As we climb back out of yet another spell of wintry, inclement weather, I have to wonder what effect this fitful spring is having on the migrants we are all too happy to observe. I have had a Swainson’s Thrush in my yard the last two days. I’m happy to provide for this bird and maybe it doesn’t have too much farther to go to get to its breeding grounds, but likely it will be dodging more storms on its way.
Last Saturday I attended a small informal walk at Columbus Park and then went to the Portage. Sunday birding was off the table, as I committed to choir-singing all day. Here it is Wednesday: I just finished going through these pictures last night. I will be leading one more walk this Saturday at the Portage if the current “morning thunderstorms” forecast does not pan out. It’s ever crazier to be paying attention to the forecast when it changes every five minutes, but I can’t help it.
It’s always nice to see the herons at this location. My list of species totaled 32 which is not spectacular but it was great to have sunshine which the birds were enjoying too. I’ll do a separate post about the Portage later.
This is the first time I’ve seen Wood Ducks hanging out on the lawn…but the Mallard was quite comfortably snoozing.
There are two Spotted Sandpipers in the photograph below the ducks, but the second one is a bit harder to see…
I found the Philadelphia Vireo in my photographs last night. A surprise to me as I don’t think I’ve ever taken a picture of one before.
So this is the time of year when I have more photographs than I have time to post… Looking forward to the holiday weekend and hoping it’s not raining too much so I can get a handle on the rapidly increasing jungle that is my yard and maybe see some more birds.
The last two days or so of my trip to Panama in March of 2017 have been sitting on my laptop languishing, never processed… perhaps just waiting for the depths of a testy winter to remind me of warmer climes. I can’t think of a better time to revisit the tropics, at least vicariously. And I am looking forward to visiting western Panama next February.
So here are some pictures from the last day at the Canopy Lodge and then from the hotel grounds in Panama City where I had several hours before my flight home. For the most part the tanagers and the Wood Rail above were at the lodge and all the rest of the pictures were my last day in Panama City.
It’s been an exhausting two weeks, but things are getting back to normal, except perhaps for the weather. Getting used to the new car, busy with work and choir rehearsals… thinking a lot about my book but not getting much writing done. Watching the days getting ever-so-slightly longer!
The weather has turned suddenly hot and it’s hard not to wonder what effect that’s having on spring migration. I sense that to a large degree, no? pun intended, the heat wave has sent those who move farther north packing. I had hoped we would still see a few warblers yesterday on my second time leading a walk at the Portage, but we only heard a couple Yellow Warblers and never saw them. I’ll be back later with a few pictures from yesterday. But this is a more historical post, with a few pictures from the trip two weeks ago to the Portage, and a few more from a walk I took at Ottawa Trail just to see what was going on closer to the Des Plaines River.
Magnolia Warblers move predictably enough to photograph. This time the easiest bird to capture was a female; I caught only glimpses of a male.
One bird that I haven’t seen in quite a while appeared toward the end of our walk two weeks ago. It’s a Yellow-Throated Vireo.
It’s gotten so hot in the last few days it’s hard to believe that last weekend it was still cool enough to warrant layered clothing in the morning.
The Green Herons were both on site two weeks ago, and the turtles were starting to emerge to soak up what little sunlight was occasionally available.
I think this was my last Hermit Thrush of the season.
I likely won’t see another Lincoln’s Sparrow until fall either.
But it looks like I might be seeing a Great Egret from time to time at the Portage this year. We saw it a couple times yesterday.
The pictures below are hardly worth sharing, but this is my last Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.
I used to see shorebirds more frequently but in the last couple years they have been few and far between, so I was happy we had a Spotted Sandpiper on the left, and the Killdeer on the right. I usually hear or see Killdeer flying, but sandpipers have been generally absent.
House Wrens are here to stay for the summer.
A female American Redstart below.
And more shots of a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. Yesterday we heard them constantly but didn’t see one.
White-Tailed Deer at Ottawa Trail
It’s rare to see a Chipmunk sitting still but this one wasn’t self-conscious at all.
Indigo Buntings, male and female.
And the surprise two weeks ago was an Orchard Oriole.
Often more heard than seen, the Northern Cardinal below, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a Song Sparrow, all at Ottawa Trail.
The heat may keep me indoors more than I’d like. That could mean more blog posts, however. For the moment it’s time to get out in the yard before the heat of the day takes over. Lots of work to do there. Happy Summer to All…
The fact that this place always looks like it may have started on another planet never escapes me, and now I may have some insight into why.
But first I’d like to share a few photos from last Sunday, just as the rain was stopping. I managed to count 40 species, some of which I never saw but recognized by their vocalizations. So spring migration, in spite of whatever weather challenges the birds face, goes on regardless.
My first bird willing to pose was this Spotted Sandpiper. I can’t recall ever seeing one so true to its name. Later I encountered two other common shorebird species, the Killdeer and Solitary Sandpipers below.
Waterfowl was present but not much worthy of a photo except for a solitary Blue-Winged Teal.
The only warblers willing to engage with the camera were Yellow-Rumped and Black-Throated Green Warblers. All the warblers I saw were in the same tree. I had a Blackburnian Warbler which is always a treat, but the poor light just wouldn’t do him justice.
Still here’s the Blackburnian on the left and a Palm Warbler on the right.
And for a blue-gray day, a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.
Below is a Brown Thrasher who was singing enthusiastically. I neglected to take my recorder with me but shot the video beneath his picture which recorded some of his song. This is a mimid species, which means he imitates other calls and recites them, singing each call twice. Toward the end of the video a Red-Winged Blackbird sings.
So I have to hand it to the woodpeckers for keeping things lively.
Oops – another Yellow-Rumped Warbler imitating a woodpecker
I was a bit surprised to see a male Belted Kingfisher land and sit still.
And this Red-Tailed Hawk became a bit annoyed with me when I noticed him sitting very still and trying to blend in with the tree.
Close to the end of my outing I found the female Scarlet Tanager below.
But now for the surprise. As I was almost leaving, a cyclist stopped on the bridge where I stood to talk about the Portage. He said he had been visiting this place for 40 years. He didn’t look a day over 52 so I guess he’s been visiting since he was a youngster. Anyway, he told me years ago companies were dumping chemicals here and the water turned numerous bright colors. He also said he had talked to some of the Cook County foresters who were removing trees and they told him they had never seen such strange decay in some of the trunks.
I tried to find some documentation about what he told me but so far I have been unable to find anything specific to the Chicago Portage. I suspect the Environmental Protection Agency postdates the dumping, of course. This explains a lot to me about this strange little oasis in development. It’s sad, but then it’s also encouraging to see how nature rebounds, I guess.
It remains to be seen what the county’s plans are for this place. The cyclist also mentioned something about a commuter train going all the way to Joliet running along I-55 and a transportation hub at Harlem. Just a stone’s throw from the Portage. I can wait.
Back on the 10th of May I was at the Chicago Portage and counted 52 species. On the 17th of May, visiting with two friends, we counted 35 species. This afternoon, after gale winds in the morning and some rain, I went over to see what was up and counted 29 species.
Chicago Portage 5-10-15
Cape May Warbler, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
Eastern Phoebe, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
Three weeks ago was the height of spring migration, and already by last weekend it was slowing down.
Canada Geese at the Chicago Portage 5-10-15
Gosling, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15
Last week the goose family had dwindled to four goslings and today I was told by a woman I talked to on the trail that they were down to three. I did run into the geese today, but they were foraging in the grasses and I did not want to bother them, as they were pretty well hidden. So I am taking her word for it.
Red-Eyed Vireo, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
Lincoln’s Sparrow, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
The Red-Eyed Vireos are still present and singing, so they probably breed here, but all the thrushes except for American Robin have left, and the sparrow species as well. There was quite an influx of Veerys this year, I don’t usually see them.
White-Crowned Sparrow, 5-10-15
Green Heron, 5-10-15
But as the last of the sparrows were getting ready to leave, the Green Herons were returning. I believe there are two although I have not yet seen them both on the same visit. I think they also hang out at Ottawa Trail Woods which is also where we went last weekend. I have included a few pictures here are from Ottawa Trail Woods, as it is basically part of the same ecosystem.
Solitary Sandpiper, 5-10-15
Spotted Sandpiper, 5-10-15
Spotted Sandpiper at the Chicago Portage, 5-10-15
On the 10th I saw both Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, not on sandbars or mudflats but on dead wood in the water. The water levels were a bit lower though. I have not seen or heard any shorebirds since.
Scarlet Tanager, 5-10-15
The Scarlet Tanager above basically flew down and sat right in front of me. I was so surprised I barely got his photograph.
Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Myrtle female, 5-10-15 – You cannot see the yellow rump but this is the first year I have noticed they also have yellow on the crown
Yellow Warbler, 5-10-15
The only warblers willing to pose were the most common ones. The Yellow-Rumped Warblers are gone, but the Yellow Warblers stay for the summer.
Chicago Portage, 5-17-15
Indigo Bunting, Ottawa Trail Woods, 5-17-15
Barn Swallows, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15
Female Belted Kingfisher, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15
Indigo Buntings are everywhere. I have not seen the females yet but the Portage has at least four males singing on territory. I have also seen many Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Northern Rough-Winged Swallows.
Chicago Portage, 5-25-15
Baltimore Oriole, 5-25-15
Green Heron, 5-25-15 – Not as visible today as three weeks ago.
Eastern Kingbird, Portage 5-25-15 – There were two today, sallying for prey over the slough
Tree Swallow, 5-25-15
Red Admiral on a wildflower I have yet to identify – I should know it! But I have never seen it at the Portage before. Is this some kind of monarda?
I included the butterfly picture because to me it signals the end of spring migration and the beginning of summer, when butterflies and dragonflies vie for my attention.
Wood Duck, Ottawa Trail Woods, 5-17-15
I didn’t see any ducks today at the Portage. In years past there have always been a breeding pair of Wood Ducks, so I hope they are busy nesting.
A Mallard mom with eleven ducklings (they can’t be all hers?)! (Ottawa Trail, 5-17-15)
I hope to be back soon with a short report on birds in Berwyn. I just saw a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at my hummingbird feeders this evening, which gave me the perfect reason to clean and refill the feeders. While I was out in my yard my neighbor appeared and told me he saw the hummer yesterday! Maybe I’ll get a picture this year before September.