Fall Walks at Thatcher Woods

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.

Getting Reacquainted with Yellow-rumped Warblers

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.

Looks like Chantarelle Mushrooms were growing atop the old Ohio Buckeye stump
And here’s what was left of the stump after they cut it down – being sent to the grinder.

Warbler Overload – Part III

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.

They’re Here

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.

Palm Warbler and Chipping Sparrows
Chipping Sparrow and Field Sparrow

There were one or two Field Sparrows and then quite a number of White-throated Sparrows through the break in the fence.

Field Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

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.