Hiding in Plain Sight

Common Potoo 02-23-2016-3934

The bird above is a sleeping Common Potoo, a nocturnal species. Now see if you can find the bird in the photo below.

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How our guide ever saw the bird in the first place is beyond comprehension. But the same day, one of our net-tending participants found the practically invisible hummingbird nest below. The only way I could find the spot with my camera was to look for the orange leaf.

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The birds at the lodge feeders were much easier to spot. An Inca Dove and a Rufous-Naped Wren.

And birds in the hand, as always, were the easiest to see. Except you hardly ever see the whole hummingbird. Below, a Stripe-Throated Hermit and a Blue-Throated Goldentail.

Below, a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher on the left and a female Painted Bunting on the right.

The bird below found its way into my net. It is a Yellow-Billed Cacique.

The Ivory-Billed Woodcreeper below was on a tree near my net. Much more common than an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker!

Below, a Tropical Kingbird and another Black-Headed Trogon.

There is nothing new about a Turkey Vulture but it’s nice when you can see the field marks.

Turkey Vulture 02-23-2016-4217More photographs to come from my trip to Nicaragua. Below, one of many stunning overlooks.

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Busy Breeding Birds

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Sunday morning I got up early before the predicted heat ensued and went to the Dorothy and Sam Dean Nature Sanctuary in Oak Brook…

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because I felt like I hadn’t had a proper Eastern Bluebird yet this year. I found only one Bluebird but he did not let me down. He even chirped a slight song but it was not strong enough to beat out the surrounding chorus.

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There were a few other birds on the wire…

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Juvenile Barn Swallow

Juvenile Barn Swallow

The first bird, the parking lot bird, if you will, was a Great Blue Heron flying over.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

There was a flock of Cedar Waxwings moving through. I caught one laggard.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

But the dominant species overall was Red-Winged Blackbird.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

And the Blackbirds were no less shy taking on Turkey Vultures than they had been the Red-Tailed Hawks at McGinnis a couple weeks ago.

Turkey Vulture chased by Red-Winged Blackbirds

Turkey Vulture chased by Red-Winged Blackbirds

Indeed it was a little dicey walking around the paths. Being the height of breeding season, the Red-Wingeds were not in the mood to tolerate my presence. Click on the picture below to see the spider in this female Red-Winged Blackbird’s bill.

Female Red-Winged Blackbird

Female Red-Winged Blackbird

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The Sanctuary is a small place, but it managed to make the House Sparrow below look exotic.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

After about an hour in Oak Brook, I decided it was time to head back east and check in at the Portage.

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The water levels are high, in large part, I suspect, to the felling of so many trees. There were puddles directly in front of me on the path, visited by a Killdeer…

Killdeer

Killdeer

and a Song Sparrow…

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

There were Warbling Vireos singing up a storm here, as they had been at Dorothy and Sam’s place too. In the sample below, the Warbling Vireo is the very busy-sounding song going on behind all the other noises.

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Juvenile Wood Duck

Juvenile Wood Duck

The Portage was full of juvenile birds, like the Wood Duck above. I was glad to see a Green Heron fly over and another, albeit far away, ensconced foraging over the water. I am glad the Green Herons are back.

Green Heron

Green Heron

And after not seeing any Mallards the last two or three times I visited, now there is an entire family.

Mallards

Mallards

Also ubiquitous at the Portage are House Wrens. There were at least four males singing on territories. Here’s one of them.

House Wren

House Wren

Juvenile American Robin

Juvenile American Robin

There are always loads of American Robins at the Portage, and now there will be even more as the youngsters start figuring things out.

The big surprise, perhaps, was on the other side of the fence. I followed the path that leads down to the train tracks and the Des Plaines River. I stopped halfway to peer into the bottomlands and saw a Great Egret. I think this is the first time I have seen a Great Egret at the Portage.

Behind the Portage looking down to the Des Plaines River

Behind the Portage looking down to the Des Plaines River

Changes in habitat create subtle changes in the creatures that use it. It will no doubt continue to be an interesting year at the Chicago Portage.

Great Egret

Great Egret

When I went back to my car, I met Adrian and Stella, whom I have seen walking their dogs at the Portage. We had a delightful visit and I look forward to seeing them again.

Portage-0146

And now I must get back to work, looking for my old car title, and going through more photographs. The weather forecast is for rain and thunderstorms much of the week so there may be hope for inside endeavors.

 

Return to Tuttle Marsh

This post will feature flying birds as I continue to soar through pictures from the Memorial Day Weekend. It’s been a busy week at work and the only antidote is swimming, which means I have spent less time sitting with the laptop.

Osprey

Osprey

On the Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) Kirtland’s Warbler Memorial Day trip, the second day we spent the morning at Tuttle Marsh. Above is a picture of one of the Ospreys that nests there.

Below is a sign describing the wetland restoration project at Tuttle Marsh. Click on any of the pictures to enlarge the view.

Tuttle Puddle Sign-3778

American Bittern

American Bittern

I saw my first American Bittern at Tuttle Marsh last year, in the reeds. This year, we had two flying across the marsh. Above is one of them. Not a great shot but the profile is distinctive.

Osprey Nest

Osprey Nest

There is a viewing area across from the Osprey nest, where these pictures were taken.

Osprey-3846Osprey-3847Osprey-3848

I can’t resist the “Honey, I’m home” sentiment to the last picture above although her reaction indicates that he forgot the milk.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

I never tire of seeing Turkey Vultures, even after being in Virtual Vulture Heaven about a month ago in Texas. I promise to get back to those pictures as soon as I am done with these!

Green Heron

Green Heron

I can’t remember if we saw any Green Herons on the ground, but we certainly had them in the air (six!). As I recall (memory being what it is two weeks later), we made some stops along the way to the Marsh and by the time we got there it was perhaps a bit later than we had been last year, mid-morning and a bit quieter. But we got great looks at a Broad-Winged Hawk that flew over. Below are my first-ever photographs of a flying Broad-Winged, which is a less-common buteo to see. I am thrilled to have these pictures to study and imprint on my brain, so I might be able to recognize the next one I see flying by, which will probably not hang around so long.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-Winged Hawk

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We went back to Tuttle Marsh in the evening to hear, if not see, the American Bittern. We did hear one call once, but I did not manage to record it. However while we endured swarms of mosquitoes that eventually subsided as the temperatures cooled, I did manage to get a picture of the sunset, and a recording of a very vocal Eastern Whip-Poor-Will.

Sunset Tuttle Marsh-4210

 

Invasion of the Nesters

Tree Swallow Nest, Chicago Portage

Tree Swallow Nest, Chicago Portage

Yesterday, whatever holiday you may have been celebrating, was also a beautiful day in the Chicago area. For that matter, Saturday was quite wonderful as well: I had a visceral perception of my depression lifting and concluded it must have been directly related to abundant sunshine. Although having a new car to drive to the pool and grocery shopping didn’t hurt either.

Ottawa Trail Forest Preserve, Cook County, Illinois

Ottawa Trail Forest Preserve, Cook County, Illinois

Sunshine aside, it was warm yesterday as well. I started out at Ottawa Trail around 8:00 a.m. wearing a t-shirt, sweat shirt and windbreaker. I shed the sweatshirt before I left and by the time I got to the Portage at 10:00 I was minus the windbreaker too.

Robin with nesting material, Ottawa Trail

Robin with nesting material, Ottawa Trail

For all the warm weather, there weren’t an awful lot of birds at Ottawa Trail, but improvements have been made and it’s easier to walk all the way now, it doesn’t stop abruptly anymore and insist that you be in good enough shape to climb down and back up a 3-foot cement retaining wall, while still leaving enough of the former demolished structure to stop and rest, lay down your optics and take off your sweatshirt to stuff in a backpack.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

It’s always nice to see a Turkey Vulture flying overhead. Another raptor seen here was a Cooper’s Hawk but the photographs were good only for later verification of its ID.

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The designated Black-Capped Chickadee greeted me.

Blending in at the Ottawa Trail

Blending in at the Ottawa Trail

The image of a Canada Goose above explains to me how even if you have black and white markings on your body you can still blend in with the scenery.

Blending in at Ottawa Trail

Blending in at Ottawa Trail

Walking back along the Des Plaines, I saw something black and white across the river but had no idea what it was until I got it in the camera view. The nesting spot above looks like a fort.

Tree Swallow Nest

Tree Swallow Nest

I stopped at the Jewel-Osco and then went on to the Chicago Portage to see what, if anything, had changed over the week. The ground is a lot drier, leaving the bottomlands almost drained. But I was quickly awakened by chirps of dueling Tree Swallows. The one I photographed most was protecting his prime nesting spot in a dead stump right by the south foot bridge.

Tree Swallow Nest Portage 6957.jpg-6957Tree Swallow Portage 6968.jpg-6968

It occurred to me that a lot of male birds were strutting their stuff yesterday, and with good reason. “It’s my job to be beautiful – go ahead, look at me! Just don’t look at my nest!!”

Canada Geese, Chicago Portage

Canada Geese, Chicago Portage

The Canada Geese were defending their territories too, sometimes quite vigorously.

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I must have startled this Mallard, but he gave me some interesting shots.

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Blue-Winged Teal have decided they like the Portage. I wonder if they will stay. I counted four pairs yesterday!

Blue-Winged Teal, Chicago Portage

Blue-Winged Teal, Chicago Portage

The first picture below illustrates how well they can blend in too. The second shows a flash of that blue wing.

BW Teal Portage 6979.jpg-6979Blue-Winged Teal BWTE Portage 7185.jpg-7185

There was another warbler I have yet to identify from many crummy pictures, but below is the only Yellow-Rumped I could find.

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There were two Blue-Gray Gnatcacthers chasing each other, probably over that nesting thing.

Blue-Gray Gnatcactcher, Portage

Blue-Gray Gnatcactcher, Portage

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers won’t nest here, they travel much farther north. But it sure was nice to see this guy in his breeding plumage.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

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I am sparing you a lot of Painted Turtle Pictures this time, although they were out in great force soaking up the sun. Below is my cooperative Tree Swallow once more.

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I will try very hard to come back one more time before leaving for the Edwards Plateau in Texas on Friday.

 

 

 

 

Raptor Reminiscence: Hawks on the Move

Turkey Vulture, IBSP

Turkey Vulture, IBSP

Two Sundays ago, I joined a field trip organized through the Evanston North Shore Bird Club to the hawk watch at Illinois Beach State Park (“IBSP”). I have known about the hawk watch for years but never managed to get there until now (it’s an hour-and-a-half drive, which usually discourages me). But it’s a treat to visit IBSP altogether. The expanse of fairly undisturbed habitat along the lakefront is restorative.

IBSP Hawk Watch 1I2A3583

The hawk watch is a special, different kind of bird watching. Basically it’s sitting or standing around and waiting for raptors to fly over. And when the raptors are too far away to identify by field marks, it’s great to have the counters available to help you identify them by shape and flight pattern. Luckily not all the birds were that far away.

Red-Tailed Hawk, IBSP

Red-Tailed Hawk, IBSP

Red-Tailed Hawk, IBSP

Red-Tailed Hawk, IBSP

Northern Harrier, IBSP

Northern Harrier, IBSP

Then this past Sunday I birded much closer to home. My friend Lesa met me at Miller Meadow and we walked around there for a couple hours.

American Kestrel, Miller Meadow

American Kestrel, Miller Meadow

From the beginning, we kept running into this American Kestrel who was hunting the preserve. Eventually we were treated to our own miniature hawk watch. As we started to turn back, we counted a Cooper’s Hawk, four Red-Tailed Hawks, a Northern Harrier, a Golden Eagle and fifty-five Turkey Vultures.

Northern Harrier, Miller Meadow

Northern Harrier, Miller Meadow

Turkey Vultures kettling, Miller Meadow

Turkey Vultures kettling, Miller Meadow

Turkey Vulture, Miller Meadow

Turkey Vulture, Miller Meadow

I did not manage to get pictures of all the birds that flew over but considering that most of the year you feel lucky to see one or two raptors on an outing, seeing so many fly overhead was quite exciting.

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Earlier in the day, we also had a migrating juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron… sometime before the 200 or so Canada Geese that had been feeding in the fields took to the air.

Geese 1I2A3696

Canada Geese

From Loons to Parakeets

Common Loon, Saganashkee Slough

Common Loon, Saganashkee Slough

I’d been thinking all week about where to go on Easter Sunday. My friends had been to various haunts all week while I was at work, and I was tempted by their destinations. While I had a general idea where these places were, I had never found some of them on my own before. It was fun to get out the maps Saturday night and plan my “trip.”

My main focus was bodies of water in the Palos area of the Cook County Forest Preserves, where Common Loons had been seen. I started out at Tampier Lake, which is positively sprawling. My first bird there was a Song Sparrow, doing what Song Sparrows do best.

Song Sparrow, Tampier Lake

Song Sparrow, Tampier Lake

There were a couple loons and dozens of other waterfowl, too distant to photograph, so after I got satisfying scoped views, I headed toward my next stop: Saganashkee Slough, where I was close enough to a Common Loon for the opening photo. Ring-Billed Gulls were everywhere; this one caught a fish.

Ring-Billed Gull, Saganashkee Slough

Ring-Billed Gull, Saganashkee Slough

Saganashkee is a long, strung-out body of water that covers a large area. After I counted all the birds I could see, I headed to Maple Lake, a smaller, contained lake surrounded by woods. I saw two more Common Loons there and distant views of Redheads and Scaup. Mentally, I was taking notes for future visits to all these places.

I stopped at The Little Red Schoolhouse which has a nature center. Families were out in the cool but sunny weather. After walking part of a short trail, I found this Red-Headed Woodpecker near the parking lot.

Red-Headed WP Little Red Schoolhouse IMG_3826_1

Though he gave me many excellent poses when he was exposed on the open limb above, I like the way he looks best behind the few twigs below. The twig cover is probably when, and why, he let me get closer to him.

Red-Headed WP Little Red Schoolhouse IMG_3838_1

There were a couple Brown-Headed Cowbirds strutting their stuff too.

Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Little Red Schoolhouse

Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Little Red Schoolhouse

My last destination was a power company substation in northwest DuPage County where Monk Parakeets had taken up residence. We used to have a flock locally but I haven’t seen Monks for quite a while in my neighborhood. Time to see some green birds.

I didn’t find them immediately, so I took a walk into a small section of Churchill Woods that runs next to a nearby open space. Besides a Red-Tailed Hawk,

Red-Tailed Hawk Churchill Woods IMG_3868_1

and a Turkey Vulture,

Turkey Vulture Churchil Woods IMG_3877_1

I had my first-of-year Eastern Phoebe.

Eastern Phoebe Churchill Woods IMG2_3900_1

Eastern Phoebe

The section of Churchill Woods below reminds me a little bit of the Portage.

Churchill Woods IMG_3881_1

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker below reminds me of the first time I ever saw one of them. The scarlet shade of red on its head is so distinctive.

Red-Bellied WP Churchill Woods IMG_3892_1

Churchill Woods had its own number of Song Sparrows, this one foraging in dried stalks.

Song Sparrow Churchill Woods IMG_3940_1

As I headed back toward my car, I heard the Monk Parakeets. They were flying into the trees along a dirt road that runs between the substation and the forest preserve. At first they came to taunt me, and then when I told them my friend had sent me, they flew in closer to check me out.

Monk Parakeet, DuPge County

Monk Parakeet, DuPage County

Except for the guy behind me in a monster SUV–whose foot must have slipped off the brake pedal as we were waiting for the stop light to change, jolting my bumper (except for a little lost paint, car and driver are okay)–it was a pretty perfect day.

Goose Lake Prairie

Compass Plant

I finally managed to go through the rest of my photographs from my visit to Goose Lake Prairie last weekend. I’d had no particular target species or agenda in mind. I had hoped to maybe see a Grasshopper Sparrow, but I can’t say I even heard one, that was my only disappointment. A bit ironically, I first heard about Goose Lake Prairie on Cornell’s “More Birding By Ear” CDs, for the recorded songs of birds found there.

The most common species last weekend was probably Eastern Meadowlark.They were no longer singing, but they were chattering everywhere.

This parched version of the prairie is different from the last time I visited maybe three years ago. Rattlesnake Master, one of my favorite native prairie plants, seemed to be the only thing that thrived on the hot, dry weather.

The Wild Bergamot was almost spindly.

Wild Bergamot

Song Sparrows were predictably common. And still singing.

Song Sparrow

I heard a few Field Sparrows before I finally saw one.

Field Sparrow

I walked a long way before I finally started hearing Henslow’s Sparrows and then it seemed like they were everywhere. But they were singing hidden in the tall grass, until finally I managed to see and hear one sitting up. They were more cooperative a few weeks ago at Springbrook Prairie, but I don’t think I have ever heard so many of them as I did at Goose Lake Prairie. I simply adore Henslow’s Sparrows. Once gravely endangered, they have been making a real comeback in Illinois, due in large part to prairie restoration.

Henslow’s Sparrow

There were not too many butterflies or dragonflies, maybe just a few of the more common species.

Monarch Butterfly

Common Whitetail

And of course my photographic nemesis, Indigo Bunting, made a brief appearance.

Indigo Bunting

Sometime after hanging out with the Northern Harrier that dominated a previous post, a Turkey Vulture came to take up the slack…

Turkey Vulture

proving that even vultures can be beautiful.