The Quest for Two More Warblers

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

Toward the end of the work week I had been thinking of only two things: sleeping in on Saturday to get my sleep for the year, and possibly visiting McGinnis Slough for birds on Sunday.


A Kentucky Warbler sings at Swallow Cliff Woods

KEWA-4488 KEWA-4466

As luck would have it, tales of a Kentucky Warbler and a Cerulean Warbler emerged on the IBET (Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts) list-serve toward the end of the week, and with the birds being seen at Swallow Cliff Woods, which is just up the street from McGinnis Slough, I decided to try for these two warblers that are unusual in this area. Warbler migration is pretty much over with anyway, so the chance to see these two special birds was irresistible.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler


Thanks to birders already on the scene I had no problem finding the two birds, and several mosquito bites later, I had pictures and recordings of their songs as well. The Cerulean was harder to photograph even when it dropped down to less than neck-breaking level, because the backlighting made it impossible to capture his delicate blueness.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler

Thanks to all the good-natured, generous birder souls who helped me get on these birds.

By the time I got to McGinnis Slough it was getting hot. I didn’t know what to expect this time of year, overlapping passerine migration and the presence of breeding birds. I didn’t have a scope with me, but there did not appear to be much action in the water anyway. The main action occurred overhead with Red-Winged Blackbirds chasing Red-Tailed Hawks. I managed to get a few pictures of one Red-Winged Blackbird catching a ride on the raptor. Have to wonder how that feels, to be a small bird riding on a predator of all things. The Red-Tail was not happy about it.

Red-Tailed Hawk chased by two Red-Winged Blackbirds

Red-Tailed Hawk chased by two Red-Winged Blackbirds

Click on the pictures to see larger images.


Shortly after the Red-Tailed Hawk/Red-Winged Blackbird saga, I ran into a friendly couple, Julie and Jim, and their new shelter puppy Annabelle whose mother was a Border Collie and the father was undetermined (but probably safe to assume it was not the mailman) – she’s a very pretty dog – and we had a very nice visit. I hope to encounter Julie and Jim again, and welcome them to my blog. There is definitely a magical quality to McGinnis and the nicest surprises happen when I least expect them.

There were other species besides these two at McGinnis but most were either distant or heard only. As the mid-day heat approached and weekend chores beckoned, I took a few shots at a Red-Winged Blackbird guarding his territory and headed back home.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

In the next few days and weeks I hope to get caught up with all the travel pictures for inspiration.

But for now I will sing the Sunday-evening-gotta-go-to-work-tomorrow blues, succumb to general exhaustion and get ready for bed.

Thanks to all who follow this blog and check in every once in a while. I will try to be a better blogger (I get twinges of guilt every few days when I haven’t posted or managed to even read anybody else’s blog)…

Good night and sweet dreams.

Migration Madness

Eastern Wood-Pewee

I don’t chase birds, and it seems I have had fewer opportunities than I’d like lately to search for birds even in the most convenient places. So I try to make the most out of the chances I do get.

Wilson’s Warbler

Tuesday morning on the way back to work from the Labor Day weekend, I saw this Wilson’s Warbler at 155 N. Wacker.

American Redstart

The warblers in particular have been scarce in the city parks, if not in the “hot spots,” but I don’t like going back into the city on the weekend after migrating to and from it all week, so today I decided to get to the Chicago Portage early and then go to Palos.

Outside of American Redstarts at the Portage, I had a Connecticut Warbler and a male Black-Throated Blue, but neither of them wanted their pictures taken.

I got a little luckier at Palos, which holds a large area of contiguous forest preserves in southern Cook County. I parked in the south Swallow Cliff lot and took off on the yellow trail. I had looked it up before I went and knew it formed a continuous loop through several forest preserve areas. The entire loop is more than 8 miles. Without realizing the consequences of such a hike, I embarked upon the trek.

Blue Jay

The slowest part of my walk was in the beginning. There were Blue Jays and Eastern Wood=Pewees everywhere. I tend not to think of Blue Jays as migrants, but of course they are. To my delight, several jays sang over the course of my walk, and I always had to stop and listen. Not one song matched another.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

It took quite a while to hit pockets of warblers and when I did it was sometimes difficult to identify them all. I didn’t get many pictures of them, but this Chestnut-Sided Warbler was most cooperative.

The Yellow Trail is frequented by runners, cyclists and horseback riders. Not necessarily the ideal birdwatching situation. But I got used to it after a while and figured the birds were pretty used to it too.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

I’m pretty tired and sore from the trek. I know I will be sore tomorrow, but my four plus miles of walking to the train and back are less strenuous than today’s workout. It was good to see some birds.

Eastern Wood-Pewee