Fall Migration Continues II

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler at Chicago Portage

And continues and continues and…I have been so busy birding every weekend it’s taking even longer to process the pictures. These are from last week – October 13 – Thatcher Woods and the Chicago Portage.

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White-Throated Sparrow at Thatcher Woods

The birds blend in more and more with their surroundings, but I find it so intriguing. Although it does take almost twice as much effort to get the camera to focus on the bird.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow, Thatcher Woods

I was very pleased to find a Winter Wren hanging out with the sparrows and remaining warblers at Thatcher Woods. I always think of Don Kroodsma and The Singing Life of Birds when I see a Winter Wren, even if it’s not singing.

Much like two weeks earlier, there were still a lot of Palm Warblers and Yellow-Rumped Warblers at Thatcher Woods.

 

Here’s what the Portage looked like when I got there.

10-13-18 Portage-2436The Yellow-Rumpeds were foraging in the duckweed.

 

It was a pleasure to see several Hermit Thrushes. And nice to see them somewhere other than hopping around on park lawns downtown.

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Hermit Thrush, Portage

I got a brief, lucky look at a Belted Kingfisher flying over the pond.

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Belted Kingfisher

Some Song Sparrows are already practicing singing for next spring, which might explain why I have heard more than I have seen.

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Song Sparrow

Out on the road overlooking the compost piles that now decorate the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District property, I saw this Red-Shouldered Hawk land in the tree and sit for a long period of time.

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Red-Shouldered Hawk

Other raptors flew overhead, including the Sharp-Shinned Hawk below.

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Sharp-Shinned Hawk

It took me a while to realize that the birds below are Purple Finches. There seem to be quite a lot of them at the Portage this fall.

 

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Purple Finch

Not to be confused – much – with House Finches…

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House Finch

Ruby-Crowned Kinglets are still abundant. But the bird below right is a Golden-Crowned Kinglet. It was perched about a foot and a half in front of me and we bonded for a while, but it was much too close to get a picture of it then!

Still seeing Eastern Phoebes, although I expect fly catching is becoming more difficult as temperatures drop.

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Eastern Phoebe

My last two photos are of Hermit Thrushes. The second one is for the russet color of its back in the sun…

HETH 10-13-18 Portage-2760HETH 10-13-18 Portage-2770I’ll be on a mission to get through my photos from this past weekend… Our weather seems to have calmed down a bit and we are in a crisp but sunny period. I love fall, maybe for its nostalgia…!

 

 

Montrose and My CF Card Snafu

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I hadn’t been to Montrose Point – the Magic Hedge – for years, so I thought it was a good idea when my friend Susan suggested we meet there on my one free Sunday morning this month, which turned out to be Palm Sunday on the calendar, for those of you who relate to that. It was a fine day, and not overly crowded with friendly birders or photographers, which can happen later in the season with warbler migration.

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Winter Wren

I was pleased to discover that the paths are now more clearly marked and the natural areas roped off, which likely makes the birds feel more secure.

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Tree Swallow

Unfortunately I only have maybe half the pictures I took, because I neglected to make sure they had all transferred off the camera that takes compact flash (“CF”) cards as well as SD cards.

While I was in Panama I discovered that I could no longer transfer pictures off a CF card reader to the laptop, so I had to wait until I got home to find the patch cord that came with the Mark III 5D and transfer them directly from the camera. Something has apparently changed in the software and I wonder if the plan is to render CF cards obsolete.

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Swamp Sparrow

All that said, while I was transferring my Montrose pictures, the laptop appeared to be finished ingesting them and I disconnected the camera and wiped the card clean. Only when I went to process did I realize I was missing the last hour or so of photos that I took.

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Common Grackle

I was mourning this loss for days because I had some great shots and they were gone forever. But I also knew the loss would be minimized the sooner I took more pictures, and told myself it was a learning experience. (“What’s your favorite song?” “Uh, I guess the one I just wrote.”)

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Brown-Headed Cowbirds and one female Red-Winged Blackbird

I will never reformat a CF card, or an SD card, for that matter, again before I check to make sure I have transferred everything off of it. (Repeat after me…)

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American Robin

After some deliberation it appears all the thrushes we saw were Hermit Thrushes, below.

One generous individual pointed out to us the female Coyote below, who otherwise faded into her surroundings.

Coyote 4-9-17-0568I won’t elaborate on what is missing from these pictures after we saw the coyote… I’ll be back soon with more from Panama, just needed to put this to rest.

P.S. Three more days until the March For Science!

Report from the Home Front: Hector and the Society Matrons

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After two weeks of observing a very bored and resigned Isabella, I broke down and introduced three new Society Finches into the home bird mix this weekend.

Isabella

Isabella today, in a much better mood

Let me back up and say goodbye to Ferdinand, her former companion. He was still singing but a mess, unable to fly and down to his last feathers, before I left on my trip in November, so it was no big surprise to find out he had succumbed while I was gone. I knew I would miss his singing, for sure. But not missing having to cart him around every time I had to clean the cages, because he could not fly, not to mention his miserable self. If I took any pictures of him in his reduced condition I am not interested in finding them.

Isabella, Hector, Rikki and Phoenix

Isabella, Hector, Rikki and Phoenix

I started writing this post weeks ago, and now the Societies have moved in. Indeed for a while there it appeared they were taking over. They are recognizable by variations in appearance, and so I have named them Hector, who is a scruffy little pale male with a punk hairdo, Phoenix who is the darker one more resembling Isabella but not quite, and Rikki, who has a pink bill and a very loud call.

Hector

Hector

I bought three birds to practically insure I would get a male and have his song to compare to Ferdinand’s. There were about 16 birds or so in a tiny cage at PetSmart so it was a crap shoot which ones I would get when the young attendant opened the cage door from behind and started waving around his net. Hector is quite lighter than the others and he was smaller, so I wasn’t sure I wanted him, but now I’m glad he came, he’s definitely a character.

His song is quite different from Ferdinand’s. My first impression of his song was a little like a Winter Wren trying to sing Papageno’s “Magic Flute” song. Click on the clip below to hear him (apologies for the shaky background music).

After I’d had them a couple days, in a moment of weakness I decided to buy some nest boxes and put them around. The two bamboo ones have hooks on the back so they were made to stick in the cage. The other thatch nests I hung around but there is only one left after the budgies started chewing holes in them, and it belongs to Zorro and Fiona, in the same spot as their forever failing curtain nest but now replacing it.

The bamboo nests are in one finch cage and initially had 10 or so eggs between them. The three new Societies have been taking turns sitting on them. Three weeks ago I had no idea whether the eggs were fertilized but they seemed to think so. And just about when I had given up hope, I began to hear little begging noises.  I haven’t had birds breeding in the house for years, so this is kind of a nice diversion. I’m always up for hearing begging sounds in key with the music and new songs developing among young males. If I do get a couple males it will be interesting to see whether their songs imitate Hector’s or if they branch out on their own like my Zebra Finches tended to do when they were going at it.

Rikki

Rikki

But I will be removing the nest boxes after fledging because I do not want to continue this experiment ad infinitum. Inbreeding is not my calling and it shouldn’t be theirs either.

Society Finches don’t use a lot of nesting material like Zebra Finches so it’s practically impossible to resist looking inside when one nest doesn’t have anyone sitting on it. Last night when I was cleaning, I saw one, possibly two, pink eraser-like blobs moving in the leftmost nest. This morning I seemed to be able to see two or three with some feathers in the righthand nest. I tried to take a picture but it’s impossible to get anything between the cage rungs and the darkness inside. Not to mention it’s always a challenge to get pictures indoors anyway, with the cages backlit against the living room windows.

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If nothing else Hector and his Society Matrons have livened up the place and all the other birds have grown used to them. I hope to have baby pictures soon. In the meantime here’s another picture of Hector.

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The Tiny Ones

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I saw very few birds today due in part to a rainy forecast and a meeting at work, but I am happy to report the birds I did see were all alive and well. And they have dictated this post.

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I never tire of Winter Wrens and this morning at 155 North Wacker Drive I had one who was hopping around right in front of me. Darting around quickly, Winter Wrens remind me of field mice.

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Then up on the 46th floor mid-morning, my coworkers drew my attention to three Golden-Crowned Kinglets who were foraging for bugs ion the balcony.

GC Kinglet IMG_9659

The kinglets kept hunting for at least 15 minutes, which was long enough for me to show them off to at least a few interested people. The attorneys all have spiders hanging webs outside their windows, indicating one can make a good living off bugs all the way up there, so I was not surprised to see birds taking advantage of the insect offering.

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Unfortunately I had to settle for pictures through the window and the blinds, but these tiny jewels were just close enough to photograph anyway.

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GC Kinglet IMG_9648

I wonder if they continued their rooftop forays throughout the city. It’s probably a good strategy, making it easier for them to get their bearings.

Sunday at the Portage

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Black-Capped Chickadee

After two days getting up before 4:00 a.m., it was wonderful sleeping in somewhat Sunday morning before going over to the Portage. I had no expectations, I only wanted to go out and explore. Perhaps that is the best thing about going to a place you know well: you are always primed for surprises. I started walking in slowly around 8:30. Mine was the only car in the parking lot, so I had the entire place to myself. And it was quiet.

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I was not surprised to see Wood Ducks, indeed they have been there every time, but it was special to see the young drakes in their new grownup plumage.

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The surprise was seeing two young raccoons behind them.

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I managed to get a picture of one.

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The last few visits to the Portage have been scarce on woodpecker sightings even though I knew they were always there…so it was nice to see this Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

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Through a break in the trees, a Red-Tailed Hawk was visible, perched on a bare limb over the water.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

While I was trying to photograph the Magnolia Warbler below…

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

a Winter Wren caught my eye. It’s always a surprise to see a Winter Wren. Especially after I had given up trying to find the Carolina Wren who was singing earlier.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

Downy Woodpeckers are always plentiful, but this one was busily drilling at eye level.Downy IMG_8488_1

And not all the Gray Catbirds have left.

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Heavy rainfall the night before filled the bottomland with water.

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A lone Canada Goose was by the water near the Wood Ducks, standing on one foot

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while many more flew overhead.

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The most unusual sighting did not produce great pictures, but there were enough to identify a Northern Parula. My ebird sighting was questioned because I had to add this bird to the list; I did not dare add it until I was sure I had pictorial proof.

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N Parula Warbler IMG_8436_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was no shortage of Yellow-Rumped Warblers. Indeed, they were everywhere, although none were as photogenic as the week before. But I caught this one skipping across the duckweed.

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The change of seasons renders the Portage a magical place.

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Once upon a Wren

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Actually this is thrice upon a wren. Last Sunday I visited the Chicago Portage, and although I did not see the Carolina Wren, it sang three beautiful songs for me that I was fortunate to capture. The picture above is from two weeks before, the last time I saw him. Here are his three songs (second clip has two songs):

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

I also was lucky enough to hear (and briefly see) a Winter Wren. This is a bird whose song I have wanted to hear for a long time. Now I can hardly wait to hear it again. The picture above is not the same winter wren, only the last picture of one I could find easily. It’s hard to believe such a tiny bird can make so much music.

House Wren

House Wren

Forward one week to yesterday. I could not access the Portage because of flooding, but I did manage to visit Ottawa Trail Woods North where I heard and saw this House Wren. Maybe he’d been up all night with the weather, but he managed to sing and show his face.

I have already noticed one thing in the field. When I stop to record, it’s as if I suddenly become part of the environment. The birds almost seem to lose their fear and start appearing from everywhere. I suppose the simple explanation is that I am not moving, but I can be very still without recording and it does not produce the same results. Maybe I am more relaxed than watchful, or attentive in a way that only birds could respond to. I suspect they know I am listening to them and they prefer that sort of attention to gawking at them! Whatever it is, it’s pretty amazing.

Starved Rock and LaSalle County

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Bald Eagle on ice, Illinois River

As winter wanes (we are experiencing a significant thaw as I write this), I feel compelled to get caught up with the past couple weeks’ photos. On February 24, 2013, I joined two other Elles on a DuPage Birding Club field trip to Starved Rock. It was my last chance to see numerous Bald Eagles, this time on the Illinois River. It was a beautiful day, but because there wasn’t a lot of frozen water, the birds were farther away and harder to photograph.

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Bald Eagle, soaring

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Juvenile and adult Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles, three plumages

Bald Eagles, three plumages

Of course there are always gulls too, although we did not see anything very unusual.

Lock and Dam 13, Illinois Waterway Visitor's Center

Lock and Dam 13, Illinois River

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As we moved down the river, we saw more species, some on land, some on water.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

It was wonderful to see a Pileated Woodpecker, but impossible to get close enough for a decent picture. The quest continues.

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I forget exactly where we were when I got the picture below of the Ring-Necked Pheasant.

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On the grounds of the Starved Rock Visitor’s Center, where there are some feeders, there was a very cooperative Tufted Titmouse. Since I don’t get these guys in my yard and they can be elusive in the woods, I am always thrilled to see them.

Singing Tufted Titmouse

Singing Tufted Titmouse

And of course, there were a few White-Breasted Nuthatches. I like the branch this bird chose to pose on.

White-Breased Nuthatch

White-Breased Nuthatch

On the way back, numerous flocks of blackbirds. Below, Cowbirds in a Bare Tree. It always amazes me to see Cowbirds find their own species after being raised by others.

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Brown-Headed Cowbirds

On the way back the three of us stopped at Gebhardt Woods State Park in Grundy County for a little walk along the I&M Canal.

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One species we picked up here was a Winter Wren. He was mostly preening, behind these stalks.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

At the end of a long but beautiful day outdoors, perhaps the full moon from the parking lot where we’d started was the best image of all.

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