They’re Here

I saw some birds this week – in between practicing for the Spring Music Festival which will occur tonight. We had a rehearsal/run through last night and I survived. At least people like the song, so I guess that’s a good indication of something.

We canceled our scheduled walk at Columbus Park this morning because the weather was potentially threatening with the possibility of thunderstorms. We will more than likely have that kind of weather later tonight as we warm up to 70 degrees. But the overnight lows are still predicted to be in the 40’s for the coming week, which delays the yard cleanup even further.

These photos are from Monday at the Chicago Portage. I warn you, there are Way Too Many of them. The warm wave from the two days before brought migrants into the area. It was cooler on Monday so a lot of birds were foraging for food on the ground, like this Pine Warbler sampling seeds on the asphalt path.

Believe it or not these photos are of two separate individuals. I couldn’t capture them close enough to each other for a group photo.

The one Pine Warbler in the trees at first was not recognizable to me, but it turned out to be a Pine, albeit a drab one. The photo of the undertail helped me identify it.

A few more of this bird. Either way, it blends right in with the wood.

Palm Warblers have been all over the place in great numbers. it has gotten so that after taking all these pictures I haven’t bothered much with any of them the rest of the week.

I barely managed a few fuzzy photographs of the Black-and-White Warbler below.

it was delightful to see the return of a Yellow Warbler. One or two always stays the summer at the Portage so I expect to see this species again.

Warblers were not the only thing going on. There were lots of Chipping Sparrows, albeit most of them on the ugly asphalt.

There were a few group photo opportunities.

Palm Warbler and Chipping Sparrows
Chipping Sparrow and Field Sparrow

There were one or two Field Sparrows and then quite a number of White-throated Sparrows through the break in the fence.

Field Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

I saw my first Baltimore Oriole of the year. My feeder will go up tomorrow. As you can see he wasn’t moving much.

Vocally and actively, the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are back. The lack of light emphasized the the Gray half of their name.

Here’s what the sky looked like that morning.

I had a cooperative White-breasted Nuthatch doing his thing.

Male Northern Cardinals are a little easier to photograph these days as they advertise their territories.

But the lack of light kept everything pretty cool-looking.

In her elusive stage, I managed half of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

My volunteer American Robin. They are all over the Portage now.

The Yellow-rumped Warblers were the first to show up, but now their numbers are diminishing.

The return of water this year is making the place attractive to waterfowl again.

Blue-winged Teal and Canada Geese

It would have been nice to see the rest of the bird below, but I think after going back and forth between Hermit Thrush and Swainson’s Thrush, it’s the latter.

Northern Flickers are determined to not be seen and this one wasn’t any different.

The Great Egret stopped by to see if conditions were conducive to fishing. I can only assume the sight of me changed its mind. But it was back the next day, on the bank of the stream.

I can only imagine what these Mourning Doves were up to. If that’s the male on the right, his neck feathers are iridescent…

I think these are flowers of a Box-elder Maple Tree. I found them attractive.

So thanks to the canceled bird walk and my nap, I was able to finish this offering. If you made it all the way to the end of this post you are a rock star! I must go back to my chores and prepare for this evening’s performance. I hope to be back again sooner after all this. Thanks for checking in and Happy Spring!

Snowy Days

It was snowing when I started writing over an hour ago. Winds from the south pushed us up to 68 degrees Saturday, only to collide with winds from the north Saturday night which produced thunder, lightning, and some rain, and the north winds persisted so forcefully yesterday morning I did not venture out for a walk anywhere. I am watching the snow falling outside presently from the comfort of my futon as my indoor birds conduct their daily pursuits of eating and nest-building, with a few territorial tiffs in between. Somehow revisiting snowy photographs from January is less depressing knowing that the present snowfall is only temporary as the days continue to stretch at both ends. Today’s snow is heavy and wet but not sticking to the sidewalks. I spread some sand around to provide traction in the icy in-between.

All this seems so mundane and it is, in view of everything else, but it’s still part of life too. Perhaps one needs to consider the mundane while hoping that the almost unimaginable, terrifying scenarios don’t become mundane as well.

So here are some select photos from various visits during the month of January 2022 at the Chicago Portage.

I don’t often get a chance to photograph a female Northern Cardinal who isn’t obscured by vegetation, so it was nice to see this one in the snow.

The males hardly ever have the option of blending in, wherever they appear, and they know it.

The deer can blend in easily however.

I love to see this view of the north bridge through the bare trees. It will disappear behind foliage soon.

American Tree Sparrows were not numerous, but present this winter. In late February, which I think was the last time I saw one, I heard someone singing. It was a song I did not recognize, but I confirmed it was an American Tree Sparrow with the recording on my Sibley app and took note of the fact that the recording was made in Alaska, where these birds breed. So I guess I was lucky to hear it at all.

White-throated Sparrows like the one below and at the top of the post will be singing a lot soon as more of them come through. I look forward to hearing them again. Their song is probably the first I was able to recognize of any migrant, it is so distinctive and tuneful. They don’t all migrate quite so far as the American Tree Sparrows, some breeding in the Northern Highland of the U.S.

One day I noticed a Red-bellied Woodpecker on the ground, which is not where I usually see them.

The same woodpecker is in the photographs below. It turned out that a man I have seen this winter, whom I now think of as “Mr. Peanut”, wanders the trails with a plastic bag containing peanuts in the shell. When I saw him later after I took these photographs and mentioned that the Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoyed one of his peanuts, he said he brings the peanuts for the deer, who just love them – I’m sure they do. I did not admonish him, as much as I thought perhaps I should. I am not one to lecture (he’s friendly, but bigger than I am). In any event, this woodpecker was paying attention to him as well and managed to get one of those peanuts, which made a nice photo or two.

On one of those visits in January, I managed to barely capture the Red-tailed Hawk I saw on practically every visit, albeit at a distance.

On January 31st I saw the tree-trimmer below.

Today’s snow has ended. I did not have to shovel my walks. Snow is in the forecast again for Friday, but likely it will be another one-day affair. I just noticed the clocks move ahead this weekend. I don’t know if I’m quite ready for this. My birds won’t mind. They’ll just think I’m getting up that much earlier to feed them.

Footprints in the Snow

It’s simply too cold to venture outside for a walk today. I had hoped I would be up for a walk anyway – the sun is shining brightly – but with a wind chill of 14 below and a predicted high of no more than 14 above, I think I will simply wait for it to get warmer over the weekend.

I was last at the Chicago Portage on January 4. Even though I was the only human there, it immediately became obvious that several others had preceded me the days before.

I always take a photograph of the statue first just to commemorate the light. And in this case, a little snow on it.

It was a fairly sunny day and not windy, so I could stand and wait for birds to pop up. But there really weren’t many. I struggled to get a halfway clear picture of one very cold-looking White-throated Sparrow.

When I did finally see some Northern Cardinals, they were too far away.

Here are a few snowy scenes. Just enough for a contrast to the shades of brown.

The sky was often undecided about sunshine or clouds.

A view of the Des Plaines River

But there were deer. Several of them.

And more footprints caught my attention.

I barely heard the woodpeckers and did not see them at all. My greeter Black-capped Chickadee was excited to see me but he wouldn’t stay still very long.

I barely captured a Dark-eyed Junco.

Before the snow and cold, Canada Geese were everywhere. On this day, I noted only four flying over.

On the way out, I heard a White-breasted Nuthatch but when I tried to find it, instead I saw a Brown Creeper. Since they don’t sound anything alike, there’s no way I could have mistaken the elusive nuthatch for a creeper or vice versa. But this is a phenomenon I have noticed on several occasions this winter, so they must be foraging in the same trees. Anyway, below are some photos of the creeper.

I have a treasure trove of some slightly older and significantly older photographs to go through and they will come in handy during this cold spell when I just can’t find the courage to brave the elements. The weather hasn’t stopped me from going out at night to swim, it has only made the outing that more surreal. But I am grateful for the opportunity to get some exercise.

Christmas Week at the Portage, Part II

I will be short on narration with this post – the day after Christmas at the Portage was somewhat more of the same as two days before. There were a couple species of birds I did not see on the previous visit. The Fox Sparrow below, for instance, unfortunately did not give me a better view but it had been weeks since I’d seen one so it was nice to see anyway.

And then months perhaps since I saw my last Kinglet – there was a Golden-crowned Kinglet, not captured very well at all, below.

This was the first time I saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker at the bottom of a tree.

Somewhat obscured but not bothered by my attention to it, a White-throated Sparrow.

More Red-bellied Woodpecker shots through the trees…

I haven’t run into large flocks of House Finches lately but there were a few around.

Always nice to see a Brown Creeper.

American Goldfinches seem to be matching the golden-hued Portage lately.

Some common birds trying to escape attention…

European Starlings in a gnarly oak
An American Robin behind bars

This female Northern Cardinal blends right in.

Often moving quickly in flocks, Dark-eyed Juncos aren’t as easy to capture as they ought to be.

It’s still nice to see Northern Cardinals and Black-capped Chickadees. I see them more often than not.

I will be back with a little New Year’s Eve visit this morning that was short on birds but good to do anyway seeing as how we are under a winter storm watch that starts early tomorrow morning. Predictions are for a lot of snow, and I have no intention of driving anywhere in it. Maybe I can capture some of the birds in the yard in between snow shoveling shifts.

Best wishes and hopes to all for 2022. I will be celebrating by taking down all my 2021 calendars…