Summer Urban Wildlife Update

Crows Cancer Survivirs 07-26-17-2343Not much going on with birds in the downtown parks these days. It is breeding season and occasionally I hear baby birds, see a youngster here and there, but the warm weather also brings out the tourists and I think the birds are keeping a low profile.

I am always happy to see my crow friends. But last week when I visited Lake Shore East Park, below is a picture of the first crow I saw. I am sure crows die on occasion but it is very unusual to see a dead one. I called Chicago Bird Collision Monitors first to see if there was any protocol, perhaps the state was still collecting crows to test for West Nile Virus, but they checked and called me back and they had no suggestions on what to do. I was surprised no one had found the carcass and removed it, given the workers who seem to be constantly maintaining the gardens. Although under a tree, the bird was in plain sight from the walk.

Dead Crow LSE Park 07-17-17-1784

I hope this isn’t Fuzzy.

A couple women walking by with baby carriages stopped to talk to me about the dead crow, they were concerned and sad to see it. Eventually I met a young woman named Tess who proved to be a crow soul mate and she promised to investigate who to notify as she lives nearby. She wrote me an email a couple days later saying she finally managed to tell one of the gardeners, as the management in her building had been clueless. Her description of the gardener’s eyes welling up with tears when she showed him the dead crow was touching. Tess surmised that the gardener was as fond of the crows as he seemed to be of tending the gardens. That explains to me why the crows chose Lake Shore East Park to raise their young, they feel welcome there.

In any event, the crow funeral gathering must have occurred a lot earlier because the two or three crows present with youngsters seemed to be going on with their lives, although I am quite certain they were aware of the corpse and the attention we paid to it. I am just hoping I have not lost an old friend, Fuzzy, who was hanging out with this bunch. I think Fuzzy was himself a juvenile only a few years ago.

Hot, sunshiny summer afternoons are good for butterflies, or at least they ought to be. I got lucky Tuesday with a Monarch at Lake Shore East Park.

Other birds finding ways to deal with the heat were the House Sparrows bathing in the fountain below…

HOSPs LSE Park 07-25-17-2142and Rock Pigeons preening in the shade or sun-bathing in the mulch.

Yesterday I didn’t get as far as Lake Shore East because the crows met me at the Cancer Survivors’ Garden instead. There was only one fledgling.

But while this fledged kid was more vocal than on other occasions, it was also learning to forage for itself. If you click on the pictures below, in the first one you can see it showing off a beak full of small worms.

Just as I was leaving the garden yesterday, a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly flew into the onion patch.

Tiger Swallowtail Cancer Survivirs 07-26-17-2401Here’s one more of the fledgling.

Fledge Crow Cancer Survivirs 07-26-17-2245

“So you’re that peanut lady.”

Fog Settles In

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Northern Cardinal outside my house this morning

Inertia beckons. The fog was thick on Thursday when I visited Millennium Park, but it was even thicker this morning when Lesa and I decided to try birding the Palos area.

dowp-mcginnis-1-22-17-6398

Downy Woodpecker, McGinnis Slough

McGinnis Slough was fairly quiet except for Canada Geese that kept flying over. We did see the outline of perhaps 500 or so in the water except we could barely make out their shapes in the fog. There were American Tree Sparrows on the ground not far from the parking lot.

We did manage to see several Common Mergansers at the south end of the preserve. The shot of the geese flying overhead gives you an idea of how foggy it was.

We drove over to the Little Red Schoolhouse to see birds at the feeders, if nothing else, and true to Lesa’s prediction, there were two Tufted Titmice.

We also had our only White-Throated Sparrow at the Schoolhouse. There’s an American Tree Sparrow behind it.

wtsp-little-red-schoolhouse-1-22-17-6504Perhaps the brightest feature at the Schoolhouse was the fungus growing below.

fungus-little-red-schoolhouse-1-22-17-6520Here are a few pictures from Thursday, downtown at Millennium Park. There are perhaps 20 or 30 White-Throated Sparrows distributed in several areas. Below are two that came for the birdseed I had brought with me.

American Robins are starting to show up here and there. They never really go completely away but they associate loosely in flocks in the winter.

European Starlings are returning too. They used to overwinter but the last few years I have noticed their absence, so they must be migrating a bit for a while.

eust-millennium-1-19-17-6359Those tough year-round city natives, Rock Pigeons, are always somewhere in the Loop. Below, two pied pigeons.

Individually they’re really unique. But I have to be careful not to pay too much attention to them or they’ll think I’m going to feed them.

pied-pigeons-millennium-1-19-17-6380This Robin was interesting too. How much color can I get out of any bird in this light?

amro-millennium-1-19-17-6341The forecast is for cooler temperatures, rain turning to snow, winter isn’t over yet. But this week I heard some bird song from a Black-Capped Chickadee, an American Robin and a Northern Cardinal. That gives me hope.

A Change in the Weather

Fog 6-25-14-2013

The weather in Chicago is nothing if not interesting. We seem to be repeating some of the pattern established last summer: extremely hot weather followed by a cool spell, usually following some thunderstorm activity. Last week the effect of all this was one spectacularly foggy morning in the Loop.

Fog 6-25-14-2018-2On the Way In 6-25-14-2015

By the time I got to the Thompson Center, the pigeons were hanging out on the Jean Dubuffet sculpture which looks like it was made out of paper mache. It’s big enough you can walk inside it, between its “legs.”

Pigeons on the Dubuffet sculpture at the Thompson Center

Pigeons on the Dubuffet sculpture at the Thompson Center

Pigeon on the Dubuffet 6-25-14-2026The lack of green space takes its toll on me and the birds down here. I’m also not fond of crowds and so I tend to stay away from Millennium Park during the summer. But after spending a couple days working through lunch, it’s definitely better to go out and look at anything that doesn’t have to do with staring at a computer monitor. So I visited Lurie Garden one day with the macro lens.

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake Master

Bug on Flowers 6-19-14-1810

Probable Margined Soldier Beetle

I’ve just purchased the Audubon app to help identify bugs but I am hopeless when it comes to flowers. I get overwhelmed surfing through pictures. I’ll take any help I can get if you know what these are. The red one on the bottom completely stumps me. Is it some sort of Monarda? (Those of you who are flower experts are allowed to laugh at me.)

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Spiderwort – I think

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almost looks like a Blazing Star but I don’t think it is

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A female Northern Cardinal found me that day and she got lucky, I had peanuts just for her.

Cardinal 6-13-14-1676

Sometimes it seems appropriate to pay attention to a Rock Pigeon. They are beautiful, we just take them for granted. But I look at it this way: they confirm our existence. This is one species that would not be here (as much) without us.

Pigeon 6-24-14-2007

 

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.

Sun Worshippers

Barn Swallows at Emiquon

Of necessity this will be short–I won’t go into my laundry list of excuses–but my theme today was inspired by the Barn Swallows above and below, sunning themselves on the platform at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, where I went with friends mainly to see shorebirds over the weekend.

Barn Swallow sunning itself

Barn Swallow sunning itself

The Barn Swallow’s posture above reminded me of my Zebra Finches below who love to sit in the afternoon sunshine pouring through the kitchen window.

Zebra Finches in the sunny kitchen window

Zebra Finches in the sunny kitchen window

We visited Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge first, which is where we saw the most shorebirds, and I’m still going through those distant photos. Even more challenging was trying to get a handle on how many American White Pelicans were enjoying the sunshine and each other’s company. Click on the picture below and tell me if you think it’s fair to estimate 600.

600 or so American White Pelicans at Chautauqua

600 or so American White Pelicans at Chautauqua

We stopped by Banner Marsh after Emiquon to see what was up there. Not very much, but lots of Mute Swans, seemingly sunbathing near the shore.

5 Mute Swans at Banner Marsh

5 Mute Swans at Banner Marsh

And lately on the hotter days downtown, Rock Pigeons have been plunking themselves down on the grass, sunbathing. I suspect many more birds strike this pose but we rarely get to see it. Pigeons living in the city take all public spaces as their living room. Although I did have a couple other pigeons who adjusted their posture to turn their backs on me when I raised my camera. Even a pigeon craves privacy.

Pigeon sunning in Millennium Park

Pigeon sunning in Millennium Park

The butterfly below is somewhat out of context but it was a nice addition to the Lurie Garden Purple Coneflowers this past week. Butterflies are getting a lot more attention from me lately because they are few and far between. I have started to see Monarchs, ever so few, but they are not stopping for photographs yet.

Swallowtail IMG_9839_1

Black Swallowtail

I’ll be back. The days are getting shorter – that will force me back inside to my computer!