I think I will limit my posts to one-day experiences and work my way backwards in time since I won’t be taking m(any) pictures one-handed for a while…
The Red-Breasted Nuthatch at the top of this post was one of a few fall migrants I saw the last Sunday in August at the Portage. I regret missing seeing any birds the long Labor Day weekend save the ones in my yard, but I have rescheduled my first bird walk that was to have occurred on the 12th for the 19th, and hope to see many birds then, if not be able to chronicle their passage with photographs.
It’s always a pleasure to see somewhat elusive Swainson’s Thrushes.
I had a brief encounter with the Ovenbird above, after hearing his loud, cheery song. A few Downy Woodpecker photos below, and one of a Hairy Woodpecker for comparison…
I happened upon two Warbling Vireos disagreeing about something…
My last Baltimore Orioles of the season…
Below on the left, a bird hadn’t seen all summer, a Brown Thrasher. Also in the gallery, a Cedar Waxwing and a male Northern Cardinal.
My favorite fungus, a butterfly,and pokeweed berries…
A few more of the Red-breasted Nuthatch…
My last glimpse of Indigo Buntings – all juveniles…below.
Northern Flickers were abundant.
A small gaggle of geese flew over, and then surprised me by landing in the duckweed pond – I don’t know what else to call it at this point. I wondered if they were standing in it.
Scenes of the Portage.
And regulars are always welcome… American Goldfinch and Black-capped Chickadee…
My elbow surgery Friday morning went well. Courtesy of the hospital gown, the nurses showed me the immense bruise on my left upper thigh which confirmed the source of my pain upon standing and walking. I’ll be slowed down by my injuries for a while, but as I regain my strength I hope to return to this page more frequently. Thanks for making it this far with me. I treasure you all.
I started writing this post on Friday, after I took a break from the work email and made a trip to The Feed Store to stock up on birdseed, peanuts and spray millet for those inside and out. Working from home is so strange. In my head I am still working, but home has all its necessary distractions. I keep thinking I will have gotten used to it only when I have to go back to the office. It was still good to get out, and even better to get exercise moving everything into the house and the back porch. It was a chilly, gray day, but it is March, which my mother always used to refer to as the “adolescent” month, so I endure its changeability with her blessing.
Speaking of adolescents, I suppose the bird below could be called an adolescent Purple Finch. I am at a loss as to why I took so many photographs of it, but when in this plumage maybe the last thing I’m thinking is “Purple Finch” so it’s a reminder.
As I may have mentioned previously, I moved a lot of photographs off the laptop recently. Many were of winter scenes never shared, but I was tired of winter and it’s more than enough enduring this winter of the soul, so I have gone back to the remaining pictures from my trip to New Brunswick last August. And in that location at that time of year, there were a lot of in-between looking birds getting ready to make their first trips south for the winter.
I particularly got a kick out of this Yellow-Rumped Warbler. My friend Lesa tells me she has already seen some of these guys locally as they start to go back north. I could fantasize this was one of them.
I’m too lazy to go back and try to reconstruct exactly when we were wherever on August 20 but my notes say we were on the Salt Marsh Trail and Callendar’s Trail with a beach picnic area in Kouchibouguac National Park, which likely accounts for the shorebird images and others with wide open spaces for a background. We also visited the C. Irving Arboretum.
Thanks for stopping by and joining this visual journey. I will be back soon with more images from last summer. Spring is coming, and with it, hope for renewal.
I think fall must be my favorite season at the Chicago Portage. The birds blend in with the autumn colors, the leaves start to fall from the trees and then every once in a while a bird takes a quick leaf-like descent as well. This past Saturday, after my morning commitment to Thatcher Woods where we had scores of Yellow-Rumped and Palm Warblers, I decided to see what was up at the Portage. Below are two of perhaps 100 Robins…
Directly below, two Common Yellowthroats at Thatcher Woods.
I always take a picture of the water, such as it is, at the Portage to document how it changes from season to season…
There is water enough to bathe in as this female Red-Winged Blackbird was finding out.
Red-Winged Blackbird (male)
The Yellow-Rumped Warbler below was at Thatcher Woods…
And the Palm Warbler below was at the Portage.
Tennessee Warblers and Orange-Crowned Warblers often get confused in the spring but these two made it easier for me.
Orange-Crowneds always looks to me like they have a slight eye-ring.
I missed seeing a flashy male Black-Throated Blue Warbler this year but I’m glad to have found a female of the species, wearing her muted fall clothes.
Black-Throated Blue Warbler (female)
Blackpoll Warblers in their fall plumage are stamped permanently on my brain after a few years ago when there were many for several days at my old stomping grounds, Lake Shore East Park, so I was delighted to find this lovely individual.
At one point I encountered some workers who were taking down a tree. I spent some time talking to one while another was driving wedges into what was soon to be the stump. It turns out the trees were not birch but white poplar, which is an invasive species and that is why they were removing it. Come to think of it I don’t recall ever seeing a bird in those trees although they had become a landmark and I thought they were rather attractive. After I was given clearance to go beyond the workers, I grabbed two quick clicks in the distance as the tree fell.
For all the Robin activity there were only a few Cedar Waxwings…
My view from the first bridge at the Portage yielded a Mourning Dove and a House Wren.
I almost thought I had missed all the Indigo Buntings but there were still a few youngsters left.
Northern Cardinal (female)
I was delighted to see a Swainson’s Thrush if only for a moment…
Just starting to see Dark-Eyed Juncos, the harbinger of colder weather coming, I suppose. But after not seeing them all summer I am glad to have them back.
Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are coming through as well.
The Des Plaines was so low, this Great Egret was wading out into it quite a ways from the shoreline.
We had a lot of Northern Flickers at Thatcher Woods. Here’s one of them checking out a future home, perhaps.
Yes I am a Yellow-Rumped Warbler
And Monarch Butterflies are still migrating. I love the way the Poke Weed looks this time of year. I knew the birds were attracted to it but I guess the Monarchs like it too.
After hearing and rarely seeing Eastern Wood-Pewees all summer, it was nice to get good looks at this one.
This last photograph is of a Downy Woodpecker who was foraging low and obscured by the vegetation but I like the pastel colors.
More to come, I have three more Saturday bird walks, weather permitting. We seem to be entering a rainy spell but from the looks of the Des Plaines last week we can use it.
Before I left for downtown two Sundays ago, there was a young rabbit outside my front door between me and my car. There was also a very nicely kept spider web attached to one of my front stair railings.
This will be brief, as was my last warbler flock experience.
My first lakefront park stop was the area north of Buckingham Fountain.
I saw more warblers than I was able to photograph. In all, there were maybe 8 species. Above, Cape May Warblers, below, American Redstart.
Also available, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch…
Palm Warblers (above) dominated the flock. Across from all the activity was a fenced-in garden area where this transforming Northern Cardinal was feasting on seeds.
Northern Cardinal through a fence
Then there is the warbler below. I struggled over this ID but now I’m thinking it is a Cape May too.
I made my way over to Millennium Park and went up the stairs to Lurie Garden. The only warbler I found is below. Since it resembles nothing else, even though the mask is barely visible, it must be a Kentucky Warbler. It remained low in the foliage and everything else about it said Kentucky Warbler to me.
Below, one more of my best subject – the Palm Warbler enjoying a worm.
There was no noticeable activity elsewhere that morning, and it’s been slow ever since. A strange, fitful migration season. But I am grateful for whatever birds I have seen and hope they are making safe trips to their winter homes.
If I’d been thinking clearly I probably would have postponed the cataract removal until after fall migration, but I ventured anyway into the wilds of downtown Chicago after I convinced myself that with patience and practice I could temporarily look through the view finder on the Canon with my left eye… Anyway, I managed to find quite a few cooperative birds to photograph and have decided to share them now before I invite you back to the Galapagos. A couple more shots of the Chestnut-Sided Warbler below. Responding to my thoughts, as I’m taking pictures of him, of “what a beautiful bird you are.”
First-year male American Redstarts are always welcome.
Things didn’t seem to get really active until last week. There’s probably a whole lot more I could have done if I put my mind to it, but I’ll get my new prescription lens in a few days and with luck, all my kvetching will fade away. (Don’t hold me to it!)
Red-Winged Blackbirds breed in Millennium Park so these birds below likely hatched this year.
Below, a Canada Warbler on the left and a Wilson’s Warbler on the right, both at Lake Shore East Park a couple weeks ago. The Canada was shy.
Juvenile European Starlings in their in-between plumage, which I find fascinating. They look more like “Star”-lings to me. They’re not exactly migrants…unless they’re from another planet?
I wonder if the Common Grackle below could be a molting adult, without its long tail.
Magnolia Warblers have been coming through for weeks.
Not a lot of thrushes this year – sometimes they show up in large groups. A Gray-Cheeked Thrush that was at 155 N. Wacker on the left, and a Hermit Thrush on the right and below.
Two views of an Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Boeing garden, below.
Two Blackpoll Warblers…
Similar to the Blackpoll but a bit different this time of year, a Bay-Breasted Warbler. I think! Confusing Fall Warblers redux.
Two more Blackpolls below.
And now, signalling the tail end of warbler migration, Palm Warblers, below…
and Yellow-Rumped Warblers (Myrtle subspecies).
And the same two species in flight, Palm on the left, Yellow-Rumped (with the yellow rump showing), below. Note the similarities…and differences.
My prize discovery last week was a beautiful male Black-Throated Blue Warbler. I think we have been seeing more of this species the last couple years but it’s still not common and always special. Luckily this one liked to show off.
Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Golden-Crowned Kinglets are coming through but hard to capture in cloudy light. Or at least that’s my excuse.
On the 29th I saw this presumably female Wilson’s Warbler, below, at Lake Shore East Park, and am glad I had pictures to prove it to ebird – apparently it’s late in the season to see a Wilson’s. Others reported seeing them too, in the area.
I always look forward to the return of the White-Throated Sparrows. I have seen a couple other species too and I’m hoping to take some pictures of them this week.
The Black-and-White below appears to be a female.
A late Magnolia.
Red-Breasted Nuthatches are visible this year.
I have a new crop of juvenile Crows that look for me. We will hang out more over the winter months when there are no more migrants.
I had to run an errand on Friday all the way over to the river, and on the way back into the office, as I crossed the street at Wells and Madison, I heard a loud “caw-caw-caw.” I stopped and looked up but saw nothing. “Caw-caw-caw” again. I waited. People streamed by me on their way to wherever, I’m sure they did not hear the crow, and no one was curious about why I had stopped to look. Then, in the top branches of a locust tree planted in the sidewalk across the street, the crow moved. After we acknowledged each other’s presence, he was silent. I crossed the street to get a better look and he appeared to be fiddling with something dark but I can’t say what it was, a bat, shoe leather, hard to tell without binoculars. But how nice to be recognized by this super-intelligent creature. Made my day. 🙂
You’d think I’d be done with processing all those pictures from the two trips in Ecuador by now, and be happy to just get on with it, but there always seems to be an excuse presenting itself, like hot weather, work, fall migration, information overload, afternoon naps, imminent cataract surgery…
Scarlet Tanager female
Scarlet Tanager female
Although I haven’t done a lot of birding lately, it has been impossible to resist the inevitability of fall migration and the days getting shorter, signaling periodicity going on in the birds’ lives, and even if we’re not paying direct attention to it I suspect we’re all somehow getting ready to hunker down for the winter too.
Two weeks ago I was still seeing the female Scarlet Tanager above, at the Portage, but that was the last time.
Common Whitetail Skimmer
Common Whitetail Skimmer
These pictures, jumping around, are from a couple visits to the Chicago Portage, a few Chicago Loop migrants present last week, and yesterday morning when I went to Brezina Woods before it got unbearably hot. I think this spot may become a new hang-out place for me as the habitat at the Portage has changed so radically in the last year or two, I’m not sure if the birds will ever come back to it. I paid attention to all flying creatures when I was there this past Sunday and managed to get a couple pictures of butterflies and a dragonfly (above).
The leaves on the trees start to brown a bit and so do the birds. Fall plumages are sometimes challenging.
Blackpoll Warbler, Brezina Woods
Blackpoll Warbler, Brezina Woods
The youngsters are sometimes the only ones left to see. Below, from the Portage, a Song Sparrow on the left and an Indigo Bunting on the right. More views of the two species below them. The Buntings all look like their moms right now.
This is the time of year to see large flocks of Cedar Waxwings kibbutzing around the treetops and they have been present every time I’ve been out at the Portage and yesterday at Brezina. Juveniles in the smaller photos and an adult in the larger one.
Down by the Chicago River last week, a Ring-Billed Gull enjoys his perch on one of the last remaining rotting pilings. And the only bird in the Boeing garden nearby was what appears to be a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher below, after checking Crossley’s pictures as a reference, but empidonax flycatchers are hard to nail down unless they say something and this guy was silent.
At 155 N. Wacker on Friday, there was a Nashville Warbler.
Sunday’s visit to the Portage yielded a Tiger Swallowtail and a Monarch Butterfly. I have seen more Monarchs but not so many. What I haven’t seen hardly at all are the usually numerous Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and Mourning Cloaks.
Below, a couple more warblers from my visit to Brezina Woods. The hanging upside-down Redstart, below left, is a challenge to piece together.
Two more views of the Red-Breasted Nuthatch. It was a special treat as I got to see two individuals in the remaining black locust trees at the far east end of the Cancer Survivors’ Memorial, the only trees to survive the total decimation of what used to be Daley Bicentennial Plaza and is now Maggie Daley Park.
Last picture of the post below, an adult Cedar Waxwing at the Portage a couple weeks ago.
I’m looking forward to cataract surgery on my right eye tomorrow morning, because that’s the eye I use to focus the damn camera lens with, so I’m hoping for future sharper images!!
Last week, I visited Crabtree Nature Center in the far northwest corner of Cook County, Illinois. I went twice, to try for reported good views of a female White-Winged Crossbill, a species I have barely seen on a few occasions. The bird had been seen visiting the feeders, and others had taken nice pictures, so I wanted a memorable look.
Female and Male Downy Woodpeckers
I never saw the White-Winged Crossbill. Watching the feeders from the comfort of the warm nature center, however, was a mesmerizing experience. Birds came constantly to the feeders. If someone or something scared them off, they were back within seconds.
American Tree Sparrow
I am looking forward to returning to Crabtree to check out the trails later in the year. But for now I am going to just fill up the rest of this post with a few more pictures taken last week.
Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, House Finch and Northern Cardinal
The last couple weeks of fall migration, warblers and others have been following the sapsuckers as they drilled holes in the rows of homestead elms lining either side of the center “naturally planted” section of Daley Bicentennial Plaza. The birds are drinking sap from the wells drilled by the woodpeckers.
We are still seeing Orange-Crowned Warblers and Yellow-Rumped Warblers. The Yellow-Rump below was putting on quite a show when I took this picture last week: he kept hovering around his favorite saphole like a hummingbird.
The Tennessee Warblers like the one below are sometimes confused with Orange-Crowned, especially this time of year.
There have been a lot of Red-Breasted Nuthatches this fall, and the one below, drinking sap, is no exception.
Some of the first warblers noticed were Black-Throated Blues. Here’s a female, and below her, a male – although I did not get a picture of him drinking, it’s almost a wonder he let me photograph him at all. He behaved like a celebrity tired of paparazzi.
Female Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Male Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Cape Mays aren’t always cooperative either.
Cape May Warbler
I took several pictures of this Ruby-Crowned Kinglet yesterday, but the midday sun was brutal and I discarded most of them.
There could still be a lot of sapsuckers coming through…and following them, their fans of many colors and configurations.
But as the leaves disappear…so will these migrants.
The Chicago Portage has so much history it’s almost too much to think about. And yet if it wasn’t a historical landmark it probably would have been developed over by now. It’s adjacent to train tracks, the Chicago Metropolitan Water District, and Interstate 55, not to mention Harlem Avenue also known as good old Illinois Route 43. Instead of counting birds lately I find I’ve been keeping track of how many planes fly over while I’m wandering through; the Portage is also right in the flight path of Midway Airport.
But the planes roar overhead and when they’re gone, the remaining traffic noise seems almost benign by comparison. Whatever the ambience, there is still wildlife. I never thought of the duckweed as attractive, but this Canada Goose seems to be wallowing in it.
The pervasive scum lends a pointillist feel to the image of these Mallards below.
While I’m dabbling in impressionism, what about this Red-Breasted Nuthatch searching for hidden treasure in the dead leaves…?
A Red-Eyed Vireo came out for the sunlight that traded off with the cloud cover all morning.
There are little story boards displayed in a few places along the trail at the Portage, and I think one of them has a caption, “if these trees could talk.” Sometimes the trees do talk – they creak, sway and moan. What’s left of this tree has an enormous web attached to it, catching debris.
Finally, this Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker might be my favorite “painting” photograph, for the light on the bark and his back.
Perhaps the attraction I have to the Portage lies in the stark contrast between its cluttered wildness and the manmade mess that surrounds it.