Apologies for the bad pun. It’s been a busy, fragmented, hot week and a half or so. Also, the past weekend was one long party, with no birds in attendance. I am not used to being much of a social butterfly.
A moth casts a shadow at Lurie Garden
I haven’t been out much during the day either. If I didn’t know better I might think the crows have given up on me, but I suspect it’s lack of the quiet shady spots we used to have, where we could convene without a steady stream of human beings. Pigeons are much less picky about habitat but definitely not used to having their pictures taken.
On the days I have gone out, I have managed to keep amused. One bright spot, for instance, was finding some Monarch Butterflies in Lurie Garden.
There are other interesting pollinators too. I think the wasp below was more black than blue, but lightening it up made it interesting.
One afternoon last week standing outside the northern entrance to Lurie, I heard some earnest chirping and determined it was coming out of the small oak tree before me. There were a couple security guards talking to each other totally oblivious to the Robin’s nest I soon located.
American Robin nestlings
I suspect the Northern Cardinal below is a young bird as well because it seemed to know the peanut was for eating but was perplexed by it anyway.
On hot, boring days at Lake Shore East Park, as long as I could find a bench to sit on, I took to photographing the fountains.
Then a few days ago I was sitting in the shade across from the east side of the Pritzker Pavilion, waiting for crows, and the little bird below darted out of the yews. The shade was so dense it was hard to get a decent picture, but this is the first time I have seen a juvenile Ovenbird at Millennium Park at the end of July. I was so surprised I thought I was going to get a rare bird alert but Ovenbirds breed in this part of the continent so even though I think it was rare for Millennium Park it’s not unlikely. This is the same spot I heard a White-Throated Sparrow singing a couple weeks ago, which is rare, so maybe just going to sit in this spot isn’t such a bad idea. Crows or no crows.
Ovenbird, Millennium Park, 7-27-15
The greatest reward perhaps is still seeing Monarch Butterflies. I have seen fewer than 20 individuals this summer, at least two of them flying around the cement canyons of LaSalle Street. I hope the Swamp Milkweed is making them feel welcome.
I’m sorry it’s taking me so long to get back in the swing of blogging… I’m nowhere near halfway going through the pictures from my trip to Colombia. But I thought a few incredible hummingbirds might offset the disclaimer… To top it off, I’m ignoring chronological order.
Tourmaline Sunangel, Reserva Rio Blanco (adult male)
Whatever the reason these birds have evolved into such flashy specialists, you have to wonder if there really is any way to explain such intense beauty. I prefer to just chalk it up to the “Wow” factor.
Sword-Billed Hummingbird, Termales del Ruiz
I’ve seen a Sword-Billed Hummingbird before, likely in Peru, but not as well as at the feeders behind the restaurant/spa at Termales del Ruiz. While the hot springs were tempting, the hummingbird feeders were even more so.
Buff-Tailed Coronet, Reserva Rio Blanco
Buff-Tailed Coronets were everywhere at our first hummingbird heaven, the feeders at Rio Blanco, and yet they are beautiful even after you’ve seen so many of them. They also tended to pose nicely, perhaps because they considered themselves to be less conspicuous (safety in numbers).
Buffy Helmetcrest, Paramo, Los Nevados
The Buffy Helmetcrest was a Paramo target bird that proved easy to find the moment we got out of the vehicle that took us up to its preferred heights.
I don’t have much more to say at this point, except that perhaps Sunday I will manage to get through enough pictures to make more sense of the trip, seeing as how our weather forecast is for rain which makes yard work and birding less likely. So for the moment, I leave you with a few more pictures of these great birds.
I’ve had three months to think about my trip but of course reality never hits until I’m down to the wire. Procrastination is an ongoing and important process, however. As I try to clean and find things for the trip, which forces me to organize on one level, I run into the dilemma of where to put other postponed projects such as starting a life list in Excel or ebird, on another level.
My former neighbor spent the entire day Saturday routing out my kitchen sink…which pretty much took care of my whole day too, but I shredded papers until the machine would shred no more, and kept an eye on the birds who endured the noise, the house shaking, the comings and goings to the hardware store. Dudlee my Diamond Dove insisted on staying on her nest in the kitchen right above all the havoc. We’re not done with this project yet: when I get back we will get the catch basin cleaned out, something that likely has never been done since 1925. Apparently this is a common dilemma. A light bulb went off in my head when Abe described the process of removal of crud from the catch basin. It explained the evil stuff someone dumped behind my property a couple years ago in large plastic bags. I had “No Dumping” signs up for a while after that…Thankfully, the garbage haulers took it away. What do they do with this evil stuff? I’m not sure I want to know.
I still have to locate my sunglasses which I haven’t worn for at least 2 years, and I know I have several water bottle slings somewhere.
Then there’s all the extra stuff to remember to do like call the 800 numbers on the back of the credit cards, leave contact information with everybody, make sure the alarm company knows who to call if there’s an anomaly, set a timer on the stereo so the birds have music to fly by…
Packing itself is a major engineering feat. I have never had to pack so much in so little space, but I’m liking the challenge. There are some practical perks here. I won’t need anything fancy to wear for one special event, and although I am used to having the laptop with me it won’t be making this trip, but since I already got used to reviewing my pictures on the camera for three weeks in East Africa I should be able to get by for one week in Colombia. Not having to worry about the laptop is perhaps a blessing in disguise.
The cell phone will keep me connected, at times. And when it doesn’t, there is bliss in the realization that I am in the moment somewhere else on the planet and cannot be reached until I get back to the lodge, perhaps. A true vacation.
In case you’ve been wondering what any of this has to do with pictures of a Ring-Billed Gull with a peanut, I suggest the connection is no more than mutual exercises in futility. He stayed preoccupied with this peanut, since I also had crows in attendance who were enjoying them, for at least 10 minutes. His friend was unimpressed by it. Gulls can’t eat peanuts, but this one wanted to try. Alas, even after I shelled one for him he didn’t know what to do with it.
I hope to be back with one more post from my sporadic visits to the lakefront the past week, before I disappear for a couple weeks (trip time plus the aftermath). If I don’t manage one more post, thanks to all of you who have made it with me this far! 🙂
I was pretty sure the migrating Sandhill Cranes were on their usual schedule: flying over Monday-Friday, during banker’s hours, while I was stuck sitting in the office. Of course I read about them constantly on the IBET which added to my frustration. But the warm southerly winds that have been prevailing all week were going strong yesterday and I decided to visit McGinnis Slough, even though no one has submitting any ebird sightings since November, and then check back again at the Chicago Portage (I may do a post later, in my backward fashion, about last week’s visit which I never managed to publish).
Things are heating up almost everywhere, actually. At work, we’re busy. I’m getting ready mentally for my trip to Colombia which is only 12 days away. I’m meeting with my new bird care person who I suspect is falling in love with the birds, which is probably a requirement if you’re going to fuss over them as much as I do. And it seems to be taking more energy this year to get over winter, but I think that’s about to change.
Ice at McGinnis
McGinnis is still under ice. I took the scope with me just in case but ended up leaving it in the car. Nevertheless I had enough gear. I’ve been testing out my wide angle lens which was repaired last week (over a year since I dropped it in the steel-bottomed vehicle in Africa) because I figure it’s small enough to take with me to the Andes and it might be very nice indeed to have handy for a breathtaking vista or two. And I’m also using the extender on the Canon 100-400mm lens, to see just what it’s capable of. I’ll have plenty of time to return to playing around with the monster Tamron lens when I get back.
But crunching around on the frozen tundra produced a few of the most predictable early birds. I had already seen Red-Winged Blackbirds downtown in Lurie Garden so I knew they would be returning to their territories everywhere else. Song Sparrows may have even slightly preceded them. And Dark-Eyed Juncos? Did they ever leave? They have been here all winter, and predictably they disappear in the spring, but I wonder if some may hang out all year long.
Song Sparrow, McGinnis Slough
Dark-Eyed Junco, McGinnis
There were no Sandhill Cranes flying over McGinnis, probably because I expected them. Instead, flocks of Canada Geese, in their usual noisy fashion.
Canada Geese over McGinnis
As I mentioned earlier, I was at the Chicago Portage briefly last weekend. The dominant pair of Canada Geese was there at the time, laying claim to the ice. I suspect it’s the same pair I have seen there for years. In any event, I was a little surprised to see two tagged geese that I am sure I reported last fall – C011 and C016.
C011 and C016 at the Portage
I am not sure the pair pictured below is the dominant pair, as there were two unbanded pairs yesterday.
I was about done counting geese when the first flock of Sandhill Cranes flew over. I heard them coming first, but overhead they were silent.
Sandbill Cranes, Chicago Portage 3-15-15
But before I left, a fight ensued, with the dominant gander attacking C016, and the two banded geese left.
Canada Geese again later on the ice, looking triumphant and vigilant
As luck would have it, while all this was going on, a lone Sandhill Crane flew over quite low, and I think it might have landed if all the fracas wasn’t going on. It kept flying, I suspect to the low-lying parts of the adjacent preserve, Ottawa Trail Woods, where I haven’t been yet this year.
Sandhill Crane, Chicago Portage, 3-15-15
Other species at the Portage yesterday were also predictable and I didn’t get pictures of all of them, but I was a little surprised to see a beautiful Fox Sparrow. I’ve been seeing them more here the last year or so. They don’t breed here, though.
Fox Sparrow, Chicago Portage
White-Throated Sparrow. Chicago Portage 3-15-15
The White-Throated Sparrows likely won’t be sticking around either, but I wish I had more time to observe them. It seems to me their ranges have been expanding; I’m sure some were breeding on the Chicago Lakefront over the past few years.
American Robin – with a lot of unusual white on its wing
The year-round birds are getting ready, too. I saw some definite chases going on among the Black-Capped Chickadees.
Maybe the most interesting thing was this fungus that covered an entire downed tree trunk.
Today we are having one of those rare, sudden warm days, before the winds shift and the temperature plummets again – but I think we are through with the freezing temperatures. I hope!
This morning was beautifully sunny and clear, although a brisk north wind kept things rather chilly most of the morning. I started out kind of late, around 9:00 a.m., and went to the Chicago Portage to see if anything had changed.
There were more Tree Swallows than a couple weeks ago, perhaps a dozen or so. But there were no new birds. I had hoped to see at least a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, and maybe a few different sparrows. Maybe the wind was blowing from the wrong direction to bring in new migrants. I managed to get a few nice photos of the current residents anyway.
A couple Canada Geese got into a disagreement which caused the water to fly.
A Northern Cardinal was singing to the right of the path.
I heard Song Sparrows singing and finally found one.
And of course there were a lot of robins.
Around midday it was much warmer but the wind picked up. I went to McGinnis Slough to see some different birds. There were several species shared between the two locations such as Red-Winged Blackbirds, Black-Capped Chickadees, American Robins, Tree Swallows, House Finches and Mallards. Generally McGinnis has more water birds, although for the most part they are hard to photograph because they are usually too far away.
On the other hand, this Red-Winged Blackbird was more cooperative than the ones at the Portage.
I got lucky with this Great Blue Heron, one of seven I saw fishing in various shallows.
Great Blue Heron
There were perhaps 250-275 American Coots. This one was swimming around with something wrapped around its body. Looks like a water plant pulled up from a dive.
There were 20 or more Pied-Billed Grebes but they were too far away to photograph. As it is this Horned Grebe eating a fish it had caught is barely recognizable.
This might be the year I figure out digiscoping. Or not. There will always be birds too far away.
The minute it started to snow, I wanted to get a picture of the Black-Throated Blue Warbler downtown if he was still around, against the snow, my imagination seeing his slate-blueness dramatically incongruous against the white background, but it was not meant to be. The last time I saw him was Thursday when the storm started – he darted out from the bush hideout for a second or two and vanished. But while I was waited for him to show up again, there were other birds.
Indeed, the sparrows are making a killing on the food donations, intended for them but also intended to keep the Black-Throated Blue from starving to death. I had brought him dried caterpillars the first day but I think they got buried under the snow. The sparrows didn’t seem to know what to make of them.
another White-Throated Sparrow
So the question now is whether BT Blue took off for warmer climes, deciding correctly that snow was not part of his heritage, or if he is digging for bugsicles down in his bunker underneath a bush somewhere, ready to venture out only when the weather turns more hospitable.
Downy Woodpeckers don’t migrate, no matter how inclement the weather. They’re equipped to find food and they don’t feel threatened by a photographer.
Male Downy Woodpecker, Millennium Park
Friday when I got off the train after most of the snow had fallen, my attention was drawn to these bicycles.
Saturday I put up the last new feeder in the yard – my final response to the warning from the city that I am allowed only two feeders. Let’s see, with the peanut feeder, the hopper, the woodpecker suet feeder, the thistle feeder and three thistle socks, that makes 8 feeders. Perfect!
platform feeder - black oil sunflower seeds only
The Black-Capped Chickadee was the first bird to discover the platform feeder, followed by the House Finches. But here he is endorsing the Audubon feeder.
The House Finches are more numerous this year. I have four pairs, at least.
House Finches, two males and a female
This beautiful male is also endorsing the Audubon feeder.
Male House Finch
I haven’t seen any goldfinches all weekend, I don’t know what happened to them. I wish someone had told me there wouldn’t be very many this year, I would not have stocked up on thistle seed at the Chicago Audubon sale. I’ll have to find a cool, dry place to store it in the spring. In previous years it was all I could do to keep the goldfinch hoards happy.
The cardinals visit but they elude my camera. This was the best I could come up with last week, before the snow.
Male Northern Cardinal
There are four juncos who visit regularly. This is the first time I’ve seen one on the roof. Usually they’re foraging on the ground, but they were visiting the platform feeder too.
Here are four of the 23 Mourning Doves on the ground with a Grey Squirrel.
Mourning Doves and Grey Squirrel
And Lady Downy, as I call her, visits the new peanut feeder that is too small for the squirrels to hang on (hooray!). I think I’ll have to leave it out for her and Lord Downy this week, albeit in defiance of the city’s regulations, as we are promised more cold and snow. I’ll bring in the platform feeder and clean it, and maybe take down some of those less used thistle socks. But let’s hope the inspectors have something better to do than count the feeders in my yard. If only I could get them interested in counting birds (citizen science)!