Down by the River

Herring Gull, Chicago River

Herring Gull, Chicago River

Birds in what’s left of the Loop parks have all but vanished, the lake is still frozen, and so I have been walking along the Chicago River lately for my afternoon break.

Red-Breasted Merganser

Red-Breasted Merganser

Although there’s nothing really new going on, it’s still amazing to see so many Red-Breasted Mergansers and White-Winged Scoters in the river.

Female White-Winged Scoter

Female White-Winged Scoter

This scoter swam below me for a while and then she dove for something.

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Male White-Winged Scoter

Male White-Winged Scoter

It’s fairly easy to get to the junction where the branches of the river meet. On my last visit there were more Herring Gulls than the usually ubiquitous Ring-Billed.

Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull

At one point two Herring Gulls got into a match over a fish. If nothing else this proves there is something to eat even in the Chicago River (and it’s not from the fancy restaurants alongside it). I have seen huge carp, perhaps the invasive Asian species, sometimes surface in the spring, but nothing that spectacular lately. However if you click on the images below you can almost see what the gull on the left has in his beak.

Herring Gulls Battling Over Fish 2-25-14 5929.jpg-5929Herring Gulls Battling Over Fish 2-25-14 5930.jpg-5930Herring Gulls Battling Over Fish 2-25-14 5931.jpg-5931Herring Gulls Battling Over Fish 2-25-14 5932.jpg-5932

The Riverwalk below street level doesn’t extend along one entire side yet, but there is a sign that looks promising. The stairs leading down to it are blocked off anyway during the inclement weather.

River Walk Sign 2-25-14 5878.jpg-5878

Braving the wind, ice on the bridges.

Dirty Snow on the Sidewalk

Dirty Snow on the Sidewalk

Turning back toward the office, the elevated train “loops” around the city core, giving it its nickname.

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The El forming the Chicago Loop

Beyond the Weather, I think I will remember this winter as the one of White-Winged Scoters and Snowy Owls, from seen very well to barely seen at all.

Female White-Winged Scoter

Female White-Winged Scoter

Winter drives sea ducks farther inland: Story I wrote for the Chicago Tribune on front page

More on the White-Winged Scoter phenomenon as it has occurred in Chicago, from Sheryl DeVore. Thank you, Sheryl!

I also heard on the radio this morning that the Great Lakes are more than 80% frozen, which adds another statistic to this report. And although I have found no dead birds, I have found two dead squirrels this winter, one in my basement stairwell a couple weeks ago and one on the sidewalk coming home last week.

I’ve never re-blogged before so I hope I’m doing this right!

Natural Editions

 

Brutal winter drives sea ducks farther inland in Chicago area

Arkadi Romanov has seen hardy sea ducks withstand frigid waters in his native Russia. But the Glenview man never expected to see one emerge from 6 inches of snow at Beck Lake dog park in Des Plaines, about a dozen miles from Lake Michigan.

Nor did he and Chris Anchor, a wildlife biologist with the Cook County Forest Preserve District, expect to discover dozens more scoters dead beneath the snow at the dog park and a park in Glenview.

For the entire story, visit:

Image

Photo by Tribune ( Anthony Souffle, Chicago Tribune / February 14, 2014 ) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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White-Winged Scoters – Finally!

Male White-Winged Scoter

Male White-Winged Scoter

As if in answer to my prayer…the White-Winged Scoters that have been reported everywhere I have not been able to get to (namely the Chicago Lakefront where there is open water instead of ice) finally showed up in the Chicago River this week. Someone reported them at the North Branch but since the Loop is far south of that I didn’t know whether to be encouraged or even more frustrated.

Female White-Winged Scoter

Female White-Winged Scoter

But Wednesday morning I caught my first glimpses of them – they were catching naps all the way over on the other side and at first all I could see were small patches of white on their wings. But they eventually woke up and started diving. Still they were too far away to get decent pictures.

Female White-Winged Scoter

Female White-Winged Scoter

Yesterday I packed my better lens, and feeling optimistic (there was actually a little sunshine early in the morning) I attached it before I got out of the train station. I walked to the railing, looked over the side, and the White-Winged Scoters were there – on my side – as if they had been waiting for me. Even though the light was still a problem, the river being almost black, it’s so dark, and the birds being black themselves, I managed to get these few shots from some very cooperative birds.

Male WW Scoter 02-13-14 5129.jpg-5129

The Red-Breasted Mergansers are still in the river in numbers, too. Sometimes within good view.

Female Red-Breasted Merganser

Female Red-Breasted Merganser

And more often not.

Male Red-Breasted Mergansers

Male Red-Breasted Mergansers

And as it always is with diving ducks, they disappear.

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Diving White-Winged Scoter