Robins and Red-Wingeds

RWBL 6-30-18-5698The heat is here and now more than ever the object of the game is to get up and out as early as possible, before it becomes unbearable. Birds are uniquely qualified to hide in the trees and stay cool that way. But it seemed like I was at last seeing numbers of American Robins and Red-Winged Blackbirds the last time I visited the Portage.

AMRO 6-30-18-5821I didn’t see any adult Baltimore Orioles but there were a couple youngsters like the one below, who was busy trying to take care of all those feathers.

BAOR 6-30-18-5770And in the same color scheme, there were a few Monarch Butterflies making their way through the patches of milkweed.

Monarch 6-30-18-5827A young rabbit paused on the trail.

Bunny 6-30-18-5943And the Indigo Buntings are quite numerous, even if it’s hard to find them. The hen below is showing off her prize which I’m sure she delivered to hungry nestlings.

 

I heard more males singing than I saw but I did manage to pluck this image out of the backlighting. The bird on the right looks more like a juvenile than a female.

 

The Great Egret was more visible this time, if still at quite a distance.

GREG Portage 6-30-18-5831I followed this Green Heron when it landed in the tree, only to realize its partner had been there hiding in plain sight all the time as two herons took off a moment later.

 

Perhaps my best find was an Orchard Oriole I could photograph. I have been seeing one or two but never long enough to take a picture. This bird was busy preening as well. Sorry to take advantage of the bird’s down-time but it seems like the only way to spend time with the summer residents.

 

The male and female Brown-Headed Cowbirds below were in the same tree but too far away from each other to catch together. On the way out of the parking lot later I saw four more cowbirds foraging in the grass.

 

Neither one of the photographs below, of a Great-Crested Flycatcher, are very good since he was partially hidden behind a twig, but I was glad to hear him and see him after I walked over by the railroad tracks to see if there was anything going on at all on the Des Plaines River.

GCFL 6-30-18-5886

GCFL 6-30-18-5871

Great-Crested Flycatcher

An inadvertent flying robin.

AMRO 6-30-18-5944And the Orchard Oriole taking off.

OROR 6-30-18-5804I have tentative plans to go out early on the 4th if possible, but rain and thunderstorms seem to be in the forecast and that might stop me. It’s awkward to have a day off in the middle of the week, but a day off is a day off. Rain might actually be good enough to quell local firecracker explosions.

 

Goose Lake Prairie and Copley Nature Park

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

I don’t know what it is about Goose Lake Prairie, but I like going there, so that was my destination on the Fourth of July. I didn’t get out as early as planned but after the hour-plus drive I was walking the gravel trail from the Visitor’s Center around 7:45 AM. The Visitor’s Center is always closed on the Fourth of July. One of these days I’ll have to go when it’s open.

Pollen Orgy: Bee in the Bergamot

Pollen Orgy: Bee in the Bergamot

Not seeing a lot of bees these days so I try to pay attention when I do. This bee appears to be virtually bathed in pollen. I think it’s the little hairs on the flower petals that make it look that way. Click on the picture to see.

The first bird I managed to photograph was a Common Yellowthroat. From the coloring it looks like a juvenile.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Female Common Yellowthroat 7-4-14-0520

But there were still plenty of males singing on territory, like the one below. A sample of his song is in the link between the pictures. You might also hear a Song Sparrow and an Eastern Meadowlark singing in the background of the recording: the Common Yellowthroat is the one singing in triplets.

Male Common Yellowthroat

Male Common Yellowthroat

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Common Yellowthroat 7-4-14-0569

I also saw a male Northern Harrier soon after I started out, but only because it had been chased into and then out of a tree by a flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds. It was the only raptor I had until I saw a Turkey Vulture from the car as I was driving away.

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Below, some of the many juvenile Red-Winged Blackbirds hanging out in groups.

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbirds

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbirds

The Tree Swallows below were probably too far away to photograph, but I like the tandem effect of this picture anyway.

Tree Swallows

Tree Swallows

For the record, here’s a juvenile Song Sparrow. I could not seem to locate the adults that were singing.

Juvenile Song Sparrow

Juvenile Song Sparrow

This is the time of year when anything that flies catches my eye. One thing I’ve noticed is the different dragonflies as they occur in different habitats. Butterflies, anywhere, are entirely another matter; they seem to be scarce and do not like to be photographed except from far away.

Widow Skimmer Male

Widow Skimmer Male

Female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

Female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

The other prominent singer yesterday was a Dickcissel. The bird below eventually tolerated my presence so I could get these pictures. One version of his song is in below his pictures.

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

Dickcissel 7-4-14-0833

Although the weather was relatively cool starting out, the sun was hot and by 10:00 a.m. or so I felt I had probably seen all I was going to see. It’s not the kind of place you want to go off trail.Hunting Sign 7-4-14-2356

Hunting Sign 7-4-14-2367

I decided to stop by Lake Renwick on the way back home, which has a heron rookery. There is a small viewing area at Copley Nature Park, accessible from Route 30 at the edge of Lake Renwick. Lake Renwick rookery itself is closed during the breeding season. This is another place I need to check out when it’s open for business.

A distant family of Great Blue Herons tempted me to shoot a few fuzzy pictures.

Great Blue Heron Nest, Lake Renwick

Great Blue Heron Nest, Lake Renwick

Great Blue Nest Lake Renwick 7-4-14-0895

And birds flying by, like this Double-Crested Cormorant, with its distinctive silhouette.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

Perhaps the most numerous species of the day besides Red-Winged Blackbird was Eastern Kingbird. There were many at Goose Lake and several at Copley Nature Park, this one being particularly cooperative.

Eastern Kingbird Lake Renwick 7-4-14-0950

In case I had any doubt about the heron rookery, this Great Egret flew overhead after I had been out of the car only a few minutes.

Great Egret Lake Renwick 7-4-14-0885

Oh well, one more early morning and then it’s back to business as usual. I’m joining Chicago Ornithological Society at Bartel Grassland in Tinley Park tomorrow. It’s an early start and an hour’s drive away, so I should be turning in very soon. After three days off I feel like I’m just beginning to get the hang of it. Being off, that is.

Today also marks my third year blogging with WordPress. I feel like I’m just beginning to get the hang of that too. Thanks to you all for making it fun! 🙂

As The Snow Melts

Chicago Portage 3-23-2014

Chicago Portage 3-23-2014

Not quite “As The World Turns” — but the passage of time lately seems about as slowly evolving as a soap opera. And it did snow last night. But there are still signs of spring,

Song Sparrow on the sidewalk at 155 N. Wacker on 3-20-14

Song Sparrow on the sidewalk at 155 N. Wacker on 3-20-14

Not all the signs of spring are inspiring, such as finding my first dead migrant, the Song Sparrow above, on the sidewalk, but for the most part, there is cause for celebration.

Northern Cardinal, Millennium Park

Northern Cardinal, Millennium Park

The first fragile days of spring are upon us and while winter has not yet loosened its grip, the birds are arriving and getting down to business, claiming their territories for nesting. The days are getting longer and the wait for warmer weather is nearly over. I hope.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

My first-of-year (FOY) Red-Winged Blackbird (in Illinois) was last Thursday, the same day I found the Song Sparrow, and the same location, 155 N. Wacker. But the bird was backlit and light was poor, so I waited until I went out Sunday to photograph this RWBB at the Portage, where he was joined by at least a dozen more males setting up their territories. A song sample is below.

Chicago Portage 3-23-14

Chicago Portage 3-23-14

All I could see was frozen water, but several pair of Canada Geese saw nesting spots. The pair below, in particular, proclaimed their territory quite loudly. You can hear them by clicking the arrow below the picture.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

Adding to predictable spring arrivals, the Red-Bellied Woodpecker (although Red-Bellieds have wintered here for the most part) at the Portage on Sunday and the Common Grackle at Millennium Park on Friday.

American Crow

American Crow

Crows have been here all winter too, of course, but they seem to have a little more spring in their flight.

Crow with Peanut 3-21-14 7157.jpg-7157

American Crow with peanut

 

Even the commonest Rock Pigeon is all decked out for rebirth. I learned to tell Blue Bars from other color morphs years ago when I tried to monitor Chicago Loop Pigeons for Cornell’s citizen science project. But I found it hard to keep up with them, and then the crows distracted me…

Blue Bar Rock Pigeon

Blue Bar Rock Pigeon

Here’s our noisiest goose couple again. I like the way everything seems to be leaning to the right…

C Geese 3-23-14 5785.jpg-5785

I hope to be back with more from Belize very soon.

In Search of Shorebirds

Peeps2 1I2A1182

Shorebirds are not confined to the shore. Indeed, any place where water accumulates and then recedes creates an instant migratory shorebird feeding ground. But the birds are often very far away from wherever you have stopped to observe them. Unless you are lucky enough to find a deserted beach where you can hide behind something, chances are you will be looking at shorebirds either on a remote sandbar or, inland, across quite a distance.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

On Sunday morning, I joined a joint-sponsored Chicago Ornithological Society/Evanston North Shore Bird Club event led by the venerable local birder par excellence Walter Marcisz. The destination was the sludge ponds at the Calumet branch of the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The field trip was prearranged months ago and required background checks of all participants, since this is government property, not a designated birding hotspot.There was a decent variety of birds, although nothing out of the ordinary except for three beautiful Black-Bellied Plovers. But due to the nature of the location, cameras were not allowed. So the two shorebird pictures you see here were taken last weekend at Chautauqua or Emiquon. At least I got a good picture of the Emiquon sign.

Sign 1I2A1230

If I was ever unsure about Pectoral Sandpipers I have made up for it this year already; everywhere I have been there have been several.

Pectoral Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpipers

There were other birds too last weekend, like this Northern Rough-Winged Swallow.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

And an Indigo Bunting who would have qualified for my previous post about blending in.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

In any event, the sludge pond trip left me far south enough to cut west over to McGinnis Slough. Even though it was by then mid-day, it seemed prudent to check it out. The Swamp Rose Mallow is in full bloom now.

Rose Mallow

Swamp Rose Mallow 

Periodically, flocks of blackbirds would rise up from the marsh where they were no doubt feeding alongside shorebirds I could not see. There were also huge flocks of Chimney Swifts but I was at a loss to photograph them adequately.

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Chimney Swifts

Chimney Swifts

Further south I was delighted to find the Sandhill Cranes, possibly the same birds from a couple weeks ago. There were again three, but only two fit in one picture frame. All that brown stuff on the ground is dried up pond lilies, which completely camouflaged smaller birds feeding in it.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

So our weather has changed from cool, cloudy and rainy to hot and dry in little more than a week. Much of my time for blogging has instead been spent watering my front yard. More about that eventually (assuming watering and praying for rain works).

McGinnis in the Rain

Rain, rain...

Rain, rain…

Let me get the disclaimer over with. I planned on posting last night but my laptop apparently decided I had been taking it for granted, perhaps after hearing the washing machine had decided Saturday morning that it had had enough too. But it hasn’t been all bad. I took off from work on Friday because I had a ticket to Steely Dan at Ravinia and there was really no way I could envision driving that far after working half a day. I was also rationalizing I could make up for not birding last weekend after the water heater staged its own rebellion.

Stormy Sky

Stormy Sky

Friday, the forecast was for scattered thunderstorms, but you can never tell where they’re going to scatter, so I got up as early as I my body would allow, and I managed to get to McGinnis Slough at 7:10 AM, whereupon a little rumble of thunder turned into a downpour. I sat in the car and waited for it to stop. Which it did, and then it started again. I must have gotten in and out of the car five times before I finally managed to take off for more than a few feet. And even then I had to stop and open up the umbrella. McGinnis got a good soak.

Rain starts again...

Rain starts again…

I think she might have stayed for the photo if the rain hadn’t suddenly picked up again…

Blackbirds drying off

Blackbirds drying off

When it seemed like I might yet be able to see a few birds, I took the shortest route to the south end of the preserve, stopping to admire the first Rose Mallow blossoms.

Marsh Mallow - not "Rose" - I'm hearing "Rose Darling" by Steely Dan...

Rose Mallow. But I’m still hearing “Rose Darling” by Steely Dan…

I wasn’t seeing as many birds as I heard, Marsh Wrens and Song Sparrows singing in between cloudbursts, Blue Jays calling from everywhere. But then I heard something different yet quite familiar. Sandhill Cranes. I followed the sound and found a pair of Sandhills and two young Great Blue Herons. Only one heron fit in the frame with the cranes.

Sandhill Cranes with a Great Blue Heron

Sandhill Cranes with a Great Blue Heron

A closer view of the cranes.

Sandhills  8-2-13 1I2A0800

There was a break in the clouds, finally, so I ventured to the farther, northernmost side, where there were predictably a lot of Great Egrets. This group constitutes perhaps a third of the total I counted.

Great Egrets

Great Egrets

And one managed to fly by ever so slightly closer.

Great Egret 8-2-13 1I2A0829

I left shortly after the sun was finally starting to shine, almost three hours later. When I got home I was a bit dismayed to find it had not rained at all on my garden while I was gone. But the quiet of McGinnis with the rain stayed with me and served as the perfect meditation to take a slow day off, nap, do a few chores and then go to Ravinia. Fagan, Becker and the excellent musicians that share the stage with them delivered another memorable concert. I have been singing their songs ever since.

Great Egret 2 8-2-13 1I2A0830