Is It Spring Yet?

McGinnis Slough

McGinnis Slough

Any prediction of warmer temperatures and sunshine, however brief, is all it takes to make me a little nuts these days, especially if it falls on a weekend. So Sunday I tested the forecast for the last days of March and headed toward the Palos Forest Preserves of Cook County, starting with my favorite, McGinnis Slough.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbirds were singing on territory, but much of the water was still frozen. I managed to see ten species of ducks, including Ring-Necked, Lesser Scaup, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Mallard, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Northern Shoveler, Blue-Winged Teal and Green-Winged Teal, plus American Coots and there was one Trumpeter Swan at the far side of the larger expanse of water.

Canada Geese at McGinnis

Canada Geese at McGinnis

Not much in the way of land birds, save a few skittish Song Sparrows

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Even the closer ducks at McGinnis’s south end were still too far away to photograph, but that never stops me.

Ducks McGinnis Slough 3-30-14 5869.jpg-5869Ducks McGinnis Slough 3-30-14 5880.jpg-5880Ducks McGinnis Slough 3-30-14 5875.jpg-5875

From McGinnis, I went next to Saganashkee Slough, where American White Pelicans and Common Loon had been reported. I saw neither, but added Red-Breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser, White-Winged Scoter, Pin-Tailed Duck and Common Goldeneye to my duck list. There was also a distant Horned Grebe and an immature Bald Eagle soaring over the water. It was even more useless to photograph anything here but I’m still including a picture of a lot of white blobs that were Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls.

Saganashkee Slough

Saganashkee Slough

On the way home, I stopped at The Chicago Portage to see if anything new was going on since last week. It was midday so I didn’t expect to see many birds. But there was a lot of melt and mud.

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And a White-Breasted Nuthatch, heard first and seen at a distance later.

Portage WB Nuthatch 3-30-14 5948.jpg-5948

Also heard before seen, a male Belted Kingfisher. This guy was really far away but the camera saw him. I think this might be the first one I have actually seen at the Portage.

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I decided to capture a close-up of some lichens growing on a dead stump, the only green going on.

Lichens 3-30-14 7358.jpg-7358

So much for the early spring report, it’s back to finishing going through my Belize pictures. It won’t be long before McGinnis is full of Great Blue Herons like this one. Only the vegetation will look a bit different… 🙂

Great Blue Heron, Belize 3-12-14

Great Blue Heron, Belize 3-12-14

 

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.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Male Cardinal Millennium 2-18-14 5730.jpg-5730

Hardened by weeks of cold, snow and ice, perhaps we are a bit skeptical of warmer, beautiful weather, but it was present today, and so welcome as a sneak preview of better days to come.

American Crow

American Crow

Accompanying the bright sunshine and bluer skies were the Millennium Park birds who seemed happy to see me..and my bag of goodies,

White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

I have seen White-Throated Sparrows off and on all winter, but today in the bright sunshine they looked brand new.

Male Cardinal Millennium 2-18-14 5745.jpg-5745

Lately I have seen male Northern Cardinals alone, which really makes me wonder what the females are up to. A cardinal was singing in my neighborhood this morning as I walked to the train.

Crow Millennium 2-18-14 5793.jpg-5793

The crows have been keeping somewhat of a low or subdued profile in my presence. I think they might feel exposed by all the contrasting snow. Whatever it is, I was surprised by this crow’s grey feathers. Click on the picture for a better look.

Black-Capped Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee

Even the Black-Capped Chickadees were vying for my attention today.

White-Throated Sparrow Millennium 2-18-14 5748.jpg-5748

Whatever the green material was covering, this White-Throated Sparrow seemed to think it was an interesting perch. Perhaps the color symbolizes spring to him too.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

There are so many beautiful warblers, it’s hard to pick a favorite, or even five or ten favorites, and yet the Black-Throated Green has to be on the list somewhere.

Black-Throated Green IMG_8933_1

I used to see these birds often, every spring, but the last couple of years they haven’t been so easy to come by, at least not wherever I was, so imagine my delight to happen upon maybe as many as ten yesterday afternoon at Ottawa Trail Woods.

Black-Throated Green IMG_8927_1

And I got lucky enough on the way out to record one singing. One mnemonic for this buzzy little melody is “trees, trees, beautiful trees.”

Black-Throated Green IMG_8925_1

Black-Throated Green IMG_9051_1

I’m still recovering from my early rise Saturday morning, but one thing is certain: the quest continues. As the days grow longer, with so much available light, it’s hard to think about anything else except looking for migrants. I believe the term is Migration Madness, a temporary but incurable condition.