern Waterthrush

A contemplative empidonax flycatcher, most likely a Least, although he refused to vocalize to confirm his species.

Empidonax Flycatcher – most likely a Least

Magnolia Warblers thickened with the Tennessees…

Magnolia Warbler

and a very curious-looking Ovenbird paraded up and down this branch.


My old friends, White-Throated Sparrows, are returning.

The White-Breasted Nuthatches have been around all summer, but I have never seen one upright.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

And the juvenile Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks are brimming with the promise of their first migration.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

A post showing other sides of the Portage will follow shortly.

An Abundance of Swainson’s Thrushes

Swainson’s Thrush, LaBagh Woods

Every migration season is different, and if one species dominates this fall migration in Chicago, it has been Swainson’s Thrushes – I have seen them everywhere, almost every day, and this has been going on the entire month of September.

In the forest preserves I have counted so many they have sometimes seemed to outnumber the Robins. The second most numerous species in the preserves has perhaps been Northern Waterthrushes. But I have seen Swainson’s even in downtown Chicago.

155 N. Wacker

It has gotten to the point where I have stopped taking pictures of the Swainson’s Thrushes because it’s unnecessary just to document their presence. But then every once in a while there have been models that were hard to resist.

Today at LaBagh Woods, the Robins and the Swainson’s Thrushes were foraging from rocky shoals in the Chicago River.

Thrushes in the Chicago River