Hanging Out at Home

Tiger Swallowtail

I have to keep updating this post because I can’t seem to finish it… I decided to stay home last Sunday. Originally I was going birding, but I had been to the Portage Saturday morning and subsequently needed two naps to get through the rest of the day, so I decided to stay home instead and see what I could get done around the house. I have only one more weekend before I travel. As much as I look forward to my trip, I start to feel like I never want to leave my crazy house.

So after feeding the birds and having breakfast, I grabbed the camera to go out into the yard, with the idea I would do some weeding and cleanup but have the option of taking some pictures if I felt like it. No sooner did I step out onto the back porch than I saw the only bird in the yard. It’s that time of year again, when the young Cooper’s Hawks come and sit in the middle of the yard, thinking their breakfast will come to them.

Certainly if I sit on the feeder pole…

He wasn’t there long. He flew to sit in the redwood tree for a moment but it was too dark already shooting through the window and the screen to capture a decent picture of him there. Then something caught his attention and he left. I just felt lucky to have happened upon him in that moment.

Is there another squirrel I can’t see or is that the same squirrel’s tail hanging all the way down below the wires?
Utility lines were a popular place to sit and wait for me to quit taking pictures.

The most numerous birds in the yard at that time were House Finches.

I was impressed with this squirrel’s technique. He can actually hang on the peanut feeder and eat a peanut at the same time.

The yard is in bloom, finally, after all that rain that made everything grow to towering heights. As long as the pollinators seem to be happy with it…

Wild senna…
Mother and child House Sparrows
Just as the first sunflowers are consumed, new ones bloom.

With any luck I will be back once more before I take off for my next adventure, but I’m making no promises. There were things I could have gotten done ahead of time, I suppose, but other real-time priorities seemed to obliterate the best of intentions. And why those thoughts of hating to leave my birds, missing the first week of choir or feeling guilty about flying start creeping in I’ll never know. It’s too late to turn back! Ambivalence won’t cut it anymore, I have to get ready! And I am looking forward to this trip. ūüôā

August at the Chicago Portage, Scene 2: Lepidoptera et al.

Comma

Comma

Saturday’s outing at the Portage continued, with birds here and there, but this post will concentrate on the butterflies who stole the show as the sun climbed more directly overhead.

The main draw was the Burdock blooms, which sometimes made walking on the narrow path narrower and a bit precarious. After all, Burdock was the inspiration plant for Velcro.

Second Year Burdock, Chicago Portage

Second Year Burdock, Chicago Portage

As it turned out I encountered two distinguished gentlemen on the path who, after asking me what I was interested in, announced they were into plants. They were happy to tell me the Burdock blooms were the second stage of the biennial plant, those monstrous huge leaves being the first year. I returned the favor by identifying the juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk from my previous post and the trouble it was causing the juvenile Green Heron. They went on to identify a few other plants for me, one of which I used on my picture of the now-named Heal-All in a previous post.

Burdock has an entire culture built around it, including medicinal and culinary uses, which don’t tempt me. But to see the butterflies and other insects enjoying the flowers gave me a new appreciation for what I previously wrote off as a pesky invasive.

Question Mark

Question Mark

Question Mark

Question Mark

The butterflies were all on the north side of the creek that runs through the Portage. I usually walk all the way around the south side first by crossing the east bridge, and then cross the west bridge over the creek and turn back toward the way I came only on the other side of the creek, which is where the burdock grew thicker and more and more butterflies appeared.

Upside-down Comma - is this now an Apostrophe?

Upside-down Comma – is this now an Apostrophe?

Comma

Comma

It was nice to have the swallowtails and the purple for comparison.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail – 8/23 update – Linda P things this is probably a female Tiger Swallowtail

Red-Spotted Purple

Red-Spotted Purple – at least I got this one right this time

Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

I am not convinced of my identification for the butterfly below but have not yet found anything else it resembles.

Golden Banded Skipper, I think

Most likely Silver-Spotted Skipper, according to Linda P

There were several dragonflies, unfortunately the most cooperative sitting on the gravel which makes a lousy picture. The White-Faced Meadowhawks are abundant this year.

White-Faced Meadowhawk

White-Faced Meadowhawk

Blue-Fronted Dancer

Blue-Fronted Dancer? Too hard to tell.

Not sure who this is

Not sure who this is, could be a female White-Faced Meadowhawk – Linda says they are hard to distinguish

Perhaps most fortuitous was the Red Admiral pictured below. First it landed on my pants, then on my sleeve, and I guess it knew I wanted a picture because it moved to the camera. I was loaded down with¬†¬†both cameras hanging on my shoulders and my binoculars, so the only option left was the cell phone. That’s how I got the three pictures below. The Red Admiral wasn’t going anywhere and I stood still as it kept investigating¬†my skin with its little proboscis, until I finally started moving again and it flew away.

Red Admiral on CameraRed Admiral on FingerRed Admiral on Hand

The bees were busy too.

Bee on Burdock

Bee on Burdock

I will be back to birds for a recap of Sunday’s return visit to the Chicago Portage.

Blending In: The Camouflaged Life

Great Blue Heron, Fullersburg Woods

Great Blue Heron, Fullersburg Woods

Sunday morning I was still too worn out from the Friday and Saturday to go very far, so I made a trip to Fullersburg Woods in DuPage County, closer to home.¬†Fullersburg has a range of habitats and the trails are easy to navigate, but the focal point for me in summertime has to be the Salt Creek running through it. It’s a beautiful setting.

Fullersburg Woods 1I2A0971

I did not expect to see very many species, but I thought perhaps I could get a little closer to a heron or two. My first discovery was not a bird but a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly. Butterflies are rarer sights this year.

Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

The herons did not disappoint. A few steps along the Salt Creek and I found a Great Egret who was more concerned about its catch than me taking its picture.

Great Egret Fullersburg 1I2A0903Great Egret Fullersburg 1I2A0902Great Egret Fullersburg 1I2A0913

Same goes for a juvenile Solitary Sandpiper.

Juvenile Solitary Sandpiper 1I2A0939Spotted Sandpiper 1I2A0925

Spotted Sandpiper 1I2A0926

Farther along, the birds were a bit less obvious. Click on the picture below to see if you can find the Green Heron.

Green Heron in disguise

Green Heron in disguise

I caught up with it later at a much closer range.

Green Heron

Green Heron

And now see if you can find the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo in the photo below.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo - where are you?

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo – where are you?

Mallards are always expected. These were catching morning naps.

Mallards

Mallards

Sleeping with one eye open…

Sleeping Mallards

Sleeping Mallards

At some point this dragonfly decided it wanted to blend in with the trail right in front of me.

Dragonfly 1I2A1019

The trail that runs along the Salt Creek meets up with Graue Mill to the south where there is a waterfall which supplied the power to run the mill.

Waterfall at Graue Mill

Waterfall at Graue Mill

The Great Blue Heron that appears at the beginning of this post eventually became tolerant enough of my presence to give me the photo below. I then left him to continue fishing.

GBH Fullersburg 1I2A1033

 

From the Ridiculous to the Sub Lime…Green?

Parking lot immature American Robin

McGinnis Slough parking lot, immature American Robin

Sunday I was looking forward to visiting my local haunts. The plan was to visit McGinnis Slough and then go to the Chicago Portage. I got to the Slough, started unpacking the trunk of the car¬†and realized I didn’t have my binoculars with me. This was doubly frustrating as I saw and heard a Red-Shouldered Hawk and caught a glimpse of a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. I couldn’t even see this Cedar Waxwing when I took its photograph.

Cedar Waxwing, McGinnis Slough

Cedar Waxwing, McGinnis Slough

Undeterred, I decided to venture forth anyway with the scope and camera. But as I started walking north along the mowed path, I was soon greeted by swarms of deer flies. Or they could have been horse flies, if there is a difference I am unaware of it. The more I swatted at them, the more they dug in. Bug spray seemed to attract them even more.

I cannot recall this having ever happened¬†before at McGinnis, but I guess conditions were just right for hungry flies.¬†It had been a few days without rain and temperatures were increasing. As I retreated rather hastily toward my car, it occurred to me I could invest¬†in protective clothing for these unpredictable but miserable situations. I figure I already look¬†nerdy with my pants tucked into my socks to ward off ticks, so why not go one step further and surround myself with netting the flies can’t get through?

Common Grackle, Chicago Portage

Common Grackle, Chicago Portage

Leaving McGinnis in such a hurrry gave me the opportunity to go home, trade my scope for binoculars and set out for the Portage. I got there about 8:20 a.m., still fairly early, although the heat was increasing. I got a few pictures of the usual suspects. Oddly enough, nothing was biting me.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

The Northern Cardinal below saw me, flew toward me, perched and started singing. He must have wanted to distract me from his nest.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Still short on butterflies, this Tiger Swallowtail is missing its tail.

Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

I showed the picture below briefly to the Insect Guy (I don’t know his name, but I’ve run into him before at Portage, he takes pictures of insects) while it was still on my camera and he said it was a Jewel Wing but I’m not so¬†sure after looking in my little field guide, so I am not identifying it.

Unknown Damsel Fly

Unknown Damsel Fly

I caught a glimpse of a few Wood Ducklings as they swam back into the reeds.

Wood Ducklings

Wood Ducklings

Everybody was fairly cooperative, as long as they felt¬†safe behind one twig or another…

American Robin

American Robin

Shortly after the Insect Guy and I stopped to talk on the trail, he suddenly called my attention to a Red-Tailed Hawk carrying a rabbit to a tree behind me.

Red-Tailed Hawk with rabbit

Red-Tailed Hawk with rabbit

Red Tail 1I2A0184

The heat and humidity have turned the duckweed thick and split-pea-soup green. On my way out, one of the Green Herons that spends its summer hunting inhabitants of this soup was sitting perched close enough for me to get a few pictures.

Green Heron 1I2A0283

And then he decided he’d had enough of my attention…

Green Heron 1I2A0290

and landed in a tree where he could blend in.

Green Heron21I2A0297

The weather is beastly hot outside as I finish writing this from the confines of the cold air conditioned office, but we are promised cooler temperatures this weekend after some rain tomorrow. I am looking forward to it!