Mirrorless Outings

Even before I dropped the Canon zoom lens, I was starting to feel like at times it might be more comfortable to go out with the mirrorless camera I purchased a few years ago and had stopped using when I was no longer going downtown to the office. Also I had never really figured out how to get the mirrorless to focus on a bird, so it was a good time to start practicing. These photos are from December 1 and 3, at the Riverside Lawn Trail. I have just figured out that the wooded area across the foot bridge that the county reclaimed which has eventually become part of the forest preserves is called Riverside Lawn.

In spite of the lack of light, I managed to get some fairly decent pictures with this camera. Some well spaced-out starlings were actually all in focus individually. It has a very efficient zoom that managed to get quite clear pictures of the Red-tailed Hawk below from across the river. Invariably I have been seeing a Red-tailed Hawk around 10:00 AM both here and at the Portage.

It must have been windy that morning.

Standing on the first bridge, I noticed a flock of American Robins and the European Starlings hanging out in the shallows and bathing. The camera did a good job capturing the action.

Below is a Hairy Woodpecker, which made four woodpecker species on the 3rd – I did not manage to get a picture of the Northern Flicker. A male Downy Woodpecker is in the second gallery, on the same pole.

And a female Downy Woodpecker.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I don’t always see Mourning Doves. But on December 3rd, I was standing just hanging out with the mixed flock and a total of eight Mourning Doves eventually showed up.

There are always a lot of Northern Cardinals, and I was lucky enough to figure out the focus on a few of them after many tries.

A Fox Squirrel and a Gray Squirrel.

For as many Dark-eyed Juncos as I normally have seen – up to 30 or more – they are incredibly difficult to capture more often than not. On the ground, they blend right in.

I can always count on Mallards and sometimes Canada Geese.

More dreary views, and the Rock Pigeons that seem to congregate on top of the Riverside Town Hall or the Hofmann Tower.

When it focuses, this camera is great for some really crisp images, so I look forward to using it more often, especially in low light situations. I hope I can get better at focusing all my equipment since I think my ability to determine whether I have the manual focus sharp is diminishing. In this case I gladly welcome artificial intelligence. A wasp nest caught my eye, and I have frequently seen the fungus at the bottom of one tree, which looks like it has been eaten.

I’ll be back shortly with my last visit using my old 100-400mm lens. It’s already proving to be an interesting winter.

Two Chilly Portage Mornings

I’ve been to the Portage several times lately, and that includes a few times since these photographs which were taken November 26 and 28. I managed to get a few pictures of an American Tree Sparrow, which was my main motivation to go out into the cold the second day. I will likely see more of this species in the coming weeks.In fact I saw three this morning. But it’s also been relatively quiet at the Portage lately.

For whatever reason it was harder to get the bird posing below in focus than the one mired in the stalks.

The usual cast of characters were present on one or both days. I was fortunate enough to have four woodpecker species on the first day: Red-bellied, Downy, Northern Flicker and Hairy.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

What’s really interesting about the photos below is that I didn’t realize until I started processing them that next to the Flicker on a separate branch was an Orange-Crowned Warbler. I enlarged the image of the warbler below.

This is Dark-eyed Junco season. I have been encountering flocks usually foraging on the path, along with Northern Cardinals.

There are still some American Goldfinches about all though not as many as I was seeing a couple weeks ago.

It’s always a nice surprise to see a Brown Creeper.

Here’s what the Portage was looking like on those cold, cloudy days.

I think the Fox Sparrow below is the last one I have seen.

There have been one or two Red-tailed Hawks every time I have gone to this location. Sometimes I only hear the hawk, but usually if I am still around by 10:00 I get to see one. This is a particularly dark-colored individual.

More washed-out Portage pics.

I usually see or hear at least one White-breasted Nuthatch.

Canada Geese on the Des Plaines River
Dark-eyed Junco

I hope to be back sooner than later. It’s getting harder and harder to pack a full day into the space of reduced daylight. I have been living with birds for a long time, but now that I spend even more time with them, the consequence could be thinking more and more like a bird!

Cloudy, Windy, Snow Later…

I was working on a post with photographs from last month yesterday…while indoors because of rain. This morning’s forecast was at least drier, but cloudy, windy, not promising for anything except the beginnings of snow, but what is definitely to be expected this time of year, so I went for a walk at the Portage just to see what I might find. Here are the clouds, fallen leaves, trees, a young buck and a couple birds I found. It was interesting nonetheless so I am bucking tradition here by posting in a more timely fashion…before I go back to history.

The clouds needed no enhancement as I imagined them full of cold, wet rain ready to turn into snow.

Leaves underfoot… and still many left on the trees.

Below is one of my favorite oaks exposed, having lost its leaves, but framed nicely by the golden-leafed tree behind it.

Much of the Portage looks less colorful.

There were perhaps 30-40 Canada Geese spread out in two groups.

I encountered this young-looking buck and we stared at each other for a while. The White-tailed Deer have not been at all skittish lately. Not that I want to get too friendly with them: apparently they have become carriers for the Covid-19 virus.

On my way out, a Red-tailed Hawk flew over the trees, identifying itself immediately with its call.

Earlier I encountered one very cold-looking Mourning Dove sitting on a branch high up in a tree by the water. Mainly this photograph is to illustrate how windy it was. For the most part, the other birds were in hiding. Even the woodpeckers. I heard a few but didn’t see any.

I will be back very soon with photographs from October… although there are plenty more from November. I hope you are adjusting well to the time change and the weather. Thanks for stopping by!

Early November at the Portage

I am sure I have heard a Tufted Titmouse at the Portage on occasion, but I have never seen one until, just as I was about to finish my walk on November 2nd, this one appeared. I had been hanging out with a Black-capped Chickadee and the titmouse insisted on having its picture taken instead.

Black-capped Chickadee

More photos of the Tufted Titmouse are below. In all there are way too any photographs in this post. I am trying to empty them off my hard drive so I can keep up with the present. And there are still pictures of the fall warblers from two months ago. Well. You get the picture.

Birds are moving in flocks now, which generally means you can go for a long time without seeing anything move and then encounter several individuals at once. Below is a flock of Cedar Waxwings.

The 1st was a bit sunnier than the second. Northern Cardinals are easier to see now than they were all summer. Even the females allow themselves to be photographed…as long as they are somewhat hidden and backlit.

Although there are lots of White-throated Sparrows, I don’t often see one well enough to get a picture. This one was a challenge.

Another White-throated Sparrow

One sparrow that has been showing up a lot since I took these first photos below is the Fox Sparrow. They are considerably larger than other sparrows and tend to just sit, so even though this one was behind branches, I could still capture it.

Black-capped Chickadee… and an American Goldfinch

House Finches blend right in to the browns and grays of fall.

Below is a Red-tailed Hawk.