Goose Lake Prairie

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Dickcissel

I spent three hours at Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area this morning. I saw and heard a lot of birds, if not necessarily a lot of species. Most of the birds I photographed were quite far away. Some Northern Rough-Winged Swallows below, then a Field Sparrow.

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Field Sparrow

Did I see the King Rail? I’m not sure. Maybe I did, so maybe it’s half-a-lifer, but without a scope to clarify anything, my binoculars could not discern any detail on the likely suspect and my camera lens was no better at deciphering a preening bird at the water’s edge.

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But rarer birds have a way of showing up when you least expect them. So it is with the Yellow-Breasted Chat. When I think of all the Chats I have heard and never seen on their breeding grounds, seeing and photographing one this morning had all the sweetness of any surprise. I was first drawn to the yellow bird by its behavior kiting after insects. Then when it perched I realized it was a Chat, however far away. This species is still considered a warbler.

I was photographing anything I could focus on before identifying it. So it was with the Grasshopper Sparrow below.

And this elusive Sedge Wren too.

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Sedge Wren

This Indigo Bunting was right out in the open. With the abundant sunshine, he picked the right day to do it.

Likewise with this young Baltimore Oriole, but so far away.

Some wildflowers in bloom…the first one is not Blazing Star but similar, and then Bergamot which is now in my yard, and in the lower right hand corner, Wild Parsnip, something I never noticed before but recognized right away this time after all the parsnip growing in my yard.

For all the abundance of Red-Winged Blackbirds I almost tend to ignore them, and in some measure it’s a defensive action because they can get testy this time of year, as you probably noticed in my last post.

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Female Red-Winged Blackbird

But sometimes they can be fun to capture anyway.

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Male Red-Winged Blackbird

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a young Eastern Kingbird before, so this was a treat.

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Juvenile Eastern Kingbird

And although Common Yellowthroats are constantly announcing themselves, they’re often hard to see, so I was grateful to these two.

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Common Yellowthroat

COYT Goose Lake Prairie 07-03-17-5078I still have a few photos to share from Sunday’s adventures and that could still happen. The remedy for all this is to just stop taking pictures but there is always more to see.

I’m glad I got to Goose Lake Prairie, I missed it last year. The other Goose Lake Conservation Area awaits exploration.

A Visit to Goose Lake Prairie for the Fourth of July

Young male Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie, 7-4-15

Young male Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie, 7-4-15

To celebrate my fourth year of this blog (my how time flies) I am publishing two posts today, which doesn’t hardly make up for my lack of posting lately but it’s good to be relaxed and sitting in the air conditioning and not afraid of falling asleep over a million photos.

Song Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Song Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Juvenile Song Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Juvenile Song Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

It took me a while to get to this point, I had two months of pictures to go through or remove from my hard drive just so I could download what’s been accumulating on the camera the past two weeks.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

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I went to Goose Lake Prairie yesterday morning. I didn’t get there early enough to catch the Blue Grosbeak and Bald Eagle seen by another birder, but I was happy enough to find a cooperative Grasshopper Sparrow, lots of Henslow’s Sparrows that eluded my sight, let alone photographs, Sedge Wrens, and of course a plethora of Dickcissels.

Grasshopper Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Grasshopper Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Sedge Wren, Goose Lake Prairie

Sedge Wren, Goose Lake Prairie

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird, Goose Lake Prairie

Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird, Goose Lake Prairie

I also believe I took really crummy photographs of an American Bittern flying but I am too shy to edit my ebird report seeing as how I would have to write it in. Maybe I’ll gain courage as the week goes on. Least Bittern is on the list for Goose Lake Prairie but for some reason American Bittern is not.

Juvenile Brown-Headed Cowbird

Juvenile Brown-Headed Cowbird

This is the time of year when the youngsters start to get a bit confusing. Like the Brown-Headed Cowbird above.

Common Yellowthroat, Goose Lake Prairie

Common Yellowthroat, Goose Lake Prairie

Common Yellowthroats are always singing and you never see them, so I was happy to have one finally show himself. Ironically, the recording underneath the picture begins with his song, which gets fainter I suppose as he moved farther away, but a Henslow’s Sparrow can be heard clearly in front of him and these were the birds I couldn’t see anywhere. I must have heard five or six of them singing.

Female Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie

Female Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie

Eastern Phoebe, Goose Lake Prairie

Eastern Phoebe, Goose Lake Prairie

Sedge Wren, Goose Lake Prairie

Sedge Wren, Goose Lake Prairie

Eastern Bluebird, Goose Lake Prairie

Eastern Bluebird, Goose Lake Prairie

The Sedge Wrens were vocal too but I didn’t get a recording of them. And ironically for all the Dickcissels I don’t seem to have them either. I think I just have to start out an hour earlier next time.

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A pair of Dickcissels

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Female or juvenile Dickcissel, Goose Lake Prairie

Below is that butterfly I was too lazy to take out my other camera that had the closeup lens attached to it.

Mourning Cloak, Goose Lake Prairie

Mourning Cloak, Goose Lake Prairie

On the way back I stopped at the Lake Renwick Heron Rookery, which I was surprised to find open to the public, if only for half an hour. There were three staff on hand to make sure no one lingered in the park, which is normally off limits entirely during the breeding season. I have seen it from the other side but never this view before. I will have to go back now that I know it’s sometimes accessible.

Lake Renwick Heron Rookery

Lake Renwick Heron Rookery

Thanks to all who visit my blog and followers and friends! It’s been a fun four years and I hope to be back soon with many more observations inspired by my feathered friends.

Grasshopper Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Grasshopper Sparrow, Goose Lake Prairie

Rollins Savanna Field Trip with Evanston North Shore Bird Club

Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Female Red-Winged Blackbird

It’s been a long day, starting at precisely 3:08 AM, although I was semi-awake at 2:30 in anticipation of the alarm clock. I knew the indoor birds would be a bit confused by my poking around in the dark and I tried to let them sleep as long as possible, but I eventually left a light on a timer to go off after it got lighter. When I left at 5:30 it was just barely starting to get light, for the days are shortening. Following are pictures of a few of the species seen today on the Evanston North Shore Bird Club field trip led by Beau Schaefer.

The long drive north yielded four Red-Tailed Hawks perched on lamp posts by the highway, and a dense foggy dew that just began to lift when I reached my destination around 6:37 AM. I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t early enough to capture the fog with the camera.

Wood Ducks

Wood Ducks

As it is, I didn’t realize until halfway through the walk that one reason why I was having a hard time capturing photos, other than the birds being pretty far away and often backlit, was that I had attached the wrong lens to the wrong camera (I’ve been getting better luck with the 100-400mm and the 5D, using the 7D for the macro lens – only I had them switched). So I guess the best scenario would have been to assemble the cameras and lenses last night before I went to bed, if I was a little bit more coherent than this morning. Unfortunately one never knows.

Lots of Common Yellowthroats – no surprise there. But the only one that perched in view was in the shadow of the cup plant.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

One bird I was definitely counting on seeing at Rollins, as I have always seen them there, was a Sedge Wren. I was not disappointed. I had heard them at Goose Lake Prairie but never found one. However, as many Sedge Wrens as we heard this morning at Rollins, they weren’t all that easy to spot, until one finally sat up in a straddled fashion and sang his heart out for us. Below, a couple photographs and recordings.

Sedge Wren

Sedge Wren

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Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

The first Eastern Meadowlark we saw appeared to have taken a bath. There were better views of another individual much later. We also had a few Bobolinks but none close enough for an image.

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Rollins has various small bodies of water and depending on the depth, attracts water birds and shorebirds. I didn’t bother trying to take pictures of the shorebirds although we saw Short-Billed Dowitcher, Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and more Killdeer than we could count. This list is from memory and I may be leaving something out. Toward the end of the walk, the Great Egret below was visible through an opening, and so was a Great Blue Heron earlier, but I think I may have captured them both better in flight.

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I was surprised to find the camera captured a Tree Swallow when I don’t even remember trying for it. I sometimes forget the camera has a mind of its own.

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The last picture is perhaps the first bird we saw, an energetic Song Sparrow.

Song Sparrow with his back to us

Song Sparrow with his back to us

In general it was a good day to be out, didn’t get too uncomfortably hot or buggy, and we were a good group of manageable size. Beau Schaefer led us at a fairly rapid pace, thus ensuring we got exercise. And I am grateful to now know where the additional parking lot is on the other side of the preserve, so next time I go, I will not feel overwhelmed about walking the entire trail. There are also a lot of cyclists to watch out for the later it gets, emphasizing the logic of starting out around 6:30 AM.

My car reports it is happy about all the extra driving we did today. I treated it to some cheaper gas and a car wash. Doesn’t get any better.

Juveniles

Juvenile Sedge Wren, Springbrook Prairie

Juvenile Sedge Wren, Springbrook Prairie

I’m entertaining a quick post here while I still have so many pictures to go through from maybe three weeks, wondering how I will ever do anything with them…as I archive months past onto the external hard drive to leave room for photographs to come on my trip next month.

Over the weekend I encountered two juvenile birds that proved interesting. The first was from Saturday morning, on Joe Suchecki’s DuPage Birding Club walk at Springbrook Prairie. Conditions were not ideal for photographs (birds buried in the grasses at a distance), but this very cooperative juvenile Sedge Wren was only a couple feet away from us, making us wonder if it was his first encounter with people. He had a very much “What do I do now?” look about him.

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The second bird nearly stumped me when I was going through the pictures until I realized it had to be a juvenile European Starling. I took these at the Chicago Portage yesterday morning. I have seen my share of juvenile Starlings – indeed they used to visit me back in Oak Park on the window ledge, and I always found them fascinating because I could still see their eyes (the adults’ eyes, recessed into black feathers, often seemed to totally disappear). Juvenile Starlings always appeared brown to me, but I have never seen an evenly black and white one – leading me to think that this is a molting bird and/or somewhat melanistic. On the other hand I never saw its back which may have been browner, because I was distracted by something else by the time it left.

Molting Juvenile Starling IMG_8263_1Juvenile Starling IMG_8264_1

Anyway I will try to be back soon with more birds from a very interesting time of year. I love fall, and the weather has just turned abruptly cooler reminding me of it.

Juvenile Starling IMG_8270_1

European Starling

The Starling pictures are coming up darker from some reason – click on them and the bird appears a bit lighter but I may have to come back and fix this later.