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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
It was nice to have the swallowtails and the purple for comparison.
Spicebush Swallowtail – 8/23 update – Linda P things this is probably a female Tiger Swallowtail
Red-Spotted Purple – at least I got this one right this time
I am not convinced of my identification for the butterfly below but have not yet found anything else it resembles.
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.
Blue-Fronted Dancer? Too hard to tell.
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.
The bees were busy too.
Bee on Burdock
I will be back to birds for a recap of Sunday’s return visit to the Chicago Portage.
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
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
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
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
Thistle, 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.
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
The heron was a bit closer when I got around to the other side of the lake.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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
On the way back to the car, a few Barn Swallows taking a preening break.
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 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.
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 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.
A field of Bergamot
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.
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.
Juvenile Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
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, I think…
White-Faced Meadowhawk Male
Colorful beetles, dragonflies…
Goldenrod Soldier Beetles on Rattlesnake Master
Eastern Pondhawk female
After a while other plants interrupted the field of Bergamot and sadly, so far, I can identify only one of them.
Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)
Heal-All (Prunella vulgaris)
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.
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
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
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.
Apologies are in order, I suppose. I have been a blogging laggard.
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.
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.
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!