McGinnis Magic

I went to McGinnis Slough yesterday morning. It’s been on my mind for a week, and since there isn’t a lot of trail on the east side by LaGrange Road, I decided I could manage it with my knee, which I later took to the pool for a therapeutic swim. The Slough, of course, looks more like a bog.

But it was good to be somewhere else for a change and at first I didn’t see very much. There was a nice Eastern Kingbird. This seems to be the bird of the week.

The Rose Mallow is in full bloom. I always look forward to seeing this.

There was a beautiful Great Black Wasp on some Queen Anne’s Lace.

Walking north toward the overlook of the slough, I saw two Eastern Kingbirds in the Elderberry.

And there was an obligatory Rabbit.

There are usually a lot of dragonflies here but it was cool and a bit overcast so I only managed to capture this Blue Dasher Dragonfly and a Blue Fronted Dancer Damselfly, species I have been seeing all summer.

There seemed to be what looked like Evening Primrose all over the place. I used to have some in my yard years ago.

There was virtually nothing to see without a scope over the slough, and I could barely make out seven or eight Great Egrets, but that was a sign of things to come.

As I walked back south along the trail that follows some nearby open water, such as it is, I encountered a few delightful House Finches. They appeared to be juveniles and as curious about me as I was about them.

And then, through the tall grass, I saw a Great Egret perched on top of a branch of a fallen log that I have seen other birds on before.

As I tried to capture the Great Egret clearly through the grass, I noticed something else. Lo and behold, two Trumpeter Swans and their three Cygnets. I saw this configuration last year, but it must have been earlier because the Cygnets were much smaller. It’s good to see these three have survived to this age.

It then became evident that the Wood Ducks were hanging out on their favorite fallen log nearby.

Here’s a closer cropped image of the transforming male in the tree above.

But that’s not all that was going on. There was a Great Blue Heron behind all the ducks.

I was back there for some time, and not terribly far away from the birds, but I guess they felt safe behind all that grass that got in the way of my photos.

Then at some point another Great Blue Heron flew over, squawking somewhat vociferously,

There wasn’t too much to look at in the rest of the open water, but this little group was nice.

2 Mallards and 2 Wood Ducks

On my way out, as I stopped to look at something in a tree, I noticed there were three Great Egrets perched in another tree which reminded me of how this place used to look years ago when there were scores of them.

Needless to say I was restored by my encounter with these birds. And then swimming made it a nearly perfect day as I was able to work on my knee without injuring it further. I’m trying everything. Exercise, different shoes, whatever. It’s encouraging. Then I celebrated by getting my second Covid-19 booster, figuring it was probably a good idea to get it done before choir rehearsals start soon. The booster has left me feeling a little down, but I guess that means I needed it. Who knows? Everything is a gamble these days. Playing fast and loose with an ice pack on the futon.

Three Visits to Columbus Park

Two weeks after the last formal walk at Columbus Park on May 14, I joined the two Eds from those walks to see what was up after it seemed all the warblers were gone. Suffice it to say that the water birds made up for the lack of passerine diversity. In spite of an event going on at the park, two Great Blue Herons and two Black-crowned Night Herons tolerated all the noise and our attention and gave us some great looks.

There’s invariably a Great Blue Heron here but I’ve never seen one up in a tree like the one in the series below.

These photos are from April 16, May 14 and May 28 so the vegetation keeps changing.

On April 16 we were lucky to see an early Northern Parula.

Although I saw this species on a few other occasions these were the best looks I had all spring.

Also in the old reeds left over from last year was an American Tree Sparrow.

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow posed over the water

There was one little Field Sparrow back on the April visit.

There’s usually at least a pair of Wood Ducks but they don’t always offer such great photo opportunities.

Below from the last visit, a Wood Duck hen with six ducklings.

Once the Red-winged Blackbirds show up, they stay for the summer.

On the last visit there were some more grown up goslings than an on earlier visit.

Back in April, two Double-crested Cormorants swimming together.

The Black-crowned Night Herons are sometimes so well camouflaged.

Back in April I followed this Great Blue Heron in flight.

On May 14, there was a visible Red-eyed Vireo.

And on the last visit two weeks later, a Warbling Vireo made itself known.

Here’s an earlier photo of a Great Blue Heron.

The Black-crowned Night Herons are simply photogenic.

But I’ll let the Wood Duck have the last word.

A rainy forecast for today gave me the time to sit here and put this together. I’ll be back out on the trail tomorrow morning. There will likely be more photographs of dragonflies coming, like the female Eastern Forktail Damselfly below – if that is indeed what this is. I noticed it at Columbus Park on the last visit.

Long Before the Rain

It’s been almost 3 months, which seems hard to believe, but this is a more historical account from McGinnis Slough for birds seen on September 19th, when the slough looked more like a marsh at best. Yet there was more bird activity and a couple less common sightings.

It started off inauspiciously with a European Starling.

But at some point I found a Northern Waterthrush, which is a warbler species I haven’t seen in a long time. They aren’t particularly rare but they don’t travel around in warbler flocks and are often close to water and the ground.

One of my first White-throated Sparrows of the season was in the grass.

Perhaps the bird of the day as far as offering itself up for photographs was Palm Warbler.

Among the land birds was this Swainson’s Thrush.

The Double-Crested Cormorant below gave me several expressions of its flight pattern.

More views of the faded-looking Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly at the top of the post.

I never know exactly where I can expect to see a Great Blue Heron here but I practically always do.

More flying birds to capture – a Great Egret and, of all things, a Blue Jay or two, which don’t normally make themselves so available.

Two warblers – a Nashville and then below, a female Common Yellowthroat.

I saw Gray Catbirds at this location more than once.

The light played interesting tricks on these two Wood Ducks flying through the marsh.

The rose mallow flowers seemed late and sparse but they prevailed.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler blending in below.

More flying birds. Cedar Waxwings directly below, and below them, the inevitable Canada Geese.

A couple views of the parched-looking slough.

And a closer-cropped view of the Great Egret seen in the flight sequence above, after it landed.

I have been seeing some amazing birds all week which has kept me more than busy. Even though migration has slowed down, there are still birds to be seen. I will be back as soon as possible with more recent sightings.

Leading Myself

I had been envisioning all week what it would be like, yesterday, to get out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and go through my normal routine of waking up my body, preparing and serving breakfast to my indoor flock, filling the feeders and changing water in the bird baths for the outdoor flock, and then getting ready to leave in time to arrive at Columbus Park and lead a walk that was to start at 7:00 a.m. I don’t organize the walks. I have been asked to “lead” this and other Saturday walks that alternatively go to Thatcher Woods in River Forest through the first Saturday in November. Leading basically means showing up, in case the organizer can’t make it. That will be the end of the “fall migration walks” and the same schedule will restart in April for spring migration.

I made several discoveries yesterday. Perhaps most important was the conclusion that I managed to arrive on time after the organizer had already advised me he couldn’t make it, I had a few moments to spare, which means I might be able to sleep maybe 20 more minutes before Saturday morning’s visit to Thatcher Woods.

So I arrived on time. And started talking to one of the golfers who use the same parking lot for access to the adjacent golf course. And I waited. I watched for cars with people getting out of them bearing binoculars. But all the cars arriving produced golf clubs. I soon came to the conclusion that I was the only person showing up for the walk. Below is a picture of what the sky looked like at that time. Maybe with the combination of clouds and no organizer, I was not enough of a draw.

Those little black dots in the clouds are Chimney Swifts.

I figured I may as well check out the park for birds anyway, all dressed up with my gear as I was, so I started walking across the lawn to the water where there were only a few Mallards. It was still quite cloudy and beyond my desire to compensate for the lack of light.

I confess I was a little leery of walking through the park so early alone. Although it has always been a safe place with others, I was not familiar enough with the spot to feel entirely confident. But then it started to lighten up, and I was hearing birds, and I figured well, I could see what was there. And I’m glad I did, because instead of following a group around – some “leader” I am – I now feel like I actually could lead a walk through Columbus Park.

Below is a video I took with my phone of Chimney Swifts flying over – it starts out mainly hearing them but then when I realized I could zoom in a bit you can actually see them. There’s also a Red-winged Blackbird singing in the beginning, for good measure.

Chimney Swifts

It began to brighten up a little, which helped the photo taking situation. It was difficult capturing the Blackpoll Warbler below in the shady portion of the park, however, but I kept trying.

I agonized over the pictures below as I was sure it was a Bay-breasted Warbler but for some reason ebird insisted it was a rare sighting for this date. I submitted my photographs and so far they have not challenged me.