As promised, here’s my last visit to McGinnis Slough. I have been out birding every morning since, mainly at the Chicago Portage but a couple other places too, and fall passerine migration is in full swing. I don’t know if I will ever get through all my photographs, but I intend to start posting them soon as much as possible.
It was delightful to spend a little time with a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher at McGinnis.
This Song Sparrow perched nicely for me.
Another bird I felt very privileged to see well was the Marsh Wren below. I could hear wrens in the reeds but they are always nearly impossible to see. Then, while I stood in the same spot looking at whatever waterfowl I could see, this one popped out in a bush to get a closer look at me.
I also saw a Brown Thrasher – a bird I used to see a lot more of but now rarely. And then my first Palm Warbler of the fall season.
A few more of the Marsh Wren…
Finally, a cooperative flower. It appears to be a hibiscus. But I am used to seeing the big pink rose mallow flowers that bloom here every year and they have been few and far between.
More views of the American Redstart that is at the top of the post.
I wonder if the slough will ever have enough water again to host the hundreds of ducks that usually show up in the early spring.
Tall Boneset is now blooming with the Canada goldenrod.
Several Barn Swallows took a break from scooping bugs out of the air…
And there was one lone Tree Swallow.
I managed to barely see the Trumpeter Swans – and noticed there was only one Cygnet. I fear the other two did not survive. I suppose the likeliest predator would be a coyote.
Peter Mayer has just written a beautiful song called “Trumpeter Swans” which I have already listened to maybe a hundred times…
The Herons were all hanging out in what little water is left.
And I caught a Wood Duck in flight.
I was a little surprised to see Northern Shovelers.
These fuzzy-looking acorns caught my eye. They are not acorns. They are called “hedgehog galls” and are formed by wasps.
This Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is probably halfway to its winter home by now.
Okay. I hope to be back very soon with a feast of warbler photographs. There have been other interesting birds too. Thanks for checking in!
If my memory serves me correctly, last year we were complaining of too much rain. I remember the tall plants in my backyard towering over everything and wondering if perhaps I should have discouraged them earlier. As it turns out, the tall plants seem to be growing up just as much without rain, but I am in no mood to discourage anything.
Anyway, Saturday I went to the Portage early and encountered John as I pulled into the parking lot. He leads discussions and walks on Saturdays at 10:00 AM regarding the history of the place. He had arrived early, said he was getting into birding but had forgotten his binoculars and wanted to know if he could tag along with me. We had a good time talking and walking along the trail, and he told me the history of the early explorers and how the Des Plaines River was diverted to feed the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. So initially the little bit of water now left to the Portage is part of the original Des Plaines River bed, but nothing feeds it except rain. With that knowledge I am amazed that when I first started coming here, there was enough water to support herons feeding and even a pair of Green Herons nesting. I haven’t seen the Green Herons here for several years now.
This year there doesn’t seem to be water to make it buggy enough to support Eastern Phoebes or Eastern Kingbirds like last year. We do have Eastern Wood-Pewees and Great Crested Flycatchers.
When John and I started up the trail we encountered that large painted turtle featured at the head of this post, on the gravel path. I wonder if it was a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. There haven’t been many turtles visible this year. The drought is affecting them as well.
But then we saw an Eastern Wood-Pewee, who even sang for us. I love these little guys – I often hear them clear across the woods but don’t always see them.
While we paused on the back trail on the other side of the fence, an Osprey flew over.
I was able to show John my most reliable Indigo Bunting whose territory is on the East side of the North bridge. The bunting was happy to pose and sing for us. A recording of his song is below the photos.
John had to leave to get ready for his tour/talk so we parted ways. I will have to attend one of his presentations. I confess I used avoid the Portage on Saturday mornings because of all the extra people, but now I’ve gotten used to it after the pandemic brought in a lot of new visitors.
I continued along the trail in the direction I usually take. The rest of these photos are not in order but they are the only birds I was able to capture. Below is a Red-Belled Woodpecker on the dark side of an oak tree.
I caught this Northern Flicker inspecting a nest hole.
Whatever you may think of Brown-headed Cowbirds, they can still be attractive.
Below is the first butterfly I have seen except for a Monarch here and there. It’s a Skipper, but I haven’t been able to identify it precisely. It was very tiny.
There was a Bald Eagle flying over.
There were very few swallows – this was the only Tree Swallow I saw.
Even the Red-winged Blackbirds were lying low.
I sat on the bench by the parking lot before returning to my car and caught this male Baltimore Oriole foraging around in the low trees at the edge of the lawn.
I decided to forego birding again on Sunday morning and opted to do a little yard work in anticipation of more to come. The Berwyn Historical Society this year decided to start an annual garden walk event on June 19, and my crazy garden, a/k/a postage-stamp-sized wildlife refuge, has been selected. The idea was pandemic-inspired because normally the BHS would be offering a bungalow tour, but since that wasn’t possible, the idea for an outdoor event occurred. My front yard still appears somewhat organized even though its creator, who has since passed, would likely have issues with all the Common Milkweed and other aggressors overtaking his original plan. It was just my luck that a Monarch visited the milkweed a week and a half ago and seemed to be laying eggs so I don’t dare remove any of it. I also have discovered some new visitors, such as Narrow-leafed Blue-eyed Grass.
My backyard is a small forest with a lot of native plants and grasses that need more control than I have been able to do. I am taking the week off before the walk to make as much sense out of it as I can and also to make sure I can identify everything – or almost everything – that’s growing. I have stopped feeding the birds and squirrels, except for the occasional hummingbird or oriole that might stop by, so the rat control project can succeed. The only thing I have to contend with is weather and stamina. So working in the yard is what I am looking forward to next week.
In the meantime I hope to be back with some pictures from previous outings this spring.
On that warm weekend nearly three weeks ago – I write this as we chill again after a bit of April Snow yesterday morning and into freezing overnight – I went to McGinnis Slough for a few birds and was greeted by a lot of singing in the sunshine. Thankfully, there was not a lot of traffic noise from LaGrange Road. The primary contributors to the recording are Red-Winged Blackbird males.
This time I got to see one of the Sandhill Cranes that I missed the weekend before. I have to wonder if they are nesting there…
No shortage of Red-Winged Blackbirds showing off.
And not showing off…
A male Wood Duck managed to swim by my lens.
Northern Cardinals didn’t offer many looks, but I managed to add these two for the record.
The iridescence of this Common Grackle’s neck caught my eye first.
This was the best I could do for a Song Sparrow, even though I heard a few singing. The song of one is below the picture.
This view overlooking a part of the slough perhaps conveys the feeling evoked by the toad chorus below it.
Never at a loss for American Coots this time of year. But I was most impressed with the one standing on a log poking out of the water, preening and showing off its pretty green legs.
Mallards… one hen very comfortable in her chosen spot.
It wouldn’t be an authentic visit to the Slough without a Great Blue Heron flying somewhere.
I was excited to see an Osprey, however briefly.
One male Blue-Winged Teal was close enough to capture.
Perhaps my most thrilling bird sighting that day was this lone Tree Swallow. It was actually warm enough for it to catch bugs in the air.
I always have hope to be back to this page sooner than later. Here’s to more sunshine, warmer weather and more reasons to treasure longer days while they last.
Yesterday I was fortunate enough to participate in the Spring Bird Count in DuPage County. I have done this count for a number of years, but this time, with social distancing, it was different. We split up so we each covered one area. I was assigned the Silver Lake part of Blackwell Forest Preserve, a location I was not familiar with, but was easy to navigate with the map Jody gave me, and I can get lost anywhere. Since I could only do the morning and there was no time limit, I had a wonderful experience listening for and spotting all the birds I could identify at a leisurely pace.
I felt especially privileged because under the current New Normal, I would not have been allowed to visit DuPage County preserves because I am not a resident. The county decided last month to limit parking to its residents. We speculated there was an overflow of people from Cook County, where I live, due to the closing of the lakefront. So I don’t know when I’ll be able to revisit this lovely place, but now that I am more familiar with it, I plan to do so when restrictions end.
I was beginning to feel like I am the only person on earth who hadn’t seen a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak yet so I was happy to find one singing high up in a tall tree.
Love was definitely in the air, albeit chilly after freezing temperatures overnight, for local breeders. I usually can’t get a glimpse of a Blue Jay long enough to photograph, but this pair united for some courtship behavior, exchanging some tiny seeds you might be able to see if you click on the images below.
And when it was all over I somehow managed to catch this Blue Jay in flight.
Yellow-Rumped Warblers are usually quite common, however brief the period of spring migration, so it’s easy to overlook how truly beautiful they are. This one was happy to display all his yellow parts except for his namesake.
I have no idea what was going on with this European Starling but I could swear he was dancing and singing.
This Tree Swallow was saving his energy for later when the sun would start warming up the ground and the air and there would be bugs to catch.
At some point Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are going to become impossible to find, let alone photograph, but that hasn’t quite happened yet.
Here’s two more of the goldfinch pair featured at the top of this post.
This distant Northern Flicker would have been impossible to capture were it not for the bright, clear sunshine.
I kept hearing this Common Yellowthroat and he was confusing me by not singing his “witchety-wichety” song, only a slow trill, if you will. So finally he came and sat right in front of me and continued singing. I have never had a Common Yellowthroat volunteer to be photographed. He must be a novice. Anyway, you can see in the third photo how windy it was.
Another warbler, only this one was harder to capture. Black-throated Green Warbler.
Robins are predictably everywhere but they get short shrift. I try not to take them all for granted and capture at least one.
A less-frequently-seen bird, also in the thrush family – a handsome Veery.
Song Sparrow taking a break.
This Canada Goose flew right in front of me so I couldn’t resist.
I heard the Orchard Oriole before I saw him. What a lovely tune.
Palm Warblers become commonplace too, but they are still pretty birds.
I miss seeing spectacles like 150 White-Crowned Sparrows or more on the lakefront, but am glad I was able to report the only White-Crowned Sparrow seen in our area on Saturday.
There were at least four Baltimore Oriole males. These two got into a little bit of a stand-off.
Downy Woodpeckers are busy this time of year and not quite so visible.
Here’s another one of the Bluebird.
So this morning I wasn’t planning on going out at all because of the forecast for all-day rain, but the rain stopped, so I went to the Portage to see if I could find anything. The cloudy sky was a more dramatic backdrop than usual.
Just my luck – the male Bluebird who has been at the Portage now for weeks happened to be hanging out. The exciting news which I meant to report a couple weeks ago is that we have a breeding pair. I saw his mate with nesting material a couple weeks ago. As long as I have been going to the Portage, Bluebirds have never nested there. Apparently they found a log or a tree stump with a suitable cavity for a nest. So I will be watching for their offspring in the coming weeks.
It started to rain, and I had to decide what to do – go back to the car, or keep walking? I put my camera in my backpack, kept walking, and then ran into a flock of warblers high up in the trees. Oh great – no light, it’s raining, and the tiny warblers are nearly impossible to see. These few images are what I could capture.
Tuesday morning I am going to try to go to the Portage early in the morning – when there is sunshine and warmer temperatures – and come home to work in the afternoon. I hope I get permission to do this because the forecast from Wednesday through the weekend is for rain and thunderstorms. My hope is to see more warblers. You’ll hear about it if I do!
Too many birds, too many pictures and not enough time. How can that be? I give up, at least for the moment. Yesterday’s summery sunshiny weather produced some wonderful encounters with birds that simply cannot wait. Pushing all my other planned posts, aside, here we go!
Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers have arrived in abundance and were generally the first to distract me. They are notoriously difficult to photograph but yesterday was the exception. In the sequence below this perched bird, I happened upon a Blue-Gray at waist-level, focused on obtaining web filaments for its nest.
It was a treat to see this Swainson’s Thrush, however briefly..
Another skulker I don’t think I’ve ever seen here before was the Northern Waterthrush below. I was sitting down on a rock-like seat that looks over the water and noticed something moving.
Every year when I hear House Wrens I have to refigure them out, I don’t know why. And then they just sing ad infinitum before I ever see one. I managed to glimpse this one way up high in a treetop.
Not that I’m lacking for pictures, but this Tree Swallow didn’t make it into the last post and is here to represent the ones I saw yesterday but did not get a chance to photograph.
So now we come to the highlight of my day. It had been a sort of slow morning, actually, compared to the day before – which I hope to get around to in a not-too-distant future post – and I was a bit disappointed that I was seeing hardly any warblers. I speculated maybe the warm and calm winds on Saturday night were favorable to migrants continuing their voyages north and they weren’t stopping if they didn’t have to. So as I walked slowly back down the trail from where I’d seen the Waterthrush, I stopped when I heard a call that might be described as a sneezy trill followed by raspberries. It had been so long since I studied warbler calls, I wasn’t sure, so I checked the Sibley app on my phone as quietly as possible, and sure enough, I was in the presence of a Blue-Winged Warbler. I haven’t seen more than an unsatisfying glimpse of a Blue-Winged in years. So when two of them showed up in front of me, I was temporarily transported to bliss, away from the extra weight of being human lately. I could almost hear them saying “Hey, lady, nice Portage you got here.”
Among the other creatures coming back to life at the Portage, turtles and frogs.
There was this Chorus Frog American Toad crossing the trail. He sang for me. I have placed a brief recording of his song below him. Unfortunately, there’s a slow-moving freight train in the background. – Thanks to my friend Leslie, I have been corrected. I thought he looked more like a toad but I didn’t know toads sing!
In the sparrow department, a Chipping Sparrow, one of several elusive but very vocal Song Sparrows and a couple somewhat backlit photos of a Swamp Sparrow.
Most numerous at the moment are probably the White-Throated Sparrows but they’re just passing through.
Warbling Vireos are back in force. I heard more on Saturday than I did yesterday but I managed to slightly photograph this one.
A Great Blue Heron flew right over my head.
Two common species of butterfly have been around this week, the Painted Lady and the Red Admiral.
Baltimore Orioles have arrived. I wonder if they’re possibly the same ones that visited my yard for the last time on Friday (I had three at once).
I was almost at the parking lot when I heard, and then saw, three Indigo Buntings – on the paved trail. They must have just arrived – getting their bearings, so to speak, because I have never seen them so tame. I’m sure I’ll be struggling to get any pictures of them the rest of the breeding season.