Secrets of the Chicago Portage

Portage 5-1-2016-8019The fact that this place always looks like it may have started on another planet never escapes me, and now I may have some insight into why.

BAOR Portage 5-1-2016-7997

Baltimore Oriole

But first I’d like to share a few photos from last Sunday, just as the rain was stopping. I managed to count 40 species, some of which I never saw but recognized by their vocalizations. So spring migration, in spite of whatever weather challenges the birds face, goes on regardless.

Spoted Sandpiper Portage 5-1-2016-7644

Spotted Sandpiper

My first bird willing to pose was this Spotted Sandpiper. I can’t recall ever seeing one so true to its name. Later I encountered two other common shorebird species, the Killdeer and Solitary Sandpipers below.

Waterfowl was present but not much worthy of a photo except for a solitary Blue-Winged Teal.

Blue-Winged Teal Portage 5-1-2016-7661The only warblers willing to engage with the camera were Yellow-Rumped and Black-Throated Green Warblers. All the warblers I saw were in the same tree. I had a Blackburnian Warbler which is always a treat, but the poor light just wouldn’t do him justice.

Still here’s the Blackburnian on the left and a Palm Warbler on the right.

And for a blue-gray day, a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.

Below is a Brown Thrasher who was singing enthusiastically. I neglected to take my recorder with me but shot the video beneath his picture which recorded some of his song. This is a mimid species, which means he imitates other calls and recites them, singing each call twice. Toward the end of the video a Red-Winged Blackbird sings.

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So I have to hand it to the woodpeckers for keeping things lively.

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I was a bit surprised to see a male Belted Kingfisher land and sit still.

BEKIPortage 5-1-2016-8052And this Red-Tailed Hawk became a bit annoyed with me when I noticed him sitting very still and trying to blend in with the tree.

Close to the end of my outing I found the female Scarlet Tanager below.

SCTA Portage 5-1-2016-8444

But now for the surprise. As I was almost leaving, a cyclist stopped on the bridge where I stood to talk about the Portage. He said he had been visiting this place for 40 years. He didn’t look a day over 52 so I guess he’s been visiting since he was a youngster. Anyway, he told me years ago companies were dumping chemicals here and the water turned numerous bright colors. He also said he had talked to some of the Cook County foresters who were removing trees and they told him they had never seen such strange decay in some of the trunks.

I tried to find some documentation about what he told me but so far I have been unable to find anything specific to the Chicago Portage. I suspect the Environmental Protection Agency postdates the dumping, of course. This explains a lot to me about this strange little oasis in development. It’s sad, but then it’s also encouraging to see how nature rebounds, I guess.

It remains to be seen what the county’s plans are for this place. The cyclist also mentioned something about a commuter train going all the way to Joliet running along I-55 and a transportation hub at Harlem. Just a stone’s throw from the Portage. I can wait.

YRWA Portage 5-1-2016-7891

Back at the Slough

Pied-Billed Grebe, McGinnis Slough 10-25-15

Pied-Billed Grebe, McGinnis Slough 10-25-15

It seems strange to have been away from this page for so long, only to find time to come back after this weekend with all the sanity drained out of humanity. It almost feels like I need to start over. So I’m going with pictures from 3 weeks ago when I managed to get out to McGinnis Slough.

Gadwall at McGinnis

Gadwall at McGinnis

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Gadwall

The problem with the Slough is always that most of the birds are usually quite far away and you need a scope to see them.

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Great Blue Heron, McGinnis Slough

So most of these pictures were taken a bit closer in. Like this cooperative Song Sparrow.

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Song Sparrow

I didn’t realize this was a Clay-Colored Sparrow until I started going through the pictures. A nice surprise, don’t see this guy too often.

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Clay-Colored Sparrow

And this was one of the last Yellow-Rumped Warblers I saw this year. I guess in the photo below, if you’re going to see the rump you aren’t going to see much else…!

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

YRWA McGinnis 10-25-15 -6212There were about 400 American Coots at the Slough that day, and here’s one of them.

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American Coot

One more time with the Song Sparrow.

SOSP McGinnis 10-25-15 -6020I picked up my annual bird seed order from Chicago Audubon yesterday: I try to buy enough to last through the winter. Was greeted by Bobbi who was helping distribute the orders, and we got to discussing international travel (we were both with a group in Australia back in 2009). And then she told me she came back from a month in Paris only a few days ago. The world just shrunk that much faster.

Where Have All The Birds Gone?

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, scaling a building wall next to 155 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago

I could just as easily re-title this post to “Where Has All The Time Gone?” since I’m still trying to make adjustments to my ever-changing schedule. But this will be a brief tribute to some of the birds I have seen passing through downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. (There will be still more photographs from the rest of the month in a future post.)

The following warblers were present at Lake Shore East Park on September 28. This was probably the last “peak” of warbler migration along the lakefront.

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American Redstart

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Blackpoll Warbler

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Tennessee Warbler

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Magnolia Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warblers tend to come through and hang around a bit later, so I was not surprised to see this one the following week.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler, October 6, 2015

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

But I was surprised to find the Connecticut Warbler below poking around in the grass as I was walking through Millennium Park on my way to Lake Shore East. There wasn’t much light and the bird was under some trees so this was the best I could do with the photograph.

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Connecticut Warbler, Millennium Park, October 5, 2015

I have seen only a few White-Crowned Sparrows this fall, like the one below which popped out at 100 N. Riverside Plaza.

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White-Crowned Sparrow, October 2, 2015

I think the White-Throated Sparrow below was also from this new location. I will have more pictures and more to say about this newly discovered green space area along the Chicago River in a future post.

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White-Throated Sparrow, October 5, 2015

There have been a lot of Brown Creepers this fall migration.

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Brown Creeper, Lake Shore East Park, October 6, 2015

And Ruby-Crowned Kinglets…

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Lake Shore East Park, October 7, 2015

For a couple weeks, almost, the most ubiquitous bird seemed to be Hermit Thrushes. I am still seeing an individual here and there.

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Hermit Thrush, Lake Shore East Park, October 7, 2015

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are now all gone.

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Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, October 6, 2015

At first I thought the bird below was yet another Hermit Thrush but on closer inspection I have decided it’s probably a Gray-Cheeked Thrush. Light can be tricky, but the heavy spotting on the breast and the darker flanks give him away almost more than his facial pattern.

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Gray-Cheeked Thrush, Lake Shore East Park, September 28, 2015

And for the longer view, here he is again sharing tree space with a shy Lincoln’s Sparrow.

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So the warblers are all gone until spring. I did have a late Black-Throated Green Warbler on October 22nd which I posted on my flickr page before I realized I could now just upload it directly into ebird. It was my last “rare bird” sighting.

Below is another picture of the beautiful Blackpoll Warbler from September 28.

BPWA LSE Park 9-28-15 -3013I have more posts in mind and am just working on finding the time and mind space!

Thanks for your patience and indulgence!

Three Weeks: Chicago Portage

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Chicago Portage, 5-25-15

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Chicago Portage, 5-25-15

Back on the 10th of May I was at the Chicago Portage and counted 52 species. On the 17th of May, visiting with two friends, we counted 35 species. This afternoon, after gale winds in the morning and some rain, I went over to see what was up and counted 29 species.

Chicago Portage 5-10-15

Chicago Portage 5-10-15

Cape May Warbler, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Cape May Warbler, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Eastern Phoebe, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Eastern Phoebe, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Three weeks ago was the height of spring migration, and already by last weekend it was slowing down.

Canada Geese at the Chicago Portage 5-10-15

Canada Geese at the Chicago Portage 5-10-15

CAGO Chicago Portage 5-17-15-2361

Gosling, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15

Last week the goose family had dwindled to four goslings and today I was told by a woman I talked to on the trail that they were down to three. I did run into the geese today, but they were foraging in the grasses and I did not want to bother them, as they were pretty well hidden. So I am taking her word for it.

Red-Eyed Vireo, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Red-Eyed Vireo, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Lincoln's Sparrow, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

Veery, 5-10-15

Veery, 5-10-15

The Red-Eyed Vireos are still present and singing, so they probably breed here, but all the thrushes except for American Robin have left, and the sparrow species as well. There was quite an influx of Veerys this year, I don’t usually see them.

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White-Crowned Sparrow, 5-10-15

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Green Heron, 5-10-15

But as the last of the sparrows were getting ready to leave, the Green Herons were returning. I believe there are two although I have not yet seen them both on the same visit. I think they also hang out at Ottawa Trail Woods which is also where we went last weekend. I have included a few pictures here are from Ottawa Trail Woods, as it is basically part of the same ecosystem.

SOSA Chicago Portage 5-10-15-9921

Solitary Sandpiper, 5-10-15

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Spotted Sandpiper, 5-10-15

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Spotted Sandpiper at the Chicago Portage, 5-10-15

On the 10th I saw both Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, not on sandbars or mudflats but on dead wood in the water. The water levels were a bit lower though. I have not seen or heard any shorebirds since.

SCTA Chicago Portage 5-10-15-0145

Scarlet Tanager, 5-10-15

The Scarlet Tanager above basically flew down and sat right in front of me. I was so surprised I barely got his photograph.

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Myrtle female, 5-10-15 – You cannot see the yellow rump but this is the first year I have noticed they also have yellow on the crown

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Yellow Warbler, 5-10-15

The only warblers willing to pose were the most common ones. The Yellow-Rumped Warblers are gone, but the Yellow Warblers stay for the summer.

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Chicago Portage, 5-17-15

INBU Ottawa Trail 5-17-15-2379

Indigo Bunting, Ottawa Trail Woods, 5-17-15

BASW Chicago Portage 5-17-15-2243

Barn Swallows, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15

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Female Belted Kingfisher, Chicago Portage, 5-17-15

Indigo Buntings are everywhere. I have not seen the females yet but the Portage has at least four males singing on territory. I have also seen many Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Northern Rough-Winged Swallows.

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Chicago Portage, 5-25-15

BAOR Chicago Portage 5-25-15-3661

Baltimore Oriole, 5-25-15

GRHE Chicago Portage 5-25-15-3640

Green Heron, 5-25-15 – Not as visible today as three weeks ago.

Eastern Kingbird, Portage 5-25-15 - There were two today, sallying for prey over the slough

Eastern Kingbird, Portage 5-25-15 – There were two today, sallying for prey over the slough

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Tree Swallow, 5-25-15

Red Admiral Chicago Portage 5-25-15-3562

Red Admiral on a wildflower I have yet to identify – I should know it! But I have never seen it at the Portage before. Is this some kind of monarda?

I included the butterfly picture because to me it signals the end of spring migration and the beginning of summer, when butterflies and dragonflies vie for my attention.

WODU Chicago Portage 5-17-15-2349

Wood Duck, Ottawa Trail Woods, 5-17-15

I didn’t see any ducks today at the Portage. In years past there have always been a breeding pair of Wood Ducks, so I hope they are busy nesting.

A Mallard mom with eleven ducklings (they can't be all hers?)!

A Mallard mom with eleven ducklings (they can’t be all hers?)! (Ottawa Trail, 5-17-15)

I hope to be back soon with a short report on birds in Berwyn. I just saw a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at my hummingbird feeders this evening, which gave me the perfect reason  to clean and refill the feeders. While I was out in my yard my neighbor appeared and told me he saw the hummer yesterday! Maybe I’ll get a picture this year before September.

Staying In To Finish This Post

Juvenile Pied-Billed Grebe, McGinnis Slough

Juvenile Pied-Billed Grebe, McGinnis Slough

I would be out visiting with the Crows but the entire week is going a bit insanely so I am finishing up this post I started last night. When it takes days to write a blog post I have to keep revising those optimistic references to “yesterday” and put them in the proper perspective.

The pictures in this post are from the Chicago Portage and McGinnis Slough, both Cook County Forest Preserves, taken this past Sunday.

Chicago Portage

Chicago Portage

Encouraged after I managed to fold the back seats down Saturday morning in the Prius (a first!) to accommodate my birdseed order from Chicago Audubon, and then carried all several hundred pounds of it from the car to the back porch without throwing out my back, I ventured out Sunday morning with the Tamron 150-600mm lens attached to the 5D, just to see how it handled the lens. I decided the weight difference between the 5D and the 70D is minimal.

Wood Duck, Chicago Portage

Wood Duck, Chicago Portage

Because I was looking for the turkeys at the Portage, I decided to walk in from the opposite direction than what I usually take, which was a stupid thing to do from a photography perspective because I was walking into the sun, but I persisted anyway, and never encountered any turkeys. It was an otherwise beautiful morning, starting out a bit chilly but quite clear and later becoming warm.

Canada Geese, Portage

Canada Geese, Portage

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Portage

Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Portage

Downy Woodpecker, Portage

Downy Woodpecker, Portage

Monday was heralded as our Last Likely Warm Day. Monday evening was opening night for Il Trovatore at the Lyric Opera, so I met my friend after work, we went to dinner, then attended most of the pre-opera lecture which was helpful and amusing, and then we saw the opera. The production was stunning, Stephanie Blythe was magnificent, as was the entire cast and chorus. I have not heard so much beautiful and strong singing from every cast member in a long, long time. It was nice to renew my relationship with the art form if not my subscription.

(Below, probably the last warblers I will have seen around here this year.)

Orange-Crowned Warbler, Portage

Orange-Crowned Warbler, Portage

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Portage

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Portage

I did not get home until 11:15 or thereabouts after the opera, so I managed to get only about 5 hours of sleep or less. In the meantime at work we endured almost two entire days without the ability to communicate by email or Internet. Now that the problem has been resolved we are playing catch-up with a lot of work. The trip to Costa Rica, in the back of my mind for months, is now racing to the forefront, making almost every waking moment into a decision about to take place.

McGinnis Slough

McGinnis Slough

Most of the birds at McGinnis were too far away to identify even with a scope. There were several hundred American Coots and it appeared there were Scaup but I could not identify whether they were Lesser or Greater. I thought I could see three Harlequin Ducks, but I could not see enough of them beyond telltale white patches on their cheeks so I did not report them. They would have been lifers for me, I think, but not really if I couldn’t see them completely (they don’t look very fancy this time of year anyway, yet). Plus people get excited about Harlequin Ducks and I didn’t want to get them started on a wild duck chase…

Northern Cardinal, McGinnis

Northern Cardinal, McGinnis

Except for the Pied-Billed Grebe at the start of the post (there were several of them) and the female Northern Cardinal above eating buckthorn berries, I did not get many photographs at the Slough. But the seasonal landscape changes attracted me.

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McGinnis Slough

White-Throated Sparrows, so common in the Chicago Loop, are special to see anywhere else. There were several at the Portage, along with a few White-Crowned Sparrows, and also some Fox Sparrows who continue to evade the lens.

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White-Throated Sparrow, Chicago Portage

I will be back with a post or two before my trip to CR.

Palm Warbler Readings

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler – Chicago Portage

This past Sunday I met my friend Lesa at Miller Meadow, which is yet another stretch of Cook County Forest Preserve bordering the Des Plaines River. Miller Meadow has a little wooded area interspersed with marshy habitat. There are also planted lawns and picnic tables, a model airplane field and the like. The trails are not suitable for bike-riding or jogging, but we did have a few dog walkers.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird, Miller Meadow

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Palm Warbler, Miller Meadow

We hoped we would see some sparrows, but instead of sparrows all over the ground and in the low vegetation, there were Palm Warblers. Everywhere. By the time we were done we estimated at least 100, but I backed down to 80 and still had to justify the number to ebird.PAWA Miller Meadow 10-5-14-0484

The remainder of the Palm Warbler photographs here and the one at the very top of the post were taken later, though, at the Chicago Portage. All the photographs were taken with a new camera and lens. I’ve been reading about this outfit for months on Bob Zeller’s blog and I finally decided it was time to make the move.

Last week at work I succumbed to the temptation and invested in the new gear to take to Costa Rica. I usually wind up buying new camera equipment either right after a trip, as in “gosh I wish I’d had that,” or before a trip, which is where I am now. The Canon EOS 70D seemed like less of a priority until I decided that it’s time for my 7D to go to Canon for repairs, so I have been taking the 70D with me to work the last few days. On Sunday I broke in a new Tamron 150-600mm lens, using the 70D body because it’s lighter in weight, and I’m not getting any stronger. At first, getting used to swinging around a 600mm lens is almost daunting. But I remember feeling much the same way after I got my 100-400mm Canon L lens years ago, and I got used to it, so I’m sure this is just a matter of practice, practice, practice. I also feel safer. No one had better mess with me when I’m packing this gear.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

NOFL Miller Meadow 10-5-14-0425

Not terribly sharp, but the golden shafts still show.

But it is Fall Migration season and you never know what to expect with birds on the move. We saw a Broad-Winged Hawk, which was rare enough to be a write-in on the ebird list and it later appeared on the alert system. I don’t know why a hawk would be rare anywhere this time of year but maybe it’s a little early for Broad-Wingeds to move. Just guessing. I am not an accomplished hawk watcher.

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Broad-Winged Hawk, Miller Meadow

It’s hard for me to remember how far away the birds were, I was so busy just trying to focus on them. I seemed to get a better hang of it with the little birds.

Palm Warbler, Miller Meadow

Palm Warbler, Miller Meadow

Just as we were leaving Miller Meadow around 10:30 or so, the sun was finally coming out and warming up the place, encouraging the birds to come out as well, so I decided to check out the Portage and practice more with the new lens. Of course the light became a challenge with all the deep shadows, but I am encouraged with what I was able to manage with the new setup.

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Canada Geese, Chicago Portage

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Hanging off the foot bridge on the south side of the creek, I was able to get close to American Goldfinches and Yellow-Rumped Warblers indulging in the duck weed.

American Goldfinch, Portage

American Goldfinch, Portage

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Chicago Portage

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Chicago Portage

YRWA Portage 10-5-14-0592

The interesting thing about this photo to me is the yellow on the crown, which I rarely see on a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

Of course the Palm Warblers could not resist the Portage either, and I counted about 50 individuals there.

Palm Warbler, Portage

Palm Warbler, Portage

PAWA Portage 10-5-14-0640

I was surprised to see a Great Egret in the creek. I might not have attempted these photographs at all with the 100-400mm lens, but I managed at least usable images from a distance. However unforgiving the direct sunlight with an all-white bird as a subject…

Great Egret, Chicago Portage

Great Egret, Chicago Portage

GREG Portage 10-5-14-0755

So the Palm Warblers picked up the slack this week at the Portage, where last weekend every other bird was an American Robin. I counted no more than 10 Robins this weekend. The large flock has moved on.

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Okay, by now you should recognize this bird.

I was a bit surprised to see a Scarlet Tanager. I had one a few weeks ago at the Portage. I wonder if this is another response to the change in habitat the tree-cutting and clearing has created.

Scarlet Tanager, Portage

Scarlet Tanager, Portage

AMGO Portage 10-5-14-0949

American Goldfinch, Chicago Portage

I hope to be back soon with photos from the Loop where there has been some interesting bird activity over the past couple weeks. And my crows are begging for some attention too so I should probably try to get you caught up with them.

Invasion of the Nesters

Tree Swallow Nest, Chicago Portage

Tree Swallow Nest, Chicago Portage

Yesterday, whatever holiday you may have been celebrating, was also a beautiful day in the Chicago area. For that matter, Saturday was quite wonderful as well: I had a visceral perception of my depression lifting and concluded it must have been directly related to abundant sunshine. Although having a new car to drive to the pool and grocery shopping didn’t hurt either.

Ottawa Trail Forest Preserve, Cook County, Illinois

Ottawa Trail Forest Preserve, Cook County, Illinois

Sunshine aside, it was warm yesterday as well. I started out at Ottawa Trail around 8:00 a.m. wearing a t-shirt, sweat shirt and windbreaker. I shed the sweatshirt before I left and by the time I got to the Portage at 10:00 I was minus the windbreaker too.

Robin with nesting material, Ottawa Trail

Robin with nesting material, Ottawa Trail

For all the warm weather, there weren’t an awful lot of birds at Ottawa Trail, but improvements have been made and it’s easier to walk all the way now, it doesn’t stop abruptly anymore and insist that you be in good enough shape to climb down and back up a 3-foot cement retaining wall, while still leaving enough of the former demolished structure to stop and rest, lay down your optics and take off your sweatshirt to stuff in a backpack.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

It’s always nice to see a Turkey Vulture flying overhead. Another raptor seen here was a Cooper’s Hawk but the photographs were good only for later verification of its ID.

BC Chickadee 4-20-14 Ottawa Trail 6925.jpg-6925

The designated Black-Capped Chickadee greeted me.

Blending in at the Ottawa Trail

Blending in at the Ottawa Trail

The image of a Canada Goose above explains to me how even if you have black and white markings on your body you can still blend in with the scenery.

Blending in at Ottawa Trail

Blending in at Ottawa Trail

Walking back along the Des Plaines, I saw something black and white across the river but had no idea what it was until I got it in the camera view. The nesting spot above looks like a fort.

Tree Swallow Nest

Tree Swallow Nest

I stopped at the Jewel-Osco and then went on to the Chicago Portage to see what, if anything, had changed over the week. The ground is a lot drier, leaving the bottomlands almost drained. But I was quickly awakened by chirps of dueling Tree Swallows. The one I photographed most was protecting his prime nesting spot in a dead stump right by the south foot bridge.

Tree Swallow Nest Portage 6957.jpg-6957Tree Swallow Portage 6968.jpg-6968

It occurred to me that a lot of male birds were strutting their stuff yesterday, and with good reason. “It’s my job to be beautiful – go ahead, look at me! Just don’t look at my nest!!”

Canada Geese, Chicago Portage

Canada Geese, Chicago Portage

The Canada Geese were defending their territories too, sometimes quite vigorously.

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C Geese Portage 7039.jpg-7039

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I must have startled this Mallard, but he gave me some interesting shots.

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Blue-Winged Teal have decided they like the Portage. I wonder if they will stay. I counted four pairs yesterday!

Blue-Winged Teal, Chicago Portage

Blue-Winged Teal, Chicago Portage

The first picture below illustrates how well they can blend in too. The second shows a flash of that blue wing.

BW Teal Portage 6979.jpg-6979Blue-Winged Teal BWTE Portage 7185.jpg-7185

There was another warbler I have yet to identify from many crummy pictures, but below is the only Yellow-Rumped I could find.

YR Warbler Portage 7099.jpg-7099

There were two Blue-Gray Gnatcacthers chasing each other, probably over that nesting thing.

Blue-Gray Gnatcactcher, Portage

Blue-Gray Gnatcactcher, Portage

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers won’t nest here, they travel much farther north. But it sure was nice to see this guy in his breeding plumage.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

YB Sapsucker Portage 7087.jpg-7087

I am sparing you a lot of Painted Turtle Pictures this time, although they were out in great force soaking up the sun. Below is my cooperative Tree Swallow once more.

Tree Swallow Portage 6972.jpg-6972

I will try very hard to come back one more time before leaving for the Edwards Plateau in Texas on Friday.

 

 

 

 

Fits and Starts

Pied-Billed Grebe with Turtle 4-13-14 6687.jpg-6687

The Turtle and the Pied-Billed Grebe

I’m not getting any “planned” posts done, so this one is an interim life-goes-on-in-spite-of-me digression.

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Canada Goose with Painted Turtles

Spring is arriving, and we even had some warm days to go with it. Yesterday morning began still quite warm, but along with predictable April Showers, we are now plunging ever-so-slightly back into temperatures cool enough to flirt with snow.

Blue-Winged Teal, Chicago Portage

Blue-Winged Teal, Chicago Portage

My fits and starts seem as arbitrary as the weather. Tuesday night on the way to the pool, about halfway, the power steering began to groan loudly on the old, rusted out Ford Taurus. After a good swim, we moaned and groaned all the way home. Glad I made it, because the writing was on the wall: you know it’s over when your mechanic doesn’t want to try fixing things any longer. Knowing the end was nigh, I hoped to make the car last a couple more weeks until I got back from Texas, but apparently Little HP (named after its Hewlett-Packard fleet car origination: purchased with 20,000 miles on it, now has only 81,000, but once when getting a fairly minor dent straightened out discovered it had been in an accident from the tell-tale difference in paint color, which explained a lot of its odd quirks) already sensed rejection and, as little as I drive, is now unsafe at any speed.

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I already knew what I wanted to buy, so after researching the possibilities online, I made an appointment with the nearest Toyota dealer for Saturday, and bought a 2013 Prius c. I’ve been trying to substitute “Priuses” for “Porsches” in that lyric from Janis Joplin’s “Oh Lord Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” …”My friends all drive Priuses, I must make amends.” It’s true, three (if not all) of my friends drive Priuses. Maybe this should be the 21st century version of the song.

I have already lowered  my carbon footprint. I’ve put 57 miles on the car and the needle has not moved from “full.” The purchase will probably force me to lower my footprint even more since I won’t be able to afford any long trips overseas for quite a while.

After running errands with the Prius, I met Lesa at Wolf Road Prairie around dusk to see if any American Woodcocks were displaying. You can take a virtual tour of this site at the first link and learn all about Woodcocks from Cornell at the second.

Wolf Road Prairie

Wolf Road Prairie

The Woodcocks started to “peent” some time after I took the above photo but did not fly until it was as dark as when I took the one below. Needless to say we barely saw anything.

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But I got to practice driving in the dark with the new car. It took me a while to find the lights: I was a little dismayed that the options on the column were not illuminated, since this car seems to tell you what it’s doing Every Second. But I’m sure I’ll get the clicks memorized and won’t need to look at them. Or maybe there’s some setting somewhere that makes them go on and off by themselves. Everything else seems to be Twilight Zone about it, like the smart key. Have to study the manual thoroughly this week.

Chicago Portage

Chicago Portage

Yesterday morning I took the new car to the Portage which is where the remaining photos on this page were taken, including the car’s portrait. It was a good day for turtles. And I had 25 species of birds which is not remarkable, but among them were Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Brown Creeper and Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, first-of-year sightings for me, confirming passerine migration has definitely begun. The warblers and kinglets were up too high in the treetops for photographs, but that’s where the bugs were on our first really balmy day. More Painted Turtles.

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I spent most of yesterday evening looking for title to the Taurus because I want to donate it as it was definitely not worth trading in. I didn’t even drive it to the dealer, I took a taxi. I was sure I knew where I was hiding the title, but after much ridiculous and hapless searching, I have given up looking for it and am going to get a duplicate issued. Getting organized is on my list of things to do this summer, not this week.

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Two more Blue-Winged Teal flushed when I walked by, and while I’m sorry I disturbed them, you can see the blue on their wings.

Pied-Billed Grebe with Turtle 4-13-14 6685.jpg-6685Maybe the motto for the day should be “Put a Turtle On It.”

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Familiar Haunts

Carolina Wren, Chicago Portage

Carolina Wren, Chicago Portage

I’m trying to conserve energy for my upcoming trip, but beautiful fall weather and an extra hour of sleep were all I needed to get me out of the house yesterday morning. I went to the Chicago Portage and then McGinnis Slough, to witness the change of seasons.

Chicago Portage

Chicago Portage

Canada Geese gathered in groups of six to twenty-four birds, and I counted 126 total. Not a lot by Canada Geese gathering standards perhaps but plenty for a small preserve. I looked for Cackling Geese but there were none mixed in.

Canada Goose, Chicago Portage

Canada Goose, Chicago Portage

We’ve had some substantial amounts of rain the past week, along with cooler temperatures, contributing to the arrival of leaf color almost everywhere but the Portage. It has its own palette.

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I was lucky early on to see this Carolina Wren who also appears at the top of the post. He was busy with a worm, which explains to me why he’s still around.

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The light was creating interesting reflections wherever there was clearer water.

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After the geese, the most numerous species represented yesterday was White-Throated Sparrow. I am used to seeing a lot of them on the lakefront but have never before seen 50 or more here. I caught one sitting. They were moving in flocks feeding in the ample brush and dried weeds on either side of the water. Song Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows and Fox Sparrows were interspersed with them but I could not single them out for a photo.

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White-Throated Sparrow

Convinced that I’d seen and heard everybody available at the Portage, I moved on to McGinnis, where the colors were a bit more varied.

McGinnis Slough

McGinnis Slough

Here the species of the day, at least on land, was Yellow-Rumped Warbler. I had brought the scope but forgot the tripod I was supposed to grab on a second trip back to the house before I left, so I was not able to view any distant birds in the water. Not that I could have taken photos anyway. The two Trumpeter Swans who hang out were in the middle of the largest portion of the water instead of hugging the far shore, but they still looked like white blobs in a picture.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I took advantage of a Ring-Billed Gull who flew over instead.

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A little autumn color goes a long way as we say goodbye to warmer weather.

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One more Yellow-Rumped Warbler for good measure.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, McGinnis Slough

Yellow-Rumped Warbler, McGinnis Slough

Sunday at the Portage

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Black-Capped Chickadee

After two days getting up before 4:00 a.m., it was wonderful sleeping in somewhat Sunday morning before going over to the Portage. I had no expectations, I only wanted to go out and explore. Perhaps that is the best thing about going to a place you know well: you are always primed for surprises. I started walking in slowly around 8:30. Mine was the only car in the parking lot, so I had the entire place to myself. And it was quiet.

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I was not surprised to see Wood Ducks, indeed they have been there every time, but it was special to see the young drakes in their new grownup plumage.

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The surprise was seeing two young raccoons behind them.

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I managed to get a picture of one.

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The last few visits to the Portage have been scarce on woodpecker sightings even though I knew they were always there…so it was nice to see this Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

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Through a break in the trees, a Red-Tailed Hawk was visible, perched on a bare limb over the water.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

While I was trying to photograph the Magnolia Warbler below…

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

a Winter Wren caught my eye. It’s always a surprise to see a Winter Wren. Especially after I had given up trying to find the Carolina Wren who was singing earlier.

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

Downy Woodpeckers are always plentiful, but this one was busily drilling at eye level.Downy IMG_8488_1

And not all the Gray Catbirds have left.

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Heavy rainfall the night before filled the bottomland with water.

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A lone Canada Goose was by the water near the Wood Ducks, standing on one foot

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while many more flew overhead.

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The most unusual sighting did not produce great pictures, but there were enough to identify a Northern Parula. My ebird sighting was questioned because I had to add this bird to the list; I did not dare add it until I was sure I had pictorial proof.

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N Parula Warbler IMG_8436_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was no shortage of Yellow-Rumped Warblers. Indeed, they were everywhere, although none were as photogenic as the week before. But I caught this one skipping across the duckweed.

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The change of seasons renders the Portage a magical place.

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