The Other Goose Lake

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Goose Lake Natural Area and the Hebron Trail, in McHenry County up by the Wisconsin border, was on my list of places to revisit this year and I was so happy to be accompanied by my friend Susan who had a Yellow-Headed Blackbird in her sights as a species to add to her life list. I checked with ebird and confirmed the blackbirds had been seen in late July last year, so there was a good chance of seeing them still. These photos are from last Sunday.

On the way up, Susan spotted two Sandhill Cranes walking near a fence by the road.

It was cloudy and threatening rain, although we managed to avoid downpours. The sun did peek out a little bit later. Greeted by a Cedar Waxwing…

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Cedar Waxwing

And a bedraggled-looking Yellow Warbler on the trail to the marsh…

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Yellow Warbler

And a juvenile Song Sparrow.

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Song Sparrow

The Yellow-Headed Blackbirds were suddenly in view in numbers and they dominated the landscape. Susan definitely added this bird to her life list. We did not see an Black Terns, a species that also breeds here. Perhaps we were too late in the day or the season.

At some point a flock of Canada Geese flew over.

Below, flying Yellow-Headed and Red-Winged Blackbirds.

One particular Tree Swallow kept flying around a distinctive dead tree, tempting me to try to capture it. The tree it perched on is a favorite stopping place.

Below, a Common Yellowthroat and a confusing young sparrow. It’s likely a Song Sparrow but this time of year is tricky with identifying the youngsters. I’d like to say Grasshopper but the head isn’t “flat.”

Not at all confusing were the distinctive sounds of singing Marsh Wrens, but it was getting hard to find one sitting up until we encountered this one close to a platform overlooking the marsh. Some of its song is at the link below (you will also hear Common Yellowthroat singing first).

The water level was exceptionally high, but the area was not flooded as were other parts of the county. We saw many Pied-Billed Grebes with young, although they were at quite a distance.

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Pied-Billed Grebes

Nice to see a Monarch Butterfly. Would have been nicer to see several. I’m intrigued by the yellow flowering plant on the upper right, which I do not recognize, and the Purple Prairie Clover below it, which I later realized is also blooming in my front yard. Imagine that.

It was nice to see a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, even in lousy lighting, and a robin with food for young.

We met a very nice man who lives nearby and checks out the marsh regularly. He used to teach environmental science so he was full of good information and stories. He’s holding the crayfish below which he rescued from the gravel path. He encouraged us to come back at different times of the year. I think we should take him up on it.

More Yellow-Headed Blackbird photos. Missing are the distinctive white patches on the wings of adult males, which makes me think these are all juveniles.

YHBL 07-16-17-6279The little trio below leaves me stumped as to who the sparrow is, again. Since all juvenile sparrows tend to be on the streaky side no matter how they wind up as adults, I think this one has the look of a juvenile Field Sparrow but I’m not going to bet on it.

RWBL ET AL 07-16-17-6330Summer simmers on. I’ll be back soon.

Recycling the Unattached

Some of my original Zebra Finches from years past (the cleaner pot rack alone dates the photo)

I’m almost totally over the rhino-plus virus, well enough to get through what seemed like endless commitments. Now as my mind clears along with my sinuses, I am feeling remiss in keeping up with this commitment, so when I remembered this morning there is always an opportunity to fall back on those “Unattached” photographs that clog up my media library, I decided to select a few at random just for fun. A couple from the Galapagos, not so long ago, which reminds me I still have a couple days left from my trip I never covered…


Yellow Warbler – Galapagos – July 2016



Magnificent Frigatebird, Galapagos, July 2016

The three below are from a trip to East Africa in 2013.

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Gray-Crowned Cranes, November, 2013, Tanzaniya


Burchell’s Zebra, November 2013

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Pearl-Spotted Owlet, November 2013

The sunset below probably happened in Belize at Crooked Tree in March of 2014…I’ll be back with more recent endeavors soon.. Thanks for following my meanderings. I hope you enjoyed this little blast from the past.

Back to Panama, Day 1 continued

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Orange-Chinned Parakeet

More birds from the first full day of a short but colorful trip. It’s always a delight to see parrots and parakeets, after you’ve managed to distinguish them from the leaves of the trees into which they blend so well. Orange-Chinned Parakeets were our most common psittacine species.

The picture below is as close as I got to the tiny spec of “orange chin” this bird is named for. I’ve come to the conclusion you can only “see” it in the field guide illustrations.

Orange Chin of the Orange-Chinned Parakeet 3-13-17-1564Below is a Yellow-Tailed Oriole. I saw a lot of different Orioles all at once years ago in Belize and got terribly confused. Luckily this was the only Oriole we had to worry about except for the Baltimore Oriole which we shall see shortly in spring migration in the United States, with many staying to breed throughout the summer.

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Yellow-Tailed Oriole

Later in the day we visited some wetlands and caught glimpses of the juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron on the left and its parents on the right.

Also present in the wet areas were Northern Jacanas like the one below.

I think I have never seen a Greater Ani before, only Groove-Billed and Smooth-Billed. I was surprised to see the scalloped blue edges on its feathers.

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Greater Ani

We had some raptors too. The Gray-Lined Hawk below is a new species for me. What a gorgeous creature.

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Gray-Lined Hawk

I’ve seen Zone-Tailed Hawks before, but never really gotten such a detailed view of their feather patterns underneath.

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Zone-Tailed Hawk

The Black Vulture below is feather-challenged but still elegant in flight. Black Vultures outnumbered every other kind so you will be seeing more pictures of them.

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Black Vulture

I couldn’t resist throwing in a few more pictures of a Plain-Colored Tanager. I’m sure he was pleased I paid so much attention to him.

This Black-Headed Saltator isn’t living up to its name. If it weren’t for the overall shape of the bird and the white eyebrow I would still be trying to figure out who it was.

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Black-Headed Saltator

We saw a lot of Yellow Warblers, and there have been a few reported to have made their way to the Midwest in the U.S. already.

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Yellow Warbler

This is not my greatest picture of a Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird but I like the branch it’s on.


Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird

Red-Lored Parrots were seen a few times too. This bird seems to be feeding on something here. Looks crunchy, what fun.

There was a Three-Toed Sloth in a tree close to the tower we stayed in. It blended in well but luckily was exposed enough for a photograph.

Three-Toed Sloth 3-13-17-1424It’s been a busy week, with the March for Science last Saturday, then Choir Sunday at Unity Temple, work, upcoming rehearsal and participation in the Spring Music Festival at Unity Temple-United Lutheran which my friend Linda and I attended last year but this year we are performing Schubert’s Sonatina for Flute and Piano. I managed to get in a swim last night but the rest of the week is clamoring for attention. I’ll be back with more birds from Panama as soon as I can.

Happy Spring!

Let’s Escape to the Galapagos

vermilion-flycatcher-07-13-2016-8736There are plenty of places to see Vermilion Flycatchers and they’re probably not the first bird to come to mind when one visits the Galapagos, but did that stop me from taking way too many pictures of this one? Of course not!

My desire to escape is likely a shared sentiment, so I invite you to Day 4 of the Galapagos adventure. We spent the day at Isabela Island. In the morning we were at Volcan Sierra Negra and in the afternoon, at Punta Moreno.


welcome-sign-volcan-sierra-negra-7-13-16-0317Some birds we had seen before, others not.


Striated Heron

Nice look at a lone Whimbrel.



Yellow Warblers…

The cutie pie below is a Warbler Finch.

Small Ground Finches…

Woodpecker Finch…

The best opportunity for a picture of Lava Gulls was here.

Green Warbler Finch…

We got our first looks at Galapagos Giant Tortoises, for which the islands are named. Galapagos was a Spanish word for “saddle” which describes the shape of the tortoise shells.

At Sierra Negra the subspecies is guntheri.

giant-tortoise-07-13-2016-9197Below is a video of an interaction between two of these magnificent creatures, which might give you more of an idea.

We were also fortunate to get good looks at the Galapagos Hawk.

At Villamil, Punta Moreno, there was a nice colony of Greater Flamingos.

The dinner sculpture and the next day’s plans…

Three more days’ worth of photos to go. I’m off to a choir rehearsal this evening which should help distract me long enough from the incomprehensible reality to feel empowered by making a little noise.


Breeding Birds

PRWA IDSP 05-29-2016-2349Passerine migration is over for all practical purposes. Birds have taken to their breeding grounds and are getting down to business. Here are some photos from the last couple weekends, starting with the Prothonotary Warbler above, seen at Indiana Dunes State Park.

Yellow Warblers are common summer residents around here. The one on the left above was hanging out at IDSP and the one on the right was the first bird I encountered at the Chicago Portage last Sunday on a late, gloomy morning.

Even with a lot more light going on at the Indiana location, backlighting was a constant challenge. Above, compare an adult male Scarlet Tanager on the left with what was determined to be a first-year male of the same species.

There were several Red-Headed Woodpeckers at IDSP. I don’t see them too often so they were a nice surprise.

Perhaps the most exciting find was the hardest to photograph. Above is a male Acadian Flycatcher, not far from where his mate is sitting on a cleverly positioned nest underneath a leaf.

Two looks at Eastern Wood-Pewees above.

We had two Pileated Woodpeckers, and the one above was in the best light but this species still eludes my camera, monster lens and all.

Cedar Waxwings above, at IDSP on the left and the other one from the Chicago Portage.

The Portage had at least four male Baltimore Orioles, and I was able to spot a female not entirely hidden on the right, above.

To add to my list of not-often-seen woodpeckers, I had a Hairy Woodpecker at the Portage. Usually I see Downies everywhere, but this was the only woodpecker that I was able to photograph.

Tree Swallows were abundant. And below, it was a good day for turtles at the Portage.

And for Mallard ducklings…looking almost full grown.

Below, a newly fledged American Robin and an adult.

One more look at the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

RHWP IDSP 5-29-2016-2453I’ve been busy writing silly songs, working, gardening and starting to get ready for a trip that will begin on July 1. I am now glad I inadvertently planned to be away before the Democratic National Convention. I’m growing weary of the daily drama and it will be good for my head to be totally oblivious to politics for a couple weeks.

I’ll try to get back to this page a few times before I go. Thanks for stopping by!


LaBagh Woods

NAWA LaBagh 5-15-2016-1000I try to get to LaBagh Woods Forest Preserve a couple times a year if not more, at least during migration season. These pictures are from two weeks ago when I went with my friend Susan. It was extremely muddy after recent rains which made some of the trails impassible. Number of species and photographs were not as forthcoming as I might have hoped but we had a good time  Disclaimer: I’m presently suffering from a horrible head cold that started yesterday morning so I will keep this short and sweet.

It was a photo contest between Nashville Warbler (above) and Magnolia (again, show-offs that they are) but it was wonderful to see the elusive and scarce Golden-Winged Warbler. Below are two separate individuals of this species. At least I think they are different birds, we saw them quite a distance from each other.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks are always welcome. Below, male and female.

RBGR LaBagh 5-15-2016-0654RBGR LaBagh 5-15-2016-0676I don’t think I stopped bothering to take pictures of American Redstarts and Yellow Warblers (below) but there weren’t many volunteers.

And yes, the Magnolias, posing even when they aren’t.

Below, a Cooper’s Hawk sitting quietly in a tree.

COHA LaBagh 5-15-2016-0822After hearing Northern Parulas in several locations it was gratifying to finally be able to see one or two well and photograph below.

The migrants that likely aren’t going any farther are House Wren and Eastern Phoebe, below.

Also a Swamp Sparrow who could stay in the area.

SWSPLaBagh 5-15-2016-0809The bird below is a male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird – and the lighting is so intense and back-lit there is just no way to show off his ruby throat. But it was nice to see him perched. Welcome back, little fella. Still waiting to see a hummer in my yard…

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A few more athletic poses by the Nashville Warblers.

If you look closely at the top of the bird’s head below you can see a little rufous in the feathers of a male Nashville Warbler. I don’t know if I have ever seen this with binoculars but the camera lens makes it easier to believe.

NAWA LaBagh 5-15-2016-0964I will be back with more of spring migration. This weekend is probably going to be the last we will see of the warblers that keep going north.

Spring Bird Count

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Eastern Towhee

Here are some pictures from last Saturday’s Spring Bird Count. I did the morning half at McKee Marsh. I have yet to manage lasting long enough to do the afternoon half at Blackwell. It’s hard to get up at 3:00 AM on Saturday after working all week. Maybe next year I can take some vacation days to coincide with migration.

There was still not much going on with warblers, although the storms we have had since have caused considerable fallout along the lakefront and likely this area too.

It was a pleasant surprise to get to the observation deck over the largest portion of water and see a contented looking Bald Eagle, who later reappeared in flight.

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Another Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher on yet another gray day. And there were more gray birds in and around the water…most everything was too far away to focus.

Tree Swallows were abundant.

And it’s always special to see the return of Bobolinks.

Red-Winged Blackbirds are getting down to business.

We were lucky to accomplish as much as we did in spite of periods of rain. The Song Sparrow below did not let the lack of sunshine dampen his song.

SOSP McKee Spring Ct 5-7-2016-9426Except for brief warm spells, the weather is unseasonably cool, but the rain has caused the trees to leaf out in abundance, offering cover for many migrants while making them that much harder to see! I’ll be back soon with a small migration report from downtown Chicago.