I am back from the land of afternoon naps with a short segment.
We’ve had two Saturday morning walks at Thatcher Woods in River Forest, and we will have our final fall migration walk there on October 8. It’s been pretty quiet the last few weeks, but I did manage some photographs of a few birds, so here they are.
Basically, the Red-tailed Hawk was the only bird I captured doing anything on September 10.
Then on our last visit on September 24, the first of season bird of the walk – and for several of us, first of the year – was this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker who was perched somewhat distantly in a tree. This was likely the best long look I will get this year so I took too many photographs. I have since seen a few more of this species but have not been able to photograph them. For me, the placement of white on the wing quickly distinguishes this bird from other woodpeckers.
I must have had a few long moments to photograph the Red-tailed Hawk.
Also notable on the 24th, but impossible to capture well with the camera, were 34 Northern Flickers foraging on the lawn. We didn’t dare bother them by getting any closer.
A murder of about 20 crows flew overhead, which was beautiful to see. I could only capture a few, but to me there is nothing like a crow in flight.
Here are a few more of the sapsucker.
On our last visit we saw some Yellow-rumped Warblers by the parking lot, and after the walk I stayed a moment to get a few photographs.
Here are a few more of the Red-tailed Hawk.
Our last walk at Columbus Park is tomorrow morning. I have much more to report, it’s just been a busy week and I’ve been too tired to sustain many thoughts. I will try harder to be “back” at least while there’s still some activity before winter sets in. Then the birds will be fewer but somewhat easier to see, perhaps. Best to expect the unexpected.
There have been moments in past migrations when it has seemed like all we were seeing were Yellow-rumped Warblers. Specifically, in this part of the country we have the Myrtle variety. The birds look quite different in the fall than they do in the spring, and even contrasts between individuals can be a little daunting. After reviewing the photos I took yesterday morning in Riverside, I’ve come to the conclusion that I had three different individual Yellow-rumped Warblers.
There are a couple field marks beyond the one for which the bird is named, which you can always count on, however, and it was good to review them after my visual brain has been filled with images of all the other warblers I have seen or might see. The undertail pattern is consistent and striking.
The other feature is a split eyering. And there’s just something about a Myrtle’s face after you’ve seen more than a few.
Here are more images of the three individuals. You will see how variable their plumages appear. No. 1 is below, which also is the same bird at the top of the post and directly above.
No. 2 was a little yellower underneath.
And No. 3, sort of drab-looking. But this bird was so cooperative I obliged it by taking way too many photos.
There were a few other warblers I had a harder time capturing as they were way up in their favorite tree again. I had hoped maybe the storm Tuesday night would bring a few more birds down. Here’s a Blackpoll Warbler, one of only a couple warblers I captured clearly enough.
And a Chestnut-sided Warbler.
A few more of the hard-to-see Chestnut-sided Warbler.
And to make things a little bit more confusing, I had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which appeared really yellow in this light.
Beyond the few warblers, the Great Egrets were present again just south of the Hofmann Tower. There were eight of them at this spot but I could not capture them all clearly in one photo.
Then as the foot bridge came into view later, there were two more Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron.
I heard and then saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker in a tree close to the sidewalk. If these birds are anything like they were last fall and into the winter, I will be seeing a lot of them soon.
I had a couple Gray-cheeked Thrushes.
Mallards are few at the moment.
There are still some Double-crested Cormorants on the river. I managed to barely catch this one in flight.
At my feet on the Riverside Lawn trail, a Powdered Dancer Damselfly.
I stayed home today and worked in the backyard while waiting for the tree service to come. I cleared out a huge amount of an invasive species that I had mistakenly assumed was something I planted after I noticed it was bothering the heck out of me and taking over. I will finish digging up what’s left of it over the weekend. The weather was perfect for working outdoors at a coolness ranging from 54 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. We remain cool tomorrow. Two workers will be back to replace the center post and repair my fence. Life is good.
Warbler migration always seems to be defined by the appearance of “Maggies” and Redstarts. Magnolia Warblers are generally abundant in migration, and they always seem to cheerfully accept their fate as lens subjects.
The male Magnolia Warbler has that big bright white wing patch. The female Magnolias do not have the wing patch and their black streaks don’t form a “necklace” or thick black streaks.
More male Magnolias…
And some females…with one paler male snuck in below.
Just a couple more…
The American Redstarts are somewhat harder to capture. This is at least a two-year male. The first year males look a lot like the females in that they do not have the bold orange and black coloring.
These birds tend to forage more frenetically than some other species.
I think this is a first-year male. It’s sometime hard to tell, but the yellow on the breast is a bit orangey-er than the yellow on the females.
These birds may appear dull but they make up for it with their active foraging. Two days later when the leaves filled out on the trees, it was much harder to see them.
This bird lost its tail!
A few more of what I think is a first-year male American Redstart, sometimes affectionately referred to as a “yellowstart.”
There are still a few Yellow-rumped Warbers around and they have the same colors as the Magnolias, just arranged differently.
Wilson’s Warblers are among my favorites. But as of this outing they managed to hide their trademark black caps almost entirely.
If you click on the photos in the gallery below you might be able to see only a hint of a black cap in one or two of them.
So there are a few more warblers I have yet to cover – not as many photos of each species (whew!) – and some other birds seen as well, and then plenty more migration madness to continue. I am convinced the male Northern Cardinals are enjoying being basically ignored by us warbler-hungry photographers.
I am very tired from going out to hear a friend perform last night and then getting up early to do the spring migration walk in Columbus Park, so I may not have much to say for a little while. But I will be back with the review of Tuesday’s birds, and there are so many more I have seen since then.
I saw some birds this week – in between practicing for the Spring Music Festival which will occur tonight. We had a rehearsal/run through last night and I survived. At least people like the song, so I guess that’s a good indication of something.
We canceled our scheduled walk at Columbus Park this morning because the weather was potentially threatening with the possibility of thunderstorms. We will more than likely have that kind of weather later tonight as we warm up to 70 degrees. But the overnight lows are still predicted to be in the 40’s for the coming week, which delays the yard cleanup even further.
These photos are from Monday at the Chicago Portage. I warn you, there are Way Too Many of them. The warm wave from the two days before brought migrants into the area. It was cooler on Monday so a lot of birds were foraging for food on the ground, like this Pine Warbler sampling seeds on the asphalt path.
Believe it or not these photos are of two separate individuals. I couldn’t capture them close enough to each other for a group photo.
The one Pine Warbler in the trees at first was not recognizable to me, but it turned out to be a Pine, albeit a drab one. The photo of the undertail helped me identify it.
A few more of this bird. Either way, it blends right in with the wood.
Palm Warblers have been all over the place in great numbers. it has gotten so that after taking all these pictures I haven’t bothered much with any of them the rest of the week.
I barely managed a few fuzzy photographs of the Black-and-White Warbler below.
it was delightful to see the return of a Yellow Warbler. One or two always stays the summer at the Portage so I expect to see this species again.
Warblers were not the only thing going on. There were lots of Chipping Sparrows, albeit most of them on the ugly asphalt.
There were a few group photo opportunities.
There were one or two Field Sparrows and then quite a number of White-throated Sparrows through the break in the fence.
I saw my first Baltimore Oriole of the year. My feeder will go up tomorrow. As you can see he wasn’t moving much.
Vocally and actively, the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are back. The lack of light emphasized the the Gray half of their name.
Here’s what the sky looked like that morning.
I had a cooperative White-breasted Nuthatch doing his thing.
Male Northern Cardinals are a little easier to photograph these days as they advertise their territories.
But the lack of light kept everything pretty cool-looking.
In her elusive stage, I managed half of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.
My volunteer American Robin. They are all over the Portage now.
The Yellow-rumped Warblers were the first to show up, but now their numbers are diminishing.
The return of water this year is making the place attractive to waterfowl again.
It would have been nice to see the rest of the bird below, but I think after going back and forth between Hermit Thrush and Swainson’s Thrush, it’s the latter.
Northern Flickers are determined to not be seen and this one wasn’t any different.
The Great Egret stopped by to see if conditions were conducive to fishing. I can only assume the sight of me changed its mind. But it was back the next day, on the bank of the stream.
I can only imagine what these Mourning Doves were up to. If that’s the male on the right, his neck feathers are iridescent…
I think these are flowers of a Box-elder Maple Tree. I found them attractive.
So thanks to the canceled bird walk and my nap, I was able to finish this offering. If you made it all the way to the end of this post you are a rock star! I must go back to my chores and prepare for this evening’s performance. I hope to be back again sooner after all this. Thanks for checking in and Happy Spring!
We are rainy and still warm today so perhaps these photographs from Wednesday won’t look out of place. The forecast was similar to today’s, albeit almost twenty degrees cooler, but it didn’t rain while I was out. I nearly dashed out this morning when the sun broke through the clouds because spring migration is picking up, but I am not interested in playing chicken today with the forecast, and with predicted rain and storms there is wind that will eventually drive the temperatures back down to where they were when these pictures were taken.
The first thing I noticed looking over the river from the Lyons side was swallows. They were mostly Tree Swallows.
Except for a Northern Rough-winged Swallow I managed to capture, albeit blending in with the cloudy sky reflected by the water, which was moving rather briskly. I later tried to capture the “rapids” in the photo below the swallow.
For what it’s worth, there was also a Ring-billed Gull over the river at Lyons.
There were Yellow-rumped Warblers at the riverbank at Riverside, bugging in the mud.
Distantly perched, I barely managed to capture a Belted Kingfisher, a male this time.
Showing up for the count, so to speak, a female Brown-headed Cowbird was foraging in the lawn.
Over on the Riverside Lawn side of the Des Plaines things picked up a bit. There were numerous Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are slightly larger than Golden-crowneds, which makes them appear huge by comparison when you are dealing with birds this size altogether.
There were plenty of Golden-crowned Kinglets as well, with these giving me some nice looks.
At one point while I stood wondering where the birds were, a Song Sparrow came and sat right in front of me for the longest time. Here’s only a few of perhaps 20 photographs. He wasn’t singing, he was pretty silent, but he wanted me to notice him. Maybe this is the same bird that gave me a recital weeks ago. The third photograph shows his feathers ruffled up a bit by a wind gust. I don’t think the temperature had reached 50 degrees yet.
This Northern Cardinal looks a bit chilly as well.
It’s always hard to tell whether you are seeing the same birds that were on the other side of the river because they tend to fly back and forth, but I suspect these Yellow-rumped Warblers were different individuals from the mud bunch.
And then out of the blue, so to speak, I saw the flash of a Northern Parula. This was a bird I had seen on the weekend before at Columbus Park – and I will try to be back shortly with that report as I managed to get better images in much better light. This warbler has been showing up in various locations around the Chicagoland area the past week and it was still early on Wednesday. I was about finished with my walk when I noticed the bird was working along the riverbank and I followed it until I managed to barely grab these images. This bird seemed to prefer foraging in old logs.
I am always good for a quick White-breasted Nuthatch.
Blue Jays are starting to show up again. I have heard them on occasion all winter but now I am just beginning to see them.
Beyond that, a couple Mallard drakes for good measure.
And one more of the Northern Parula.
I will try to be back soon as I try to keep space on the old hard drive free for inevitably more photographs. It’s going to be a rather busy week as I keep practicing for the Spring Music Festival so I am not making any promises, but a rainy morning forecast helps the blog efforts.
I would also like to dedicate this post to the memory of my former first-alto Alice Muciek who was a force for nature and music, in whose memorial service I will be singing with the Unity Temple Choir this afternoon.
I had planned on this post days if not a week ago… This could be my last ancient fall warbler photos post. Even though we will still have some cold weather to deal with, spring and the longer days are gaining attention from the birds. It won’t be long before the trees leaf out and warblers start to arrive. Red-winged Blackbirds have already started setting up territories as of March 1.
So here are a few reminders of what the warblers looked like in the fall. Below and at the top of the post is a Bay-breasted Warbler.
Below is one quick capture I managed of a Northern Parula.
Yellow-rumped Warblers like the ones below will look quite different in the spring.
Male Nashville Warblers have a tiny red spot sometimes visible at the crown. If you click on the first image below you might be able to see a hint of red on this one.
One sought-after warbler that I saw a few times but didn’t manage to photograph until a later visit in October was this male Black-throated Blue Warbler.
There were a lot of Black-throated Green Warblers this past fall.
And many Blackpoll Warblers were available for observation.
I will never tire of Magnolia Warblers although they were ubiquitous this past fall. I really think they like to flirt with the camera lens.
Not a warbler, but there was a very well seen Cooper’s Hawk that day.
Things are getting a bit more interesting as spring approaches and I will be back as soon as I can with more photos and reflections. Life goes on. Sometimes surprisingly so.
Oops, I almost forgot the obligatory American Redstart.
I have been out locally the past two weeks and there is much to post about, but I thought it might be time to take a historical break. These pictures are all from October 19th at the Portage. Only a little over a month ago, there was still more color among the birds than the leaves. I spent a lot of time with this Nashville Warbler.
Perhaps in the instance below the leaves outshone the bird – a pretty drab-looking American Goldfinch.
The other late fall warblers were on hand. Below is a Yellow-rumped Warbler.
And the one I kept seeing later and later into the season, an Orange-crowned Warbler…
Not a lot of sparrows on hand but I managed to capture these two.
And the Kinglets – Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned…
It’s been wonderful to see Brown Creepers on so many occasions.
Always glad to see a Black-capped Chickadee who seems to return the sentiment.
This could have been the only Great Blue Heron I saw here for months since the drought caused the water level to drop so drastically.
Not a wonderful place for a Hermit Thrush to pose but I was glad to see it.
It wasn’t quite woodpecker “season” yet but I managed to see this female Downy Woodpecker.
There are lots more historical visits to make sense of – indeed a flurry of fall warblers that I was so busy taking pictures of I barely have barely had time to go through them, so they may periodically provide a little visual warmup during the cold.
I am mourning the death of my beloved singer/songwriter/implacable musician Zebra Finch male to whom I gave the name of Arturo Toscanini. He died Thursday morning. I found him on his back, on the floor of the dining room by the windows. He was still warm when I picked him up. He had been singing a lot lately, and I think perhaps he had been telling me his time was coming because I found myself thinking about how old he had to be, even though he had no signs of aging or impairment, other than it seemed his little goatee was getting whiter and whiter. The blessing in all of this is that I have one of his offspring who is singing an abbreviated version of his Arpeggio Song and an even shorter memory of his TaTaTaTaTAH Song. Also, other birds have taken up the actual Toscanini Song that he used to sing a long time ago. And there are many more songs among them to catalogue and follow. At some point I hope to go through the years of recordings (I determined I must have gotten Arturo sometime in late 2014) to see if I can put together a timeline of his compositions. In the meantime, I am incredibly thankful for all the avian musicians I still have with me. Singing is their raison d’etre, and music is life.
A brief but driving squall of freezing rain in the yard yesterday morning supported my decision to not go for a walk. More snow and wind on the way today. A good day to take stock of my indoor life.
Yesterday morning also produced a brief sighting of a Cooper’s Hawk and the appearance of the large gray tomcat I scolded out of the yard as I was refilling the birdbaths before the rain started. I have perhaps 30 or more gallons of water stored in the basement and my rain barrels are still quite full. But we are due for more serious overnight freezing temperatures so I have made this my outdoor project for the weekend, draining the rest of the water and covering up the rain barrels for the winter. If predictions prove correct, we will be getting a little preliminary snow that won’t accumulate but will get us in the mood for winter.
These photographs are from October 17. I was not too surprised to discover I hadn’t processed many of them. I did find another confusing fall warbler which I didn’t report. It appears to be a first-year likely female Black-throated Blue Warbler (below).
Much easier to recognize and still pretty plentiful were Yellow-rumped Warblers.
The bird immediately below appears to have fused with the hackberry leaves.