There wasn’t an awful lot going on at McGinnis on my last visit, but the sight of two Sandhill Cranes foraging in the lawn right off the parking lot automatically made it a special day.
I guess McGinnis is always good for a Great Blue Heron or two. But I’m surprised I haven’t seen any Great Egrets lately.
Not a lot of swallows that day but I managed to capture this Tree Swallow.
This Song Sparrow was almost completely hidden. We compromised.
Common Grackles are here and there.
Perhaps the second nicest surprise was to see a first-year male Orchard Oriole right before I left.
The lack of light didn’t offer much contrast with these raptors flying overhead.
While I was kind of hoping to see a colt or two with the Sandhills, which I never have here, I did see two Canada Geese in the same spot as the Sandhills were earlier – and they were carefully watching one lone gosling.
Providing additional interest, a Red-Winged Blackbird trying to make sense of a piece of ice cream cone.
I am always impressed by a Robin taking a pose.
I haven’t been able to think about much besides work lately. That – and the burrowing rats in my yard. I just removed all the feeders except for the hummingbird and oriole feeders – for 10 days. The city has provided an exterminator to discourage the rats, and I can only hope for elimination as up until the pandemic, they were never around. But adding insult to injury is the drought. I take it personally, I don’t know why – but the thought of weather like Phoenix, Arizona has never been attractive to me. Nothing against anyone who loves hot, dry weather. It has its place. But not here.
Thanks for letting me rant. I do have more cheerful posts in store and what should be a fun event I will share with you in the next few weeks.
I haven’t been able to go forward too far so I am going backward in time. These photographs are from one lovely day in the middle of July at the Portage. A highlight was a pair of Orchard Orioles. The male is at the top of this post.
Even though the Green Herons did not have enough water to make a go of it this summer, they still came to visit.
Pollinators were busy.
Below are some more images of the male Orchard Oriole, and one of the female in the same frame as a Red-Winged Blackbird female. They were foraging in the vegetation that sprung up in the absence of water this summer.
A female Red-Winged Blackbird is showing off below.
Male Northern Cardinals aren’t typically willing subjects, so it was a rare treat to capture this one.
Robins were present in all stages of plumage.
Not sure but this might have been my last opportunity to photograph and record a singing male Indigo Bunting.
It was a good year all around for seeing Eastern Wood-Pewees. I usually always hear them but rarely see them. Something about the change in habitat, I suspect.
The Goldfinches spent a lot of time foraging in the duck weed. I didn’t realize that the Portage has a storyboard describing duck weed as the smallest flowering plant until I led a bird walk recently.
Not a very good photograph, but I this was the last time I saw a Great-crested Flycatcher.
The Gray Catbird below epitomizes the attitude of these loquacious birds.
The days are dramatically shorter and the heat has been on in the house for over a week. But now it looks like we are due for a spell of pleasant temperatures before the cold takes over. I am healing from my fall and always seem to feel better in the evenings. Thanks for stopping by!
The 4th of July always reminds me to make my annual visit to Goose Lake National Prairie. I am not exactly sure why I don’t visit at other times of the year, and maybe I will decide to visit more often if I ever retire, but I like to go at this time because it’s not crowded, the prairie is beautiful and in bloom, and I can usually count on seeing Dickcissels and Henslow’s Sparrows.
As it turns out, this year it was particularly “not crowded” – I was the only human the entire length of my visit. I went on July 3rd instead of the 4th. It was already hot and sunny at 7:40 a.m. when I got out of my car and saw Killdeer in the parking lot.
As I started to walk the trail that goes out from the back of the Visitor’s Center, I was welcomed by a few Barn Swallows, one of which was having fun swooping close to my head. Perhaps it was trying to startle me, because it was pretty persistent, but I am quite used to birds flying around my head! My challenge was to try to capture the bird in flight. When I used to go down to the lakefront in the summertime on my lunch hour, there were swallows swooping around constantly close to people, but people were everywhere and pretty unavoidable. On this occasion, the handful of Barn Swallows outnumbered me.
As for “target” birds, I saw only one Dickcissel and it was quite far away. I didn’t hear any more of them, either. I neither heard nor saw any Henslow’s Sparrows. I heard a lot of Marsh Wrens but could not see one.
But you can’t go birding on expectations and then be disappointed when they don’t pan out. There’s always a surprise or something interesting. I was delighted to see an Eastern Meadowlark.
Common Yellowthroats seem particularly abundant this year. I think that is making them less skulky.
The prairie wasn’t in full bloom, but the Monarda and Prairie Spiderwort were attractive. At least I think it’s Prairie Spiderwort and not Ohio, although the leaves looked thicker than the variety I have in my backyard. Either one is native to Illinois.
It is always nice to see Orchard Orioles. I found a female perched and one male in flight.
Song Sparrows were abundant.
A distant male Northern Harrier was harassed by a few Red-Winged Blackbirds.
I think this was the same Great Egret I saw perched at the pond by Cragg’s Cabin later.
One tern flew by. It didn’t stay long enough to fish. There is a big man-made lake nearby, Heidecke Lake, which was formerly a cooling reservoir. That could be where the tern hangs out more often.
Two Great Blue Herons flew by. Likely one of them was the individual below who was fishing from the partially submerged boardwalk that is no longer functional for human use but served this bird’s purpose.
Red-winged Blackbirds typically outnumber everything else. But it seems like every place I go, I hear a new vocalization from them. Listen to this little trilly sound below.
Eastern Kingbirds were the prevalent flycatcher species.
There were a few Field Sparrows, not very close but still delightful to see and hear.
On my way out, a Kildeer flew by.
The last bird I saw was a House Sparrow by the Visitor’s Center.
This was only my first outing of last weekend. I came home to do some work later in the afternoon. But I got up and went to the Portage on Saturday morning and back to Goose Lake Natural Area on Sunday. I’ll try to get caught up before summer’s over!
Yesterday I was fortunate enough to participate in the Spring Bird Count in DuPage County. I have done this count for a number of years, but this time, with social distancing, it was different. We split up so we each covered one area. I was assigned the Silver Lake part of Blackwell Forest Preserve, a location I was not familiar with, but was easy to navigate with the map Jody gave me, and I can get lost anywhere. Since I could only do the morning and there was no time limit, I had a wonderful experience listening for and spotting all the birds I could identify at a leisurely pace.
I felt especially privileged because under the current New Normal, I would not have been allowed to visit DuPage County preserves because I am not a resident. The county decided last month to limit parking to its residents. We speculated there was an overflow of people from Cook County, where I live, due to the closing of the lakefront. So I don’t know when I’ll be able to revisit this lovely place, but now that I am more familiar with it, I plan to do so when restrictions end.
I was beginning to feel like I am the only person on earth who hadn’t seen a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak yet so I was happy to find one singing high up in a tall tree.
Love was definitely in the air, albeit chilly after freezing temperatures overnight, for local breeders. I usually can’t get a glimpse of a Blue Jay long enough to photograph, but this pair united for some courtship behavior, exchanging some tiny seeds you might be able to see if you click on the images below.
And when it was all over I somehow managed to catch this Blue Jay in flight.
Yellow-Rumped Warblers are usually quite common, however brief the period of spring migration, so it’s easy to overlook how truly beautiful they are. This one was happy to display all his yellow parts except for his namesake.
I have no idea what was going on with this European Starling but I could swear he was dancing and singing.
This Tree Swallow was saving his energy for later when the sun would start warming up the ground and the air and there would be bugs to catch.
At some point Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are going to become impossible to find, let alone photograph, but that hasn’t quite happened yet.
Here’s two more of the goldfinch pair featured at the top of this post.
This distant Northern Flicker would have been impossible to capture were it not for the bright, clear sunshine.
I kept hearing this Common Yellowthroat and he was confusing me by not singing his “witchety-wichety” song, only a slow trill, if you will. So finally he came and sat right in front of me and continued singing. I have never had a Common Yellowthroat volunteer to be photographed. He must be a novice. Anyway, you can see in the third photo how windy it was.
Another warbler, only this one was harder to capture. Black-throated Green Warbler.
Robins are predictably everywhere but they get short shrift. I try not to take them all for granted and capture at least one.
A less-frequently-seen bird, also in the thrush family – a handsome Veery.
Song Sparrow taking a break.
This Canada Goose flew right in front of me so I couldn’t resist.
I heard the Orchard Oriole before I saw him. What a lovely tune.
Palm Warblers become commonplace too, but they are still pretty birds.
I miss seeing spectacles like 150 White-Crowned Sparrows or more on the lakefront, but am glad I was able to report the only White-Crowned Sparrow seen in our area on Saturday.
There were at least four Baltimore Oriole males. These two got into a little bit of a stand-off.
Downy Woodpeckers are busy this time of year and not quite so visible.
Here’s another one of the Bluebird.
So this morning I wasn’t planning on going out at all because of the forecast for all-day rain, but the rain stopped, so I went to the Portage to see if I could find anything. The cloudy sky was a more dramatic backdrop than usual.
Just my luck – the male Bluebird who has been at the Portage now for weeks happened to be hanging out. The exciting news which I meant to report a couple weeks ago is that we have a breeding pair. I saw his mate with nesting material a couple weeks ago. As long as I have been going to the Portage, Bluebirds have never nested there. Apparently they found a log or a tree stump with a suitable cavity for a nest. So I will be watching for their offspring in the coming weeks.
It started to rain, and I had to decide what to do – go back to the car, or keep walking? I put my camera in my backpack, kept walking, and then ran into a flock of warblers high up in the trees. Oh great – no light, it’s raining, and the tiny warblers are nearly impossible to see. These few images are what I could capture.