Taking Stock

I started writing this post on Friday, after I took a break from the work email and made a trip to The Feed Store to stock up on birdseed, peanuts and spray millet for those inside and out. Working from home is so strange. In my head I am still working, but home has all its necessary distractions. I keep thinking I will have gotten used to it only when I have to go back to the office. It was still good to get out, and even better to get exercise moving everything into the house and the back porch. It was a chilly, gray day, but it is March, which my mother always used to refer to as the “adolescent” month, so I endure its changeability with her blessing.

Speaking of adolescents, I suppose the bird below could be called an adolescent Purple Finch. I am at a loss as to why I took so many photographs of it, but when in this plumage maybe the last thing I’m thinking is “Purple Finch” so it’s a reminder.

As I may have mentioned previously, I moved a lot of photographs off the laptop recently. Many were of winter scenes never shared, but I was tired of winter and it’s more than enough enduring this winter of the soul, so I have gone back to the remaining pictures from my trip to New Brunswick last August. And in that location at that time of year, there were a lot of in-between looking birds getting ready to make their first trips south for the winter.

I particularly got a kick out of this Yellow-Rumped Warbler. My friend Lesa tells me she has already seen some of these guys locally as they start to go back north. I could fantasize this was one of them.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I’m too lazy to go back and try to reconstruct exactly when we were wherever on August 20 but my notes say we were on the Salt Marsh Trail and Callendar’s Trail with a beach picnic area in Kouchibouguac National Park, which likely accounts for the shorebird images and others with wide open spaces for a background. We also visited the C. Irving Arboretum.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Short-billed Dowitchers
Common Tern
White-faced Meadowhawk (male)
Belted Kingfisher
Common Raven

Thanks for stopping by and joining this visual journey. I will be back soon with more images from last summer. Spring is coming, and with it, hope for renewal.

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.

Late Summer Walks

Deer Fly, McGinnis Slough

Deer Fly, McGinnis Slough

Even if there is not much in the way of birds to see or photograph – a distant Baltimore Oriole, a flock of blackbirds flying by – I am still committed to going somewhere every Sunday morning, weather permitting. It has become part of my routine. Routine is great to fall back on when I feel unfocused, overwhelmed or just plain lazy.

So last Sunday I decided to visit Lake Katherine again, and then hop over to McGinnis Slough, which wasn’t far. The forecast was for rain in the afternoon, which in reality never happened. The first bird near the parking lot was this skeptical-looking female Northern Cardinal.

Female Northern Cardinal, Lake Katherine

Female Northern Cardinal, Lake Katherine

I decided to skip the garden portion and walk around the lake. The first bird to record was likely the same Black-Crowned Night Heron I saw a couple weeks ago in the trees. Although his attempt to hide behind the grasses seemed successful to me, he wasn’t pleased with it and he took off before I could snap a picture of him in flight. When I am the cause of a bird’s flight, I don’t like to photograph it anyway, I feel too much like I’m taking advantage of the situation I created. Not to mention that usually the bird is gone long before I can get myself organized enough to capture it.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

It was a cloudy day which made it difficult to photograph anything in flight, actually. But these three helicopters sure were noisy.

Helicopters over Lake Katherine

Helicopters over Lake Katherine

Back on the ground, taking note of dragonflies, a Sphinx (“Hummingbird”) Moth and the geometry of a completely stripped thistle blossom.

Widow Skimmer, Lake Katherine

Widow Skimmer, Lake Katherine

White-Faxed Meadowhawk

White-Faced Meadowhawk

Thistle, Lake Katherine

Thistle, Lake Katherine

Sphinx Moth on Monarda, Lake Katherine

Sphinx Moth on Monarda, Lake Katherine

Juvenile Mallards as big as their parents and at this time of year, looking much the same.

Juvenile Mallard

Juvenile Mallard

Mallards by the Canoe Launch, Lake Katherine

Mallards by the Canoe Launch, Lake Katherine

There was a Great Blue Heron stalking prey, but after taking maybe 15 pictures of him crouched low, I grew tired and never did see him catch anything.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

The heron was a bit closer when I got around to the other side of the lake.

Great Blue Heron

In the middle of the lake is a small island, and in addition to two small rookery platforms which I did not photograph, there are heron sculptures which looked a lot more interesting.

Heron Sculptures

Heron Sculptures

But my attention to the island was first drawn by a bright orange bird on the other side of it. It’s a Baltimore Oriole that hasn’t left yet. Unfortunately it was too far away to photograph, but I like the branches hanging over the pond lilies anyway.

BAOR Lake Katharine 8-10-14-2447

Lots of Chimney Swifts, which are impossible to follow, but they were so close, I had to try. At least I got one flying cigar photo.

Chimney Swift

Chimney Swift

CHSW Lake Katharine 8-10-14-2515

I believe the flower below is a form of evening primrose, of which I understand there are an unbelievable number of varieties. Anyway it looks similar to what has taken over part of my yard.

Evening Primrose, Lake Katharine

Evening Primrose, Lake Katherine

By the time I got to McGinnis Slough, it was 10:30 AM or so, which is getting late by bird standards. There was not an awful lot happening. Maybe the best bird was a very close Green Heron, but with the clouds and backlighting, it doesn’t appear colorful at all.

Green Heron, McGinnis Slough

Green Heron, McGinnis Slough

GRHE McGinnis 8-10-14-2529

It’s impossible to look out on whatever water there is at McGinnis without a scope, so I did the obligatory scan and counted some Pied-Billed Grebes, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Double-Crested Cormorants, and I forget what else – I still have to input my ebird list – there wasn’t much. But there was a Deer Fly who was fascinated by the scope cover. Better the scope cover than me. I am usually swatting at these things, but this one was a model insect. My what beautiful eyes you have.

Deer Fly on the scope

Deer Fly on the scope

Deer Fly McGinnis 8-10-14-3944

On the way back to the car, a few Barn Swallows taking a preening break.

Barn Swallows, McGinnis Slough

Barn Swallows, McGinnis Slough

The American Goldfinch below is likely a juvenile male, if the faint darkness on his crown is any indication.

American Goldfinch, Lake Katharine

American Goldfinch, Lake Katherine

Summer continues, although for the moment we’re having brisk fall weather. The days are still long but they get shorter and shorter, and every other week it seems I have to make an adjustment to the length of the timers on the lights in the house, so the indoor birds can see where they’re going during people hours.

Sunday at Orland Grassland

Field Sparrow, Orland Grassland

Field Sparrow, Orland Grassland

I envisioned another two-locale outing yesterday morning, but never made it to the second spot, since there was quite enough to keep me busy at Orland Grassland. This is another reclaimed farm property becoming restored habitat, and it’s not far from Bartel, so if there were not quite so many strip malls and subdivisions in between you could almost envision a habitat corridor for grassland birds.

(The Field Sparrow above was friendly, but not singing. Although there were several others singing I was unable to record them. The closest one stopped singing the minute I turned on the recorder, of course.)

Juvenile Eastern Meadowlark

Juvenile Eastern Meadowlark

Juvenile Eastern Phoebe

Juvenile Eastern Phoebe

Indeed driving just farther south than McGinnis Slough to reach Orland the feeling is never-ending suburban sprawl. Although Orland Grassland is much better established than it was last time I visited which was several years ago, and it is possible to look in at least one direction without seeing a building or utility tower on the horizon, I still could not escape the feeling of fragility, whether it was the helicopters overhead reminding me of civilization or the huge Ace Hardware warehouse looming at one corner of the preserve as I headed back to the parking lot.

Field of Bergamot Orland 8-3-14-2247

A field of Bergamot

Monarda at Orland 8-3-14-3660

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

I managed to walk the perimeter of barely half of the 960 acre preserve, which I estimate to be about a mile one way, before turning around and heading back. I was stopped at every turn either by a bird, an interesting insect, or a wildflower. For the time being the trails are mown paths, often restructured with dried tire ruts from the last rainstorm, but I understand a paved trail is in the offing. I would rather stumble along a mown path. With the exception of a couple people walking their dogs, I was the only person at Orland yesterday morning.

Blazing Star

Blazing Star

Fields of Monarda seemed to attract butterflies, bees, and of particular interest to me, a hummingbird. This was my first good look at a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird this season. The welcome mat has been out in my backyard for months: I hope to see them soon at the feeders.

Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2268

Juvenile Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2264 Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2263 Juv Female RTHU Orland 8-3-14-2254

It was difficult to get a good image of the Katydid below but my, what long legs you have, and long antenna, and, well, a miniature marvel. The pondhawks and skimmers were more accommodating.

Meadow Katydid at Orland 8-3-14-3775

Meadow Katydid, I think…

White-Faced Meadowhawk Male at Orland 8-3-14-3706

White-Faced Meadowhawk Male

Widow Skimmer Orland 8-3-14-2239

Widow Skimmer

Colorful beetles, dragonflies…

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on Rattlesnake Master at Orland 8-3-14-3672

Goldenrod Soldier Beetles on Rattlesnake Master

Eastern Pondhawk female

Eastern Pondhawk female

After a while other plants interrupted the field of Bergamot and sadly, so far, I can identify only one of them.

Wildflowers at Orland 8-3-14-3758

Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

Wildflowers at Orland 8-3-14-3759

Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)

Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3687 Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3738 Wildflower at Orland 8-3-14-3717

Then of course there were butterflies. I think the first one below is some sort of Checkerspot but I cannot seem to locate it readily. I have to look harder.

Update: thanks to Mary Lee’s comment below I finally looked up the Crescents and I think I have identified this butterfly. Thanks, Mary Lee!

Thanks to Linda Padera I now have the correct ID for the Crescent – it is a Pearl.

Pearl Crescent per Linda Padera

Linda says this is a Pearl Crescent

Not a butterfly but always a welcome sighting, this Northern Flicker was one of four or more. Now that nesting is over they are perhaps a bit less shy. In all I had 30 bird species on my list but I probably saw only 20.

Male Northern Flicker

Male Northern Flicker

There were a lot of Viceroy Butterflies. I may have seen one Monarch but it was at a distance and it disappeared before I could be sure of the identification

Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy Butterfly

Walking through Orland this morning was magical and mournful at the same time. Whenever I have a fleeting moment of superb reality, I seem to focus more on the fleeting than the moment itself.

It’s time to go back to work. It’s been a nice weekend, but there’s a lot more to be done.

Summer Doldrums

Flower 6-22-14-1870Apologies are in order, I suppose. I have been a blogging laggard.

Grasshopper 6-22-14-1876

Two-Striped Grasshopper

Baby Grasshopper 6-22-14-1880

Baby Two-Striped Grasshopper

After struggling to manage a post all week I’m not doing any better this weekend. There seem to be too many other things that have to get done, and then that stuff that really gets in the way, like sleeping and eating.

Dragonfly 6-22-14-1955

Blue Dasher

So this is a little picture postcard from last Sunday at McGinnis (this Sunday has yet to be processed). Weekends have been hot and steamy. I suspect I move a little slower in the heat. Maybe my brain does too.

Meadowhawk or Skimmer 6-22-14-1862

Unidentified Meadowhawk

Butterfly 6-22-14-1942

Red-Spotted Purple

Moth 6-22-14-1913Meadowhawk 6-22-14-0276Dragonfly 6-22-14-1951Dragonfly 6-22-14-0268

With any luck I will add identities to some of these creatures tomorrow.

I hope to start making up for all of this over the holiday. Thanks for your patience!

Update 7-10-14: My friend Linda Padera who has been paying attention to butterflies and dragonflies a lot longer than I have weighed in on my butterfly ID and I have corrected it to Red-Spotted Purple. She said the clear-winged Meadowhawks are difficult to pin down but “Striped” was not an option in this part of the country so I have changed it to “Unidentified” after checking some sources on the Internet that have not helped me to determine whether it was a Ruby or White-Faced Meadowhawk, the two most likely choices. This is harder than birds!