Summertime at the Portage

I haven’t been out birding since Sunday morning and I likely will not get to do so until the middle of next week, but that’s okay, I am having a wonderful visit with Linda G., my closest friend since we met in junior high. Birds are occupied with their most important breeding activities which tend to make them hard to see anyway: we might get around to a walk but don’t count on it. But that’s okay, I have a backlog of photos from outings last week and before. These photographs are from last Thursday, June 23.

The forecast was for partly sunny, but this was plenty of sun for me. The temperature was not too hot so I think the birds were enjoying it too.

Baltimore Orioles were in the mulberries. The photograph in the upper left corner of the panel below is of a female.

I was following a bird later that was down low in the grasses and it turned out to be a female Orchard Oriole. You can see how she appears “greenish” compared to the female Baltimore Oriole in the previous panel. I am so happy to know Orchard Orioles are breeding at the Portage.

Indigo Buntings are everywhere – at least the males are still easy to spot. I haven’t seen a female that I could capture lately, but as the summer continues I should start seeing them and the juveniles. I have been seeing Tadziu on both sides of the bridge lately. Here he is perched in his original spot.

And now he also likes the very tippy-top of a tree on the other side. I confess I recorded him three times. He basically sang the same song in all three recordings but I just couldn’t help myself. I can recognize his song from a distance as I approach his territory.

So below are Tadziu’s greatest hits.

The Indigo Bunting below is an entirely different individual. He wasn’t singing for me so I couldn’t record him to compare, but he’s beautiful. I love the way the light plays with these guys.

There isn’t a lot of Squirrel-Tail Grass and I suspect it doesn’t last very long but it was looking good that day.

Below is some variety of sedge I have never seen before and cannot identify, so I welcome any suggestions. At least I think it’s a sedge.

When I got across the south bridge as I walked in, I noticed workers applying herbicides. I had seen what I think was a Forest Preserves truck in the parking lot. I asked one young woman if they were going to tackle the poison hemlock, and she said she didn’t know about that yet, but that they were discouraging Mugwort, which is in the photo below right. Apparently it’s considered an herbal remedy by some but it’s also very invasive, native to Europe and Asia. I think the strategy is to prevent it from flowering and producing seeds, which apparently can be as many as 200 seeds per plant, but it also has a rhizome root system, so stopping seed propagation is only one step in control. I didn’t dare ask what herbicide they were using, but if I see them working again I will get over my prejudices temporarily and try to be a better reporter.

I encountered a young rabbit that day.

I haven’t been able to identify this yellow flower yet but it seems to be a new one at the Portage. I will pay closer attention to the foliage on my next visit and see if I can figure out what it is. It’s so easy to be lazy…

This Chipmunk was nibbling on something.

Downy Woodpeckers are becoming a little bit more visible lately although they are still pretty quiet.

I haven’t seen a lot of European Starlings but these two youngsters were present.

House Wrens are ubiquitous but not always easy to see. I caught this one in a rare moment of silence.

Sometimes I get lucky with swallows, and this day had a few Barn Swallows swooping low over the duckweed.

American Goldfinches are also fond of the duckweed-covered stream and I think it’s a perfect background for this female.

Red-winged Blackbirds are harder to see, but this one was sitting so still I had to commemorate the occasion.

I will try to get back sooner than later but Linda will be staying with me several more days and we have a lot of catching up to do.

Cool and Cloudy at the Portage

In case you didn’t get to meet this Indigo Bunting last year, allow me to introduce Tadziu – I have given him the name that is pasted on the back of the “Bike Path” sign on which he sits in this photograph – as yesterday morning he sat and sang and posed for me. Last year I often saw him singing from the tree that hangs over the entrance to the bridge which facilitates the bike path referred to in this sign. I would also see him sitting on the bridge itself and singing, as well as on the sign. He is the most enthusiastic advocate for a territory I have ever seen.

A snippet of his song is below. I recorded it last week. I realized yesterday that although all Indigo Buntings basically sing the “same” song, it seemed I could distinguish his when he sang it. Or it may just be that I know where to expect to hear him. Either way, he always sings in my presence and we are friends.

Indigo Bunting

Here’s a few more of Tadziu being a ham.

I was very happy to see a male Orchard Oriole, however briefly. I saw another later but did not manage to photograph it. I hope this means they are nesting at the Portage. I have seen them only occasionally every year. But I have to keep reminding myself that the more I go out, likely the more I will see.

Here’s how the Chicago Portage looks now.

I expect to hear Yellow Warblers but I don’t always see them. I waited for this one to emerge because I could hear him quite clearly. If you’re hopping around in the treetops and you’re bright yellow, eventually you will be seen.

Also seen, but silent, was a Downy Woodpecker exploring a beautiful round hole.

Just as I saw a Green Heron perched over the water, it flew and I followed it with the camera, then found it again later where it was sitting.

I walked back along the gravel road by the MWRD for a bit to see what was going on there.

I found a Cedar Waxwing with its back toward me and managed to get it to turn around slightly.

There was a pair of Eastern Kingbirds sallying about for insects.

There’s a lot – a terrible, horrific lot – of Poison Hemlock growing in several spots and it stinks to walk through. One does not have to touch it and I certainly don’t for obvious reasons. But another plant that takes over the wetter areas – Butterweed – is a more welcome sight.

I found this Indigo Bunting in the hemlock of all places.

Another invasive that has been battled for years is Burdock. This tiny, colorful fly looked even tinier on a huge leaf.

Young American Robins are starting to show up on their own while adults keep a watchful eye.

Another view – this of the “island”.

Here are two more photos of the Yellow Warbler who, with Tadziu, brightened up my morning.

We are still cool with lows in the 50’s, which is very comfortable to me, but it looks like temperatures will start to heat up next week. We have been getting some rain, but I wonder how much we will get later. I think we are still making up for last year’s drought. I’ll be back.

McGinnis Magic

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.

It’s really dry..

Not a lot of swallows that day but I managed to capture this Tree Swallow.

Not sure I have seen these Irises here before. Nice.

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.

Mid-July

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!

Return to The Other Goose Lake

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.