Fall Migration Continues…

It’s been a busy birding week and fall warbler migration is only getting started, but I’m already having a hard time keeping up. To add to my confusion, with the pool closed, the break in my routine is making it harder to figure out what day it is. But I have started getting up earlier to join bird walks and I will start leading Saturday walks tomorrow through the second week in October. It’s beginning to look like fall, even if it doesn’t feel like it just yet.

These photographs are from August 31st at Riverside, and I have also added the rest of the birds from August 26th at the same location.

I was happy to see a very cooperative Northern Waterthrush on Wednesday.

American Redstarts are the most numerous and well-distributed fall warbler species so far. I have seen them every day. The one immediately below looks like a first-year male.

Also fairly common are Magnolia Warblers like the one at the top of the post and below.

I discovered something about Blackpoll Warblers I never realized before. Apparently they all have orange toes – so when stumped by a decision between whether you are looking at a Blackpoll or a Bay-breasted, if you can see orange toes, that solves the problem. I was delighted to find photos showing beautiful orange toes. This is nearly impossible to see in the field, however.

I have also seen Golden-winged Warblers all week, starting on Tuesday morning at Columbus Park with Henry G.’s walk. They seem to have all come into the area at once and I have seen them everywhere I have been. I’m sneaking this photo in from Tuesday as it is the best one I have of the whole bird.

Below is another Golden-winged I just barely captured the next morning at Riverside.

Cape May Warblers seem to be numerous this season.

And not a day goes by without a Tennessee Warbler.

Below is a barely-captured Black-and-white Warbler

Thrushes are starting to appear as well. This is a Swainson’s Thrush.

Juvenile Gray Catbirds can’t get enough of the camera. They demand attention.

I don’t think this molting Northern Cardinal wanted to be seen like this but I couldn’t help myself.

In answer to the question, “Where have all the blackbirds gone?”, I have seen huge flocks all week at Riverside.

And Cedar Waxwings are on the move in flocks as well.

I have a feeling House Wrens will be gone soon but the youngsters are still around.

And Great Egrets are busy fishing. The water level has improved in the river.

I will try to come back sooner and more frequently, as the birds just keep coming. I also have some stored surprises still to share. We are starting out very warm going into the Labor Day weekend, with a promise of cooler weather after tomorrow. We could see a lot more warblers with winds from the north.

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.

More Warblers, as Promised

I’ve been trying to get caught up with the other warbler species I have seen this spring migration. Most exciting was the Hooded Warbler at the top of this post, which appeared at Columbus Park last Saturday. It had been seen by others, but I heard it still singing so I hung around where it likely was until I could find it with the camera. I haven’t seen one of these guys in some time, so I was really pleased.

Also seen on Saturday was a Wilson’s Warbler, who finally let me get a good look at his signature black cap.

At the Chicago Portage earlier on May 9, there were Golden-winged Warblers, a Blue-winged Warbler, and more Nashville and Black-throated Green Warblers than I have seen since. They arrived right before the big windy warmup that caused the fallout the next day along the river.

Golden-winged Warbler

I took too many photographs of the Golden-winged. I apologize but this species is less frequently seen.

One bird was foraging along with a Nashville Warbler.

I think the bird below is a female.

Here’s one more with the Nashville and flowers still on the tree.

Nashville Warblers were common earlier but were way up in the tree tops.

The Nashvilles were in good numbers.

I managed to photograph a Blue-winged Warbler on the same day. I haven’t seen one since. I still have fond memories of seeing many of them a couple years ago.

There were some Black-throated Green Warblers at the Portage as well. I haven’t seen them too much this spring, but they were all over the place in the fall.

A few more…

Lately the most prevalent species has been Blackpoll Warbler. It has been relatively easy to distinguish their calls and then find them.

I have seen a few of these again since last Saturday but these photos are all the same individual.

I nearly forgot the Nashville Warblers from May 9. They didn’t stand out too much in that light.

Apologies for being quiet on this page for a while. I have unwittingly succumbed to a breakthrough infection which I can’t trace, of course, to anything specific although I have my suspicions. After two plus years of doing what I was supposed to do, getting the vaccines and masking up and socially distancing etc., etc. this is almost an affront to my sense of self. On the other hand, why not me? As mutations continue to make the virus harder to resist and restrictions are lifted, I can only count my blessings: I am not very sick, I live alone with my birds and I feel better every day. My energy is returning rapidly. I can be well and still take too many photos and start to nod off processing them. I am extremely grateful I managed to take these photographs of spring warbler migration before I got sick. There are lots more photos of warblers and some other birds to come. I hope you are staying safe and well.

Leading Myself

I had been envisioning all week what it would be like, yesterday, to get out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and go through my normal routine of waking up my body, preparing and serving breakfast to my indoor flock, filling the feeders and changing water in the bird baths for the outdoor flock, and then getting ready to leave in time to arrive at Columbus Park and lead a walk that was to start at 7:00 a.m. I don’t organize the walks. I have been asked to “lead” this and other Saturday walks that alternatively go to Thatcher Woods in River Forest through the first Saturday in November. Leading basically means showing up, in case the organizer can’t make it. That will be the end of the “fall migration walks” and the same schedule will restart in April for spring migration.

I made several discoveries yesterday. Perhaps most important was the conclusion that I managed to arrive on time after the organizer had already advised me he couldn’t make it, I had a few moments to spare, which means I might be able to sleep maybe 20 more minutes before Saturday morning’s visit to Thatcher Woods.

So I arrived on time. And started talking to one of the golfers who use the same parking lot for access to the adjacent golf course. And I waited. I watched for cars with people getting out of them bearing binoculars. But all the cars arriving produced golf clubs. I soon came to the conclusion that I was the only person showing up for the walk. Below is a picture of what the sky looked like at that time. Maybe with the combination of clouds and no organizer, I was not enough of a draw.

Those little black dots in the clouds are Chimney Swifts.

I figured I may as well check out the park for birds anyway, all dressed up with my gear as I was, so I started walking across the lawn to the water where there were only a few Mallards. It was still quite cloudy and beyond my desire to compensate for the lack of light.

I confess I was a little leery of walking through the park so early alone. Although it has always been a safe place with others, I was not familiar enough with the spot to feel entirely confident. But then it started to lighten up, and I was hearing birds, and I figured well, I could see what was there. And I’m glad I did, because instead of following a group around – some “leader” I am – I now feel like I actually could lead a walk through Columbus Park.

Below is a video I took with my phone of Chimney Swifts flying over – it starts out mainly hearing them but then when I realized I could zoom in a bit you can actually see them. There’s also a Red-winged Blackbird singing in the beginning, for good measure.

Chimney Swifts

It began to brighten up a little, which helped the photo taking situation. It was difficult capturing the Blackpoll Warbler below in the shady portion of the park, however, but I kept trying.

I agonized over the pictures below as I was sure it was a Bay-breasted Warbler but for some reason ebird insisted it was a rare sighting for this date. I submitted my photographs and so far they have not challenged me.

I wasn’t seeing a lot of birds in the water, so I looked forward to going to the native plant garden next to a portion of it where I would likely see more birds, and I did.

Palm Warblers like the one below were expected.

I haven’t seen a lot of Tennessee Warblers this year – so it was nice to find this one.

And below, a very young-looking American Goldfinch.

On the way out I managed to capture a sneaky picture of a Wood Duck drake through some tangled branches. Also saw the resident Great Blue Heron in a well-camouflaged spot.

One more of the Tennessee Warbler

At 8:30 a.m. I felt as if I had covered the area – even though I missed a raptor I barely saw flying over. I encountered a birder who was waiting on someone to start her walk through, and we exchanged notes. Columbus Park is her go-to spot, like the Portage is mine. She may join us at Thatcher next week. I am no longer dreading these early Saturday morning rises.

I was tired, especially after having gone swimming the night before, so I took a long nap when I got home. But I am glad I managed the early start and stayed for the birds. I’m sure I would have seen more birds if I had company, but I encountered some nice, smiling runners and walkers and felt more connected to Columbus Park, which is really a beautiful place.

Fall Warbler Migration Begins…

The anticipation of seeing more birds after the long, hot summer is part of what has driven me to go out every morning. The other part came later – after doing so a few days in a row, it has occurred to me that I need these long, meditative walks every morning to stay sane.

The idea of retirement will be more than just finally having time to do what I want to do. It’s becoming more of a challenge of self-care and survival. I am becoming fiercely protective of what I have carved out to be Time Spent Not Thinking About Work – which to some degree unfortunately still exists and will lurk on the sidelines until I am finally completely done with it.

The Portage had warblers for three days last week and I took way too many pictures. These were all taken on September 6th. In spite of all the ones I discarded there are still too many. I am grateful for the Ovenbird at the top of this post. I have also become familiar with their cute little “blip” calls and I have heard many more than I have seen.

Magnolia Warbler

“Maggies” (Magnolia Warblers) and Redstarts seemed to be everywhere last week. I am beginning to sense the end of that now.

American Redstarts below.

The bright yellow throat of a Blackburnian Warbler is below.

Mixed among the warblers there have been a significant number of Red-Eyed Vireos like the one below.

Below, a far-away Blackpoll Warbler.

A Black-and-White Warbler blending into the tree bark.

Of course there are other birds besides warblers. Below is a young Gray Catbird.

And the woods have been filled with Thrushes. Below is a Gray-Cheeked Thrush.