First Fall Warblers – and Green Ballerinas

I have seen some fall warblers, if sparingly, over the past week, so I have pulled the best images from birds seen at the Chicago Portage or Riverside Lawn, just to get a little warbler anticipation going here. Tomorrow morning might actually be a good day because we are experiencing a little storm activity tonight. And since I can’t swim this week – the pool is being cleaned – I will likely be walking a little farther and seeing more birds.

Right off the bat, the bird at the top of the post is a female Cape May Warbler seen at Riverside Lawn on August 24. The bird below, I am not sure but I think is a Blackburnian Warbler seen at the Chicago Portage on August 27. I didn’t get any other shots, oddly enough, to help me identify it.

It’s been a good year all around for Bay-breasted Warblers. They are coming through. And I think I’m getting used to their contact calls. This Bay-breasted Warbler was at Riverside Lawn on August 26.

I don’t remember taking the photos of these two Tennessee Warblers, oddly enough, the same day at Riverside Lawn, but it’s likely I was just too mesmerized by them.

Here’s another Bay-breasted Warbler from that day at Riverside Lawn.

And another Cape May female-type or juvenile, on August 24 at Riverside Lawn.

Yet another Cape May from the same day and location.

Not a great photo, but definitely a Bay-breasted Warbler I saw on the 24th. There have been many more warblers seen along the lakefront, but I will be out a lot this week and I expect to see more around here.

Meanwhile back in my yard, I have two female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that usually show up individually but sometimes make chases through the yard together. I have taken to calling them my Green Ballerinas.

Over the past couple weeks I have been fortunate enough to capture them…somewhat.

But what really became fascinating to me was seeing them attracted to the Tall Ironweed – of all things. I can’t figure out why, exactly – it doesn’t look like a flower a hummingbird would enjoy – but they keep revisiting it and I can’t imagine it’s for nothing.

A view of the Tall Ironweed in the backyard jungle

So I set out trying to capture one of the birds in the Tall Ironweed.

At first, where I can sit in the middle of the yard, I was close to a hummingbird at the flowers but could barely see the bird on the other side. I decided to stand by the front gate instead and see if one would come to the flowers right by the back steps. Within a moment or two of standing there with the camera, a hummingbird obliged (the second and third photos below).

I am enjoying these little birds so much more now that I have the time to engage with them. Yesterday as I was refilling the birdbaths, the two of them flew right over my head, clicking away, in greeting. The other day when it was cool enough to have the windows open, one came and sat on a branch outside the kitchen window and we discussed refilling the feeders with fresh sugar water. I believe it was later that day, early evening, when I went out to clean and refill the feeders one by one. No sooner did I bring out the freshly refilled one that hangs from the dead Staghorn Sumac tree right by the kitchen window than one of these little charmers came to check it out. I am thrilled to be of service to such a grateful customer.

Now that fall warbler migration has begun, I expect to be back soon – not to mention all those other birds that are emerging, such as juvenile birds that are barely recognizable Needless to say, I am putting the book on hold for a while. But I am learning so much these days from the birds, it’s addicting. Well, something has to fill the swimming void for a week.

Two Days of Retirement

To celebrate August 31st being my last official day of work, I went to the Portage two mornings in a row, to look for the first signs of fall migration. I didn’t see an awful lot of species on either visit, but there were some nice looks. Best of all was feeling really free to take my time and not worry about checking my work email. I still have to get used to waking up in the dark, though, because I have walks to lead every Saturday in September and October.

Of course the obvious draw this time of year is the fall warblers passing through on their way south from their breeding grounds in the north. I didn’t see a lot of species and missed a couple, but so far I have seen a few warblers each day. They behave differently on their way back to their wintering grounds. They are not foraging in flocks and they are in less of a hurry. So while they may be harder to spot at times, it’s easier to concentrate on one bird at a time. Below are a couple American Redstarts.

I felt lucky to find this Bay Breasted Warbler in my photographs.

Magnolia Warbler, also at the head of this post

One of my favorites, a Chestnut-Sided Warbler, was being rather coy.

Not a warbler, but a nice to see Red-Eyed Vireo both days. The bottom photograph was taken the second day when the Vireo was eating poke berries with the Cedar Waxwings.

Thursday morning I managed to capture enough photographs of the Orange-Crowned Warbler below to justify my claim that I had seen one, since it’s very early for this species.

I just barely captured this Nashville Warbler.

Wednesday was cloudy.

Large flocks of Cedar Waxwings were present on both days.

Some closer views of the Waxwings Thursday, when they were busy eating poke berries.

Below is a beautiful wasp’s nest. I have a slightly smaller one in my crabapple tree this year as well…

Something else that I had a lot of in my yard before I removed nearly all of it, below, is Common Beggar Ticks which is native, and an annual – but doesn’t bloom until now.

On the first day I did manage to capture the Swainson’s Thrush below. I also saw a Wood Thrush but that photograph isn’t presentable.

Robins are looking scruffy this time of year. Most of them are juveniles.

When I first walked in on Thursday, there was a deer at the end of the paved path, and then a Cooper’s Hawk with prey landed in a tree above me, but I didn’t see what it had captured.

Unfortunately this Ruby-Throated Hummingbird was completely backlit in bright sunshine but it was still nice to see it perch right in front of me.

There were still a couple Indigo Buntings around.

Female Indigo Bunting

For once, there were more than one or two Monarch Butterflies. I realize this is probably the last I will see of them but it was nice while it lasted.

Below is a Chipmunk foraging in a tree.

A few scenes of the Portage and one quick look at the Des Plaines River where not much is happening at the moment.

Black-capped Chickadees are around all year but I don’t always see them. Sometimes I don’t even hear them. This one didn’t mind being seen or heard.

I am trying to navigate this new feeling of almost endlessness. Well, it doesn’t last for long. There is much to do, but less of a feeling of urgency or hopelessness as my work duties have all but vanished. I have agreed to remain with the firm as an independent contractor to help out with various projects while they still try to find and train my replacement. My stipulation was to assume any given morning with nice weather would be off limits for my attention as I will likely be out looking for birds somewhere.

After the Rain – Part I

We had quite a bit of rain and it was welcome. We also had a couple very cool nights. The water level in the river improved, even if the trees still appeared a bit dried out. I went to the Portage on July 3rd to see what the birds were up to. Perhaps the most welcome sighting was of two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arguing over some Red Beebalm a/k/a monarda didyma that I had never noticed blooming at the Portage before. Indeed, I was drawn to the color first before realizing there were hummingbirds in it.

Des Plaines River

So below is a little series of what photos I was able to get. Unfortunately the bright light was not favorable to capturing the male’s gorget but it was still fun to watch the hummers. The second bird sitting in the plant was perhaps a young male…

It was getting a bit hot and humid, if I recall, so the Red-winged Blackbirds were relaxing.

And after what seemed like months of never seeing or hearing a Downy Woodpecker, they are visible again.

The Goldfinch below is heavily cropped – it was sitting quite far away. I’m beginning to think all I need is a new prescription. I finally made an eye-doctor appointment. Anyway, bright sunshine helped in this case.

And a rabbit trying to hide…

While I am happy to see Monarch Butterflies, I never see more than one at a time. This makes me very sad, to be on the verge of losing them altogether.

I generally hear a White-breasted Nuthatch every time I go, but this is one of the first I have seen in a while. It was busy scratching an itch…

Come to think of it, I hardly ever see more than one butterfly of any species these days except for Cabbage Whites…

Silvery Checkerspot

I am splitting this up into two posts because as usual I have entirely too many photographs. It was such a nice day after all the unpredictable weather and hectic social schedule made weekend birding iffy. I shall return with Part 2 shortly.

My Little Hummingbird

She’s been visiting my feeders all summer. Except for the few distant pictures I took of this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird when she was perched on a tree branch last month, she has eluded my attention. Indeed it has seemed like every time she sees me lhrough the kitchen window she disappears.

So today with the heat forecast, I decided to stay home and work in the yard early while it was still cool. I had planned to write about my last two visits to the Portage, one yesterday and last Saturday, but after seeing and managing to photograph this little charmer, a morning at home has taken priority.

So of course I have taken way too many pictures of her… At first, I had done some work in the front yard, and then decided it was getting too hot to do very much in the backyard. I had been thinking about reinstating one of my makeshift benches that I used to sit on. But firstI had to remove much of a currant bush that some creature had planted after eating the berries from one of the original planted ones. The bush was practically on top of the bench. It was long past fruiting and I am sure it will try to grow back. But for now I needed a place to sit, so I cut back most of it.

A photo of part of the yard in summer chaos taken earlier in the week. The far hummingbird feeder in the center back of the photo is where the hummingbird was this morning.

I was sitting comfortably in the shade of my trees for ten minutes or so when the hummingbird arrived. But then I realized there was a small leafy branch from the crabapple tree blocking my view of the entire feeder. I removed that too and sat back down. Hummingbirds tend to return to feeders every 15 minutes or so, and I was hoping that would be the case this morning.

Lo and behold. she came back, and she dipped into the feeder for a good minute or two before flying off. I am sure she saw me, but for whatever reason my presence and the shutter clicks didn’t bother her at all. I apologize for all the photos but I am just so thrilled that she gave them to me and I won’t have to worry about capturing her again.

There have been a few other cooperative birds in the yard this week so I may as well give them some space. I’m also playing around with the new editor, there seem to be more options since I last put together a post.

Below on the upper left is what appears to be a juvenile House Finch. The three remaining photos are of an adult female.

House Finch male

Of the two types of squirrels, the Fox Squirrel always seems ready to engage.

I’d like to think the young Robin above is the offspring of the pair that visits my yard everyday.

I will be back with the Portage report soon, I hope. Until then, I hope you have a good week.

Front and Back Yard Visitors

When I came home from the Portage on the 4th, I found the female American Goldfinch above and some butterflies enjoying the front yard. The Common Milkweed was blooming with its heavy perfume. The blossoms are all gone by now and it’s moving on to seed pods.

The little girl below (female Ruby-throated Hummingbird) was visiting the hummingbird feeder hanging on my front porch, where I was sitting with my camera. She took offense to the camera and landed in a nearby tree where I got this shot and the one below.

One morning when I was out walking before work, as I approached my house, I saw her checking out each of my neighbors’ porch fronts to see if they had feeders hanging. Smart little bird. I like her logic. Unfortunately, my neighbors don’t have feeders on their porches.

There have been a few butterflies, individuals of different species.

Monarch Butterfly

These photos are from early July. The yard looks a lot different by now. July has been a busy growing month for everything.

Then there is the backyard. When I try to sneak up on the birds here, I am often unsuccessful, but on the 16th I did manage to capture a few images below.