Not Much

Downy on Suet Feeder in my Yard 8-30-15-0301Not much to report, except that I am finally almost over whatever virus attacked me and just in time to get up at 3:00 AM tomorrow morning so I can participate in the Fermilab Christmas Bird Count. Until now we have had a mild winter…but it’s cold and windy today, and as luck would have it, tomorrow’s forecast is for the coldest day yet. Add (or subtract, really) another 10 degrees for the wide-open windyness of Fermilab and it will be a frigid undertaking. I am almost having second thoughts about schlepping the camera but I probably will. Perhaps it will be worth it.

HOFI and HOSP Yard 12-5-2015 -8043

House Finch, House Sparrow and an almost empty feeder

I didn’t do last year’s count because I was having trouble walking, so I am thankful that seems such a distant memory. I’m looking forward to being outside, actually, as I have been stuck in the office most of the last two weeks. And I haven’t been swimming lately either so I can use some exercise. Even trying to stay warm can be energizing!

Wanted to get out and see the crows this week but didn’t make it.

Crow Hot Dog Fest Millennium 12-3-2015 -7976Crow Millennium 12-3-2015 -7997The frigid weather is mentally pushing me over the edge. I can envision sitting under a warm comforter and going back through the pictures from Colombia from this past spring. Nicaragua is only 2 months away.

Yellow Green Vireo 04-3-15-5935Sword-Billed Hummingbird 04-1-15-4424Well all these photos were conveniently unattached to other posts, so they gave me a little inspiration to hang a few words on.

I must put in a word for Stewart Goodyear, the exemplary Canadian pianist and composer. This is the time of year when I usually find myself thinking “If I hear the Nutcracker one more time on the radio…!” But a couple days ago, I heard an excerpt from Stewart Goodyear’s new recording of his wonderful piano transcription/interpretation and I am smitten. I have been listening to it in installments and enjoying it tremendously. I think I prefer his version to an entire orchestra, that’s how good it is! According to this blog post, he recorded the entire thing on his birthday with breaks for birthday cake in between. Whatever motivated him, if anything could motivate me not to be a grinch, this is it.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Gray Catbird, Thompson Center 12-30-2014

Gray Catbird, Thompson Center 12-30-2014

2014 goes out with a shiver for us. Yesterday the temperature dropped to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (that was the high), and today it’s even colder with a wind chill of minus 15 below. I am blessed to have the day off from work, which turns out to be that much more fortuitous since the trains were not running this morning due to mechanical failure and I would have been shivering at the station shelter trying to figure out the next best way to get to work.

Chicago River Fog

Chicago River Fog

There was ample sunshine yesterday which is often the way with extra cold temperatures, so I stopped by the Thompson Center on the way in with the camera already assembled this time to see if the Gray Catbird was available for a photograph. I found it first shivering under a bush and looking not too happy.

Gray Catbird Thompson Center 12-30-14-9549

Then when a woman asked me for directions, it gave the Catbird a chance to perch on a twig while I wasn’t looking, and when I turned back to see, it posed for several photos before taking off for the top of one of the small trees planted in the sidewalk by the curb. The next time to check on this bird’s status will be Friday, the second day of the new year.

Gray Catbird Thompson Center 12-30-14-9563Gray Catbird Thompson Center 12-30-14-9570

Later, after noon when the sun was shining full blast, I set out for the lakefront parks to see if I could visit some crows before next year. It’s been weeks. I decided to check out Maggie Daley Park first as it is partially open in time for ice skaters to use the skating ribbon.

Skating Ribbon Maggie Daley 12-30-14-9578 Skating Ribbon Maggie Daley 12-30-14-9577

While a lot of trees have been planted and there is sod and whatever else, the immediate lack of green space and preponderance of human kitsch is disappointing to me.

Another View Maggie Daley 12-30-14-9584

I suspect this is the “Climbing Wall”…?

Another View Maggie Daley 12-30-14-9581

I have no idea what this bodes for hungry migrants along the lakefront come spring, but I suspect I will continue to find more migrants at Lake Shore East Park than at Maggie Daley for quite a while.

Another view - the lakefront is beyond. Are those wooden trunks recycled trees "planted" upside down?

Another view – the lakefront is beyond. Are those wooden trunks recycled trees “planted” upside down?

I hated Millennium Park when it was first built, but after I started seeing things like a flock of Golden-Crowned Kinglets on the lawn and the crows adopting the Pritzker Pavilion for a nesting site, not to mention the birds that visit Lurie Garden, it has become bird friendlier with time. So maybe in 5-10 years Maggie Daley will be okay for birds too. But I feel as if the more improvements being made lately to the lakefront, the less friendly they are to any species other than humans. Which in the long run means they’re not really human-friendly improvements either.

"Howdy, Stranger"

“Howdy, Stranger”

It wasn’t until I was practically on my way out of Millennium that I found my crows.

Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9630

There were some adjustments to be made. Has it been so long since we had peanuts that we can’t remember how to carry more than one at a time to a cache location?

Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9622 Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9619 Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9615

Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9624Eventually I was joined by a few Black-Capped Chickadees, and almost out of the park I located the Northern Cardinals I heard earlier but they were not interested in becoming visible. Maybe they’re waiting for snow because they know it makes a better picture.

BC Chickadee Millennium 12-30-14-9640N Cardinal Millennium 12-30-14-9647

I think I will stay inside most of today. The sunshine does a good job on the indoor crowd, we all feel a bit more possible. Maybe I can post an update of the indoor birds’ status for the new year.

Happy New Year and Thank You to All Who Visit, Read, Follow, Comment, and Fly By my blog – Who ever thought we’d see a year called 2015? This is pretty amazing. 🙂

Peanuts Millennium 12-30-14-9623

As The Snow Melts

Chicago Portage 3-23-2014

Chicago Portage 3-23-2014

Not quite “As The World Turns” — but the passage of time lately seems about as slowly evolving as a soap opera. And it did snow last night. But there are still signs of spring,

Song Sparrow on the sidewalk at 155 N. Wacker on 3-20-14

Song Sparrow on the sidewalk at 155 N. Wacker on 3-20-14

Not all the signs of spring are inspiring, such as finding my first dead migrant, the Song Sparrow above, on the sidewalk, but for the most part, there is cause for celebration.

Northern Cardinal, Millennium Park

Northern Cardinal, Millennium Park

The first fragile days of spring are upon us and while winter has not yet loosened its grip, the birds are arriving and getting down to business, claiming their territories for nesting. The days are getting longer and the wait for warmer weather is nearly over. I hope.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

My first-of-year (FOY) Red-Winged Blackbird (in Illinois) was last Thursday, the same day I found the Song Sparrow, and the same location, 155 N. Wacker. But the bird was backlit and light was poor, so I waited until I went out Sunday to photograph this RWBB at the Portage, where he was joined by at least a dozen more males setting up their territories. A song sample is below.

Chicago Portage 3-23-14

Chicago Portage 3-23-14

All I could see was frozen water, but several pair of Canada Geese saw nesting spots. The pair below, in particular, proclaimed their territory quite loudly. You can hear them by clicking the arrow below the picture.

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

Adding to predictable spring arrivals, the Red-Bellied Woodpecker (although Red-Bellieds have wintered here for the most part) at the Portage on Sunday and the Common Grackle at Millennium Park on Friday.

American Crow

American Crow

Crows have been here all winter too, of course, but they seem to have a little more spring in their flight.

Crow with Peanut 3-21-14 7157.jpg-7157

American Crow with peanut

 

Even the commonest Rock Pigeon is all decked out for rebirth. I learned to tell Blue Bars from other color morphs years ago when I tried to monitor Chicago Loop Pigeons for Cornell’s citizen science project. But I found it hard to keep up with them, and then the crows distracted me…

Blue Bar Rock Pigeon

Blue Bar Rock Pigeon

Here’s our noisiest goose couple again. I like the way everything seems to be leaning to the right…

C Geese 3-23-14 5785.jpg-5785

I hope to be back with more from Belize very soon.