Getting Greener

The rollercoaster ride continues. Has it been anything else this past year? I seem to be plagued with anxiety over work, technological failures, commitments made, unfinished chores…and then the sun comes out, floods the house with brightness, emergencies subsist or in some cases solve themselves and fade into short-term memory, and life is good again. My iPhone was losing charge drastically this morning…which seemed life-threatening, but now I have so far anyway managed to find a better phone charging cord and it is coming back to battery life.

So since I find myself at relative peace, it being Friday and the middle of the day when the world seems to be focusing on the weekend, here are last Sunday’s photos, few and far between, from a cloudy, cool Portage morning. The White-Throated Sparrow at the top of the post didn’t appear to happy with the weather.

This time I was fortunate enough to see two Eastern Phoebes by the second bridge. I suppose I can assume they are a nesting pair returning. They were sort of tucked away and a bit hard to see.

I have heard a Song Sparrow for weeks but this is the first time I caught a glimpse of one.

Only one Black-capped Chickadee offered itself up on this cloudy day.

I saw this pair of Wood Ducks fly into the trees and then could just barely capture them through the branches.

The woodpeckers were hard to see but I found this one early on.

Cloudy Portage scenes…with emerging green…

On my way out, just when I was wondering if I would see anything new at all, I came across half a dozen Yellow-Rumped Warblers on the paved path, in exactly the same spot as last May, I believe, that a similar number of male Indigo Buntings announced their arrival.

I think this is the first time I have seen the new redbuds blooming. They’re in a nice welcoming spot behind the sculpture, breaking up the lawn that sprawls in front of the woods.

To be sure, the Robins are busy and they will continue to be so.

I hope to be back soon – I know, i always say that, and then weeks go by… but Spring Is Upon Us and it seems I must rise to the occasion. I am grateful for the Seasons – they are still with us!

Romance Is In The Air

Two posts ago I shared a series of photographs from last spring of Downy Woodpecker courtship behavior. It might be a little early to expect to see that again this year, but I did encounter two Downies – albeit not yet interacting with each other – last Sunday.

The lovely lady below was exploring a tree stump. She was apparently viewed from above by the little guy whose photos follow (he’s also at the top of this post) but by the time he flew down to the stump, she had left. He looks a little young for her, don’t you think?

The first thing I saw, though, when I got out of my car, was a pair of European Starlings on the hand of the statue by the parking lot. Later another posed for me.

Maybe most impressive were all the buds on the trees.

I managed to get a glimpse of a pair of Wood Ducks flying. I heard them calling first.

it’s a challenge to photograph the only water movement under the first bridge, but I managed to just fit the lens hood between the divisions of the bridge railing to see if it would work.

Raptor of the day was a Turkey Vulture. I was happy to add it to the list as I had seen one from the car the week before.

Nothing happening on the Des Plaines but the reflection of the graffiti on the rocks caught my eye.

A pair of Mourning Doves on the grass of all places.

The Portage has its share of last year’s Oriole nests too.

So much for my little visit to the Portage last week. Since I missed this past weekend, I hope I can expect to see a few more birds by this coming Saturday or Sunday – or both. We were experiencing strong winds from the south, so that should be giving some birds a push along their route. Even though we have slipped back into the cold for a couple days, the coming weekend looks positively balmy. Hope you are enjoying the first signs of spring.

Looking Back to Spring Forward

I started writing this post to coincide with setting the clocks forward, and now it’s taken me over another week to get back to it. But when considering all the photographs were taken a year and a month ago – on April 19th, 2020, to be exact – and I never got a chance to finish processing them until now, it’s taken even longer! I hope it’s kind of a sneak preview of what to expect in the coming days and weeks as spring unfolds at the Portage.

One of my first encounters was a pair of Downy Woodpeckers exhibiting their exuberant version of courtship behavior. At first I thought they were arguing! I have never witnessed this before so I’m glad I was able to capture it. If you click on the right panel and keep going you can see the sequence.

It appears I had way too many photographs from this excursion which might explain why I never managed to post them. Still it’s nice to revisit them, like the female Northern Cardinal below.

Below, often the first warbler to visit, a Myrtle Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

Surprised to find this photograph in the mix – likely my first sighting of an Eastern Bluebird last year.

An Eastern Phoebe, dreaming of flying insects, perhaps.

Another Downy Woodpecker.

Song Sparrows…

Red-winged Blackbirds…

I don’t think there’s enough water on site anymore to attract herons, but there is plenty nearby so I should still see them flying over on occasion.

A Northern Flicker showing just a little of its golden shafts.

There were two Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers on this tree and one flew away.

A Black-capped Chickadee showing off.

A singular turtle…

An assortment of early fungus, moss and flora.

A singing American Robin

Here’s a Golden-Crowned Kinglet – unfortunately the lighting didn’t do its colors justice.

This Brown-headed Cowbird was foraging on the ground.

Canada Geese and the clouds…

Robins often seem like they want to engage in a conversation.

A Wood Duck drake in a tree. I remember trying to get this shot after I saw him land, with a lot of branches between us.

Mallards…

Blue-winged Teal…

So the Portage will still be slowly coming to life, but we’re warming up, the days are getting longer and migration has begun. Springing forward with hope.

Summer at the Portage

A couple lazy uneventful Saturdays at the Portage the first two weekends yielded a few photographs and a little singing to go along with it.

Below is the last time I saw an Eastern Bluebird. I barely saw it – it was in the darkness of the trees as I first walked in and I had no idea what it was until I adjusted the exposure and cropped the photograph. I will likely never know if the two bluebirds stayed and raised a family. But it was still nice to realize maybe they were still around two weeks ago.

Then I got lucky and saw a female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, just like the one that visits my feeders.

This was the last hurrah for Indigo Buntings too. They are still present but not as visible. This one had a distinctive song.

Here’s a little recording of this Indigo Bunting’s song

Below is a female Indigo Bunting with an insect prize.

Two photographer acquaintances I run into frequently, Steve and Mike, were taking photographs of the juvenile Wood Duck below. Another mystery. I had seen a couple Wood Ducks early in the season but I have no idea whether they nested. I can’t imagine with the water levels so low what they would have done with their ducklings once they fledged (if you can call falling out of a tree nest onto the ground fledging).

There are still Robins around although not so many. Most I am seeing are juveniles like the ones below.

Goldfinches are abundant now. They never really disappeared but because their breeding season starts later, they tend to re-emerge later.

A few miscellaneous photos from the summertime abundance. Blue Vervain and Common Chicory are the flowers.I cannot resist photographing the shelf fungus. The dragonfly is a female Common Whitetail, there’s a Paper Wasp, and the butterflies are Painted Lady and Delaware Skipper all the way down at the bottom of this group. The Skipper is a tiny butterfly.

I took note of this House Sparrow because I rarely see them here.
A reminder that August is spider web time.

The management of the water levels at this place continues to frustrate me. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that it is a low-lying area close to the Des Plaines River, and all this has less to do with beavers than predictions of future flooding due to climate change. It’s hard not to feel as if the wild places, such as they are, that we have left will soon be managed out of existence. But I will continue to visit and try to look for silver linings to these clouds.

A desolate-looking segment on a hot, dry day.

A few birds in flight, above – a Robin at the top and a Red-Winged Blackbird at the bottom right.

I was surprised to see this Eastern Kingbird with its insect prey, as I have only seen a pair of Kingbirds once or twice all season. This seems to indicate they stayed.
A singular Cedar Waxwing
This is how the statue appeared on the 8th of August. I have not heard of any plans to remove it, as seems to be prevalent in the current environment. So much about the place has changed already, though, nothing would surprise me.

A few more photos from those two Saturdays, the 1st and the 8th. The birds were busy but not so visible.

It’s hard to believe that we are now looking toward the end of August and fall migration has already begun for some species. Sometimes this year seems interminably long, but the weeks are catching up with me. I will try to be back soon with more summer observations before the next phase.

Sandhills at McGinnis

Two weekends ago I went to McGinnis Slough. A bit later than I’d planned… weekends seem to be getting away from me, and I just can’t seem to get up and out very early. I arrived at the slough around 8:30 AM, so it was still cool. The moment I got out of the car everything else became irrelevant when I saw two Sandhill Cranes standing in the overlook area that juts out toward the slough from the parking lot. I didn’t want to disturb them, so as I started to walk toward the south end, I took pictures at a considerable distance. But later after they had left, I found the two feathers in the grass, above. I arranged the feathers a bit to photograph them and left them there. Once upon a time I collected a feather or two, but I have never done anything purposeful with them and it’s frustrating to inadvertently find them later collecting dust or stuck inside a book or…

Below is what the slough looked like. Overgrown and marshy. Very different from the flooded trails of my last visit.

Walking away from the Sandhills, there were some Wood Ducks at the south end.

I’m always happy to see a Monarch Butterfly, but then am saddened by the fact that I hardly ever see more than one anymore, anywhere.

There were plenty of dragonflies. Blue Dashers are still plentiful and posing this summer.

Below is an Eastern Pondhawk. I don’t think I’ve photographed one before.

Red-Winged Blackbirds are still a presence everywhere.

And it was nice to see Baltimore Orioles.