Summertime Citified Crow Post

Flying Crow 07-11-17-1101Tuesday afternoon, before the rains came, I got a chance to go to Lake Shore East Park and visit with the Crows. There were two fledglings present. I expected to see them because I had already seen my first fledgling crow while sitting in the office last week: the Fire Escape Crow was taking one of its youngster for its first trip to the zoo, meaning the fire escapes that go up the sides of two buildings facing each other in an alley. If you are a Crow, you can hop from one level to the next and watch the people in cages inside.

So I had preening and flying Crows at Lake Shore East Park, and of course we had peanuts, but I was most intrigued by these two very young-looking fledged kids who were pretty quiet, a lot of just checking things out with those big blue eyes.

And it was nice to get a couple flight shots, seems to be easier now that I finally figured out the back button auto focus, I barely tried. Love when the feathers look like they’re dripping down.

On the way back from Lake Shore East I caught a Red Admiral on a flower in Millennium Park.

Red Admiral 07-11-17-1116And the cicada below was sitting on a wall underneath the locust trees still left after the Maggie Daley remodeling. It almost looks like a fledgling to me.

Cicada 07-11-17-0986One more Flying Crow shot almost out of the frame.

Flying Crow 07-11-17-0992Lots more coming when I get around to it. It’s a toss up these days as to where one spends more time, between sweat and air-conditioning. ūüôā

Inertia (aka Summer Doldrums)

Female Tiger Swallowtail Yard 7-19-15-1137Spoiled by earlier dramatic fluctuations in temperature which at times were chilly, I find myself now wiped out by the heat and humidity, albeit expected weather but nonetheless daunting. The only way to avoid overheating is to remain motionless. I did as much of that as possible on Saturday.

However Sunday morning was sunny, so I felt compelled to see how things are going at the Chicago Portage. Construction persists. Access to the trail entrance that heads west is still blocked, but both bridges are open again, which made it easier to take the loop on the other side of the creek back to where I started. On the way out, my eye caught a sign that referred to¬†construction of a “new” shelter being among the improvements. I am unaware of there ever having been an old shelter, so this will be interesting. Maybe I’m reading too much into the word “new.”

Construction Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7581

Going in from the west makes it difficult to photograph anything early in the morning. But I could not resist a cooperative Indigo Bunting.

INBU Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7603

After that for a while it was simply making a record of what I was seeing, even if the picture wasn’t perfect. The¬†distant Great Blue Heron below took off about ten minutes after I took this picture.

GBHE Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7649

There were two Killdeer skittering about in the duckweedy mud.KILL Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7706

KILL Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7731Also on the other side where I would eventually wind up, a young deer had come down to drink. I have seen deer before but never one so young, alone. I seemed to be catching the last gasp of the early morning activity, which was heartening considering I took my time getting out the door.

Deer Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7678Just about when I started wondering what had happened to all the Baltimore Orioles I saw this young or female bird.

BAOR Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7809

The Red-Winged Blackbird below appeared to have had enough of the heat and humidity.

RWBL Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7793Of course just when I think I’ve seen everything I’m going to see or have been unable to get pictures of something ephemeral like the glimpse of a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, a surprise occurs. Walking by a large tree at the edge of the water, I saw something huge¬†move in it, determined¬†it couldn’t have been a giant squirrel but had no idea. Then the tree exploded with three large birds scattering in all directions. This turned out to be¬†the Green Heron roosting tree. And one of their offspring flew to a perch in the middle of the water where it sat in surprise for several moments.

GRHE Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7853GRHE Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7870The other great surprise was to run into a human being. Specifically a young man on his bicycle who asked me if there were many birds at the Portage. It then turned out that he was interested in finding out more about birds. What an absolute delight to have been present for him to quiz me on what direction he could take. I sincerely hope he follows his interest. I restrained myself and did not warn him of the addictive nature to this activity. Probably understood anyway if he at all sensed my passion. This is the magic of the Portage for me. I literally never know what to expect.

I should also know better than to expect anything. I was hoping to see butterflies, so I carried around the second camera and lens in my backpack and never took it out. Virtually no butterflies Sunday morning. There were a few dragonflies, but I was unmoved.

But Sunday afternoon seemed to bring butterflies into my garden. The Red Admirals outnumber all the others but at least there were a few more species.

Red Admiral Yard 7-18-15-1111

Red Admiral

Monarch Yard 7-18-15-1113

Monarch Butterfly in swamp milkweed. I can’t believe I managed this shot with a 100mm closeup lens from quite far away.

The swamp milkweed has taken over two areas of the yard. I keep hoping, as in Plant It And They Will Come.

Swamp Milkweed Yard 7-18-15-1085One more picture from the Portage below: an Eastern Kingbird. The background looks like another planet to me.

EAKI Chicago Portage 7-19-15-7746

Eastern Kingbird Fantastical Portage  7-19-15-7748The weather is improving, and I will slowly pull out of inertia into the sunshine.

Three Weeks: Chicago Portage

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Chicago Portage, 5-25-15

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Chicago Portage, 5-25-15

Back on the 10th of May I was at the Chicago Portage and counted 52 species. On the 17th of May, visiting with two friends, we counted 35 species. This afternoon, after gale winds in the morning and some rain, I went over to see what was up and counted 29 species.

Chicago Portage 5-10-15

Chicago Portage 5-10-15

Cape May Warbler, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Cape May Warbler, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Eastern Phoebe, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Eastern Phoebe, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Three weeks ago was the height of spring migration, and already by last weekend it was slowing down.

Canada Geese at the Chicago Portage 5-10-15

Canada Geese at the Chicago Portage 5-10-15

CAGO Chicago Portage 5-17-15-2361

Gosling, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15

Last week the goose family had dwindled to four goslings and today I was told by a woman I talked to on the trail that they were down to three. I did run into the geese today, but they were foraging in the grasses and I did not want to bother them, as they were pretty well hidden. So I am taking her word for it.

Red-Eyed Vireo, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Red-Eyed Vireo, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Lincoln's Sparrow, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Veery, 5-10-15

Veery, 5-10-15

The Red-Eyed Vireos are still present and singing, so they probably breed here, but all the thrushes except for American Robin have left, and the sparrow species as well. There was quite an influx of Veerys this year, I don’t usually see them.

WCSP Chicago Portage 5-10-15-0022

White-Crowned Sparrow, 5-10-15

GRHE Chicago Portage 5-10-15-9934

Green Heron, 5-10-15

But as the last of the sparrows were getting ready to leave, the Green Herons were returning. I believe there are two although I have not yet seen them both on the same visit. I think they also hang out at Ottawa Trail Woods which is also where we went last weekend. I have included a few pictures here are from Ottawa Trail Woods, as it is basically part of the same ecosystem.

SOSA Chicago Portage 5-10-15-9921

Solitary Sandpiper, 5-10-15

SPSA Chicago Portage 5-10-15-9908

Spotted Sandpiper, 5-10-15

Spotted at the Chicago Portage 5-10-15-9854

Spotted Sandpiper at the Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

On the 10th I saw both Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, not on sandbars or mudflats but on dead wood in the water. The water levels were a bit lower though. I have not seen or heard any shorebirds since.

SCTA Chicago Portage 5-10-15-0145

Scarlet Tanager, 5-10-15

The Scarlet Tanager above basically flew down and sat right in front of me. I was so surprised I barely got his photograph.

YRWA Chicago Portage 5-10-15-0389

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Myrtle female, 5-10-15 – You cannot see the yellow rump but this is the first year I have noticed they also have yellow on the crown

YEWA Chicago Portage 5-10-15-0350

Yellow Warbler, 5-10-15

The only warblers willing to pose were the most common ones. The Yellow-Rumped Warblers are gone, but the Yellow Warblers stay for the summer.

Chicago Portage 5-17-15-2312

Chicago Portage, 5-17-15

INBU Ottawa Trail 5-17-15-2379

Indigo Bunting, Ottawa Trail Woods, 5-17-15

BASW Chicago Portage 5-17-15-2243

Barn Swallows, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15

BEKI Portage 5-17-15-2256

Female Belted Kingfisher, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15

Indigo Buntings are everywhere. I have not seen the females yet but the Portage has at least four males singing on territory. I have also seen many Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Northern Rough-Winged Swallows.

Chicago Portage 5-25-15-3512

Chicago Portage, 5-25-15

BAOR Chicago Portage 5-25-15-3661

Baltimore Oriole, 5-25-15

GRHE Chicago Portage 5-25-15-3640

Green Heron, 5-25-15 – Not as visible today as three weeks ago.

Eastern Kingbird, Portage 5-25-15 - There were two today, sallying for prey over the slough

Eastern Kingbird, Portage 5-25-15 – There were two today, sallying for prey over the slough

TRSW Chicago Portage 5-25-15-3534

Tree Swallow, 5-25-15

Red Admiral Chicago Portage 5-25-15-3562

Red Admiral on a wildflower I have yet to identify – I should know it! But I have never seen it at the Portage before. Is this some kind of monarda?

I included the butterfly picture because to me it signals the end of spring migration and the beginning of summer, when butterflies and dragonflies vie for my attention.

WODU Chicago Portage 5-17-15-2349

Wood Duck, Ottawa Trail Woods, 5-17-15

I didn’t see any ducks today at the Portage. In years past there have always been a breeding pair of Wood Ducks, so I hope they are busy nesting.

A Mallard mom with eleven ducklings (they can't be all hers?)!

A Mallard mom with eleven ducklings (they can’t be all hers?)! (Ottawa Trail, 5-17-15)

I hope to be back soon with a short report on birds¬†in Berwyn. I just saw a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at my hummingbird feeders this evening, which gave¬†me the perfect reason¬† to clean and refill the feeders. While I was out in my¬†yard my neighbor appeared¬†and told me he saw the hummer yesterday! Maybe I’ll get a picture this year before September.

August at the Chicago Portage, Scene 2: Lepidoptera et al.

Comma

Comma

Saturday’s outing at the Portage continued, with birds here and there, but this post will concentrate on the butterflies who stole the show as the sun climbed more directly overhead.

The main draw was the Burdock blooms, which sometimes made walking on the narrow path narrower and a bit precarious. After all, Burdock was the inspiration plant for Velcro.

Second Year Burdock, Chicago Portage

Second Year Burdock, Chicago Portage

As it turned out I encountered two distinguished gentlemen on the path who, after asking me what I was interested in, announced they were into plants. They were happy to tell me the Burdock blooms were the second stage of the biennial plant, those monstrous huge leaves being the first year. I returned the favor by identifying the juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk from my previous post and the trouble it was causing the juvenile Green Heron. They went on to identify a few other plants for me, one of which I used on my picture of the now-named Heal-All in a previous post.

Burdock has an entire culture built around it, including medicinal and culinary uses, which don’t tempt me. But to see the butterflies and other insects enjoying the flowers gave me a new appreciation for what I previously wrote off as a pesky invasive.

Question Mark

Question Mark

Question Mark

Question Mark

The butterflies were all on the north side of the creek that runs through the Portage. I usually walk all the way around the south side first by crossing the east bridge, and then cross the west bridge over the creek and turn back toward the way I came only on the other side of the creek, which is where the burdock grew thicker and more and more butterflies appeared.

Upside-down Comma - is this now an Apostrophe?

Upside-down Comma – is this now an Apostrophe?

Comma

Comma

It was nice to have the swallowtails and the purple for comparison.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail – 8/23 update – Linda P things this is probably a female Tiger Swallowtail

Red-Spotted Purple

Red-Spotted Purple – at least I got this one right this time

Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

I am not convinced of my identification for the butterfly below but have not yet found anything else it resembles.

Golden Banded Skipper, I think

Most likely Silver-Spotted Skipper, according to Linda P

There were several dragonflies, unfortunately the most cooperative sitting on the gravel which makes a lousy picture. The White-Faced Meadowhawks are abundant this year.

White-Faced Meadowhawk

White-Faced Meadowhawk

Blue-Fronted Dancer

Blue-Fronted Dancer? Too hard to tell.

Not sure who this is

Not sure who this is, could be a female White-Faced Meadowhawk – Linda says they are hard to distinguish

Perhaps most fortuitous was the Red Admiral pictured below. First it landed on my pants, then on my sleeve, and I guess it knew I wanted a picture because it moved to the camera. I was loaded down with¬†¬†both cameras hanging on my shoulders and my binoculars, so the only option left was the cell phone. That’s how I got the three pictures below. The Red Admiral wasn’t going anywhere and I stood still as it kept investigating¬†my skin with its little proboscis, until I finally started moving again and it flew away.

Red Admiral on CameraRed Admiral on FingerRed Admiral on Hand

The bees were busy too.

Bee on Burdock

Bee on Burdock

I will be back to birds for a recap of Sunday’s return visit to the Chicago Portage.

Back in the Yard

Mining Bee Yard 7-26-14-3335

The last two Saturdays have been great mornings to work in the yard, last Saturday in particular as it was cool and cloudy, but I have slept in so that by the time I do¬†get out, the heat and humidity begin to creep in, and the day is replete with the rest of Saturday’s routine. But I have managed to¬†take a few more yard pictures before playing piano, swimming, grocery shopping…

The one bloom on the Swamp Milkweed was visited by a Monarch Butterfly last Saturday. I saw the Monarch again yesterday but it did not stay, only flying over the entire yard and right past me a few times, I suppose because the one milkweed blossom is spent and there was little else of interest. Next year, I promise, will be different.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed Yard 7-26-14-3228

Milkweed Yard 7-26-14-3420There were two Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in the purple coneflowers last Saturday. They wouldn’t pose together but this one was available.

Tiger Swallowtail Yard 8-2-14-2002

And yesterday I finally managed to get a Red Admiral to cooperate.

Red Admiral Yard 8-2-14-2029 Red Admiral Yard 7-26-14-3380

Young birds are now in the yard in droves. Last Saturday, they were still begging a lot.

Juvenile House Sparrow

Juvenile House Sparrow

Juv House Finches Yard 7-26-14-3197

Juvenile House Finches

Juv House Finch Yard 8-2-14-2127

Juvenile House Finch

Adult Male House Finch

Adult Male House Finch

Last Saturday I had the windows open and heard Chipping Sparrows in the yard. I could not photograph them outside, as they were right by the back door and I would have scared them away, but I managed to get a few pictures through the kitchen window.

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

I suspect there is more than one pair breeding in south Berwyn.

Chipping Sparrow Yard 8-2-14-2086

Adult Chipping Sparrow

Someone else I can only photograph through the window, as she is well attuned to the squeaks of my back doors…

Cat Yard 8-2-14-1982

I discovered this spider last weekend in a shady spot.

Garden Spider Yard 7-26-14-3302

Garden Spider

The front yard is more established this year, one year after its planting. This is the main section, the other smaller portion being on the other side of the front walk. I have seen butterflies now and again but the biggest hit lately was the Sweet Joe-Pye Weed: the bees were literally bathing in it. But this weekend it’s looking rather spent and frazzled. I watered it last night and am hoping we get some rain.

Front Yard

Front Yard

Bee in the Joe-Pye Weed

Bee in the Joe-Pye Weed

I seem to have two types of cardinal flower. The first photograph is from the ones that have been in the backyard for years, and the second from the new one in the front.

Cardinal Flower Yard 7-26-14-3438 Cardinal Flower Front Yard 7-26-14-3496

Below is a plant that mystifies me. I have no idea where it came from but it planted itself between two bricks. I don’t recall if it flowered last year but this year it has done a nice job. Even if it is an invasive, it doesn’t appear to be spreading. It’s in one shady spot under the hawthorn. If anybody knows what this is, please let me know.

I don't know what this is but it is growing between two bricks for the second year in a row

I don’t know what this is but it is growing between two bricks for the second year in a row

I thought there was something a bit different about this fox squirrel. For sure, it’s a she. The one I am¬†used to seeing all the time has been a male. She is a bit shy, but every bit as polite as he is.

Female Fox Squirrel Yard 7-26-14-3268 Foxy Lady Squirrel Yard 7-26-14-3447

Invariably dill comes up here and there in the yard. I thought I planted some this year but it didn’t come up where I put it. Nevertheless a few plants have managed to grow and I leave them hoping they will attract female Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies to¬†lay eggs. I was very happy to see this caterpillar yesterday. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen one of these in the yard. I’m going to plant more dill for next year too.

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on dill

Eastern Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on dill

I did manage to¬†work in the yard even though it was nearly midday: it wasn’t buggy and my trees keep me cool. At any rate, it’s looking a little tamer I suppose because we haven’t had too much rain lately so the weeds actually stay pulled for a while. I think I will start photographing and cataloguing all the weeds before I yank them out next weekend, in part because I see them often enough elsewhere, and in the process of looking them up I will learn about others. I know a lot of them by sight but have forgotten some of their names. The macro lens is making a nerd out of me.

I will be back later with a few photos from my weekend excursion.

 

Yard Work

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

When I write a to-do list, “yard work” is always on it somewhere, but unfortunately doesn’t get done often enough and just when I think I’m beginning to make the slightest dent in the weeds and overgrowth…it rains and everything grows back again. With a vengeance.

Blooms Yard 7-19-14-1566

When this past Saturday turned out cool and dry, I could not resist spending time in the yard, so I dug and pulled and trimmed and made somewhat of a dent in the weed cover. I should probably thin out the area by the back fence that has been taken over by Purple Coneflower, Evening Primrose, Goldenrod and Rudbeckia, but I haven’t yet. Especially when it’s crowded with bees and butterflies enjoying the flower forest. I stopped gardening and started taking a few pictures when the Tiger Swallowtail flew in to enjoy¬†the coneflowers. The Swallowtail and the Red Admiral must get some of their coloring from these flowers.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

The birds stay out of the yard when I’m in it so I had¬†a chance to pay more attention to the insects. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this pretty little fly before.

Tachina Fly Yard 7-19-14-2942

Tachina Fly

I have been fascinated by these little bees with the bright yellow on their legs for years and I think they must be Mining Bees.

Mining Bee Yard 7-19-14-2936

Mining Bee

Last year I was dreaming about planting milkweed so after I dug out all my butterfly bush that had grown for years by the north fence, I planted some milkweed seeds, but they never sprouted. However I have been noticing milkweed plants where I did not put them. I imagine¬†the birds heard I wanted milkweed and brought the plants to me. The ones in the first picture below are not blooming yet, but the second picture is of a Swamp Milkweed that had buds on it when I took the photograph. It finally had blooms this evening, so I will have to go back for another picture. I’m very excited about the Swamp Milkweed even though¬†I am puzzled why¬†it thinks my yard is a swamp.

Milkweed Yard 7-19-14-1561

Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed

I took too many pictures of the Swallowtail and he never completely opened up his wings for me, but I was happy to have him as my favorite subject anyway.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Yard 7-19-14-1543I haven’t managed to study the bumblebees yet,¬†but I am always happy to see them, they’re very friendly. Sometimes I find one curled up in a bloom overnight. I went out to fill the bird feeder one night this past week,¬†so I wouldn’t have to do it in the morning before work, and found a bumblebee tucked up underneath it. I left him to his slumber and filled the feeder in the morning.

Bee Yard 7-19-14-2928The Red Admiral didn’t open his wings for me either. Oh well.

Red Admiral Yard 7-19-14-2907We had beastly hot weather for a couple days and now we have cooled off again. I recall the same thing happened last summer. Strange weather pattern, but I love the cooler temperatures.

One more shot of the Swallowtail with sprays of orange-red pollen all over.

Tiger Swallowtail Yard 7-19-14-1494

The Three Bs

In music, The Three Bs are known as Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.¬†In Nature, I nominate¬†the 3 Bs¬†to be Birds, Bees and Butterflies. Sorry, Barracuda did not make the list this time (it was hard for me to write that without hearing Heart’s Ann Wilson in my head).

I took the weekend off from the pursuit of birds so I could get some extra sleep, take a more relaxed approach to household chores and work in the yard. The weather continues to be hot and dry, but rain was in the forecast and I envisioned something lovely like thunder and a downpour.

I found my¬†butterfly books so I could identify¬†the butterflies I got pictures of a couple weeks ago at¬†Lowden-Miller. Here’s a sample.

Eastern Comma

Red-Spotted Purple

Downtown in the park this week, after a brief rain, I saw this Clouded Sulphur. We usually get loads of Monarchs, but I have only seen a few this year, sporadically. It rained downtown on Wednesday, but not at home.

Clouded Sulphur

The drought we are in has the benefit of keeping mosquitoes away, but the pollinators have been scarce too. I thought I’d been missing a lot of bees, and¬†I dreaded another dry forecast.

Then yesterday I looked out my kitchen window and saw bees buzzing around in the sumac flowers.

There were also these tiny little bees in the rudbeckia. At least I think they’re bees. They may be something new that came in with the hot, dry weather. They have bright golden lower wings, but they don’t like the camera.

After working in the yard this afternoon, I was graced by the presence of visiting butterflies. First was this Eastern Black Swallowtail. He was somewhat ragged-looking.

Eastern Black Swallowtail

I was about to go inside when his cousin, a Tiger Swallowtail, flew right in front of me and began sampling the Purple Coneflowers. I engaged him in conversation as I grabbed the camera. I kept telling him how beautiful he was, how glad I was to have him visit, and he responded to my praise by letting me take more pictures of him than I have time to go through! I promised him I would keep watering the coneflowers, something I would never do in normal weather.

Tiger Swallowtail

A Red Admiral stopped by to show off too.

Red Admiral

The chance of rain this weekend has evaporated into thin air (sorry), but I’m glad I can still provide food for the Three Bs.