Portage Potpourri

It’s time to go back and sift through the summer’s photographs so I can start making room for the always anticipated overload of fall migration. As usual I find I have way too many photos that I had forgotten about. The ones in this short post go all the way back to June 4 and June 9 which don’t even qualify for summer yet, but the breeding birds had already been busy.

So this is a female Indigo Bunting. I love her delicate colors. And below her photo is a male, possibly my friend I have named Tadziu.

One bird I haven’t seen all summer, although they typically breed at the Chicago Portage, is the Yellow Warbler. I expect to see some in the next few weeks during fall migration. If I was seeing them so regularly in June they must have been nearby all summer.

I found this little bird’s photos and had to think for a moment what it was. I’ve concluded (with the help of other photographs online) that it can only be a very young Warbling Vireo.

For a short period of time, Gray Catbirds were making themselves available for photos until they disappeared later like nearly everybody else.

I’m beginning to realize this was an absurd idea because more recent photos are starting to accumulate quickly on my hard drive and I won’t be able to review older ones much longer.

Yes, a Chipmunk

House Wrens have been abundant all summer, but not always easy to see.

And every once in a while, an Eastern Phoebe would pose.

I am grateful for the many times I have seen Eastern Kingbirds.

Red-winged Blackbirds are due to start showing up in huge flocks before they take to their more southern destinations. They have disappeared from their breeding grounds. I suspect they have been busy educating the youngsters about self-reliance and survival.

American Robins are perhaps the most adaptable birds, thriving in and out of the human disturbance.

I was intrigued by the capture below – it looks like a very young Red-winged Blackbird.

Baltimore Orioles have been much harder to see long enough to capture lately.

I saw a Daddy Long Legs only once… and my favorite grass, the Squirrel Tail Grass, doesn’t look like this anymore, indeed, I haven’t noticed it at all lately.

Also well-adapted to us humans are American Goldfinches. They always seem so cheerful.

I don’t know what happened to the Song Sparrows at the Portage. I am not sure if any stayed to raise families.

The White-tailed Deer are making less frequent visits than they were earlier.

Another American Robin

Here are two quick and slightly blurry photos of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

I have never seen this yellow iris before…or since.

Here’s what the cottonwood seeds looked like in the beginning of June.

As if to prove my earlier point about adaptability, one American Robin built a nest on the edge of the shelter in spite of the spikes to deter such activities.

I have so much going on right now I can’t say when or with what I will return. But I figured as long as I started this post a couple days ago I may as well finish it.

We had our first choir rehearsal last night, and we are singing this Sunday. I was a bit surprised at how good it felt to stand together and sing, albeit still masked. And so we take the plunge into another year. And I will have to start getting up earlier – in the dark – as the fall bird walks start again next week.

Cool and Cloudy at the Portage

In case you didn’t get to meet this Indigo Bunting last year, allow me to introduce Tadziu – I have given him the name that is pasted on the back of the “Bike Path” sign on which he sits in this photograph – as yesterday morning he sat and sang and posed for me. Last year I often saw him singing from the tree that hangs over the entrance to the bridge which facilitates the bike path referred to in this sign. I would also see him sitting on the bridge itself and singing, as well as on the sign. He is the most enthusiastic advocate for a territory I have ever seen.

A snippet of his song is below. I recorded it last week. I realized yesterday that although all Indigo Buntings basically sing the “same” song, it seemed I could distinguish his when he sang it. Or it may just be that I know where to expect to hear him. Either way, he always sings in my presence and we are friends.

Indigo Bunting

Here’s a few more of Tadziu being a ham.

I was very happy to see a male Orchard Oriole, however briefly. I saw another later but did not manage to photograph it. I hope this means they are nesting at the Portage. I have seen them only occasionally every year. But I have to keep reminding myself that the more I go out, likely the more I will see.

Here’s how the Chicago Portage looks now.

I expect to hear Yellow Warblers but I don’t always see them. I waited for this one to emerge because I could hear him quite clearly. If you’re hopping around in the treetops and you’re bright yellow, eventually you will be seen.

Also seen, but silent, was a Downy Woodpecker exploring a beautiful round hole.

Just as I saw a Green Heron perched over the water, it flew and I followed it with the camera, then found it again later where it was sitting.

I walked back along the gravel road by the MWRD for a bit to see what was going on there.

I found a Cedar Waxwing with its back toward me and managed to get it to turn around slightly.

There was a pair of Eastern Kingbirds sallying about for insects.

There’s a lot – a terrible, horrific lot – of Poison Hemlock growing in several spots and it stinks to walk through. One does not have to touch it and I certainly don’t for obvious reasons. But another plant that takes over the wetter areas – Butterweed – is a more welcome sight.

I found this Indigo Bunting in the hemlock of all places.

Another invasive that has been battled for years is Burdock. This tiny, colorful fly looked even tinier on a huge leaf.

Young American Robins are starting to show up on their own while adults keep a watchful eye.

Another view – this of the “island”.

Here are two more photos of the Yellow Warbler who, with Tadziu, brightened up my morning.

We are still cool with lows in the 50’s, which is very comfortable to me, but it looks like temperatures will start to heat up next week. We have been getting some rain, but I wonder how much we will get later. I think we are still making up for last year’s drought. I’ll be back.

Beauty Beyond Warblers

The big push of migrants that began a couple weeks ago just as the leaves were finally starting to emerge on the trees brought some lovely birds to the Chicago Portage along with the anticipated warblers. These photographs are mostly selected from May 9 and May 12 visits.

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a Scarlet Tanager. Below are photos of both sexes.

The trees were still just beginning to get heir leaves, which made seeing the first migrants a lot easier. Below is a Great-crested Flycatcher that just sat while I clicked away.

I saw a female Eastern Towhee at a distance on May 8, four days before I saw a male.

The male Eastern Towhee was quite striking.

A Swainson’s Thrush barely stands out against a muddy-looking background.

It was about the last time I was going to see a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher well. They are still around but busy nesting.

I can almost count on seeing male Baltimore Orioles but the females are less visible, so it was nice to capture this one.

Yellow Warblers are still around, those that stay to breed here, but now that they have established their territories they have all but vanished.

Indigo Buntings, the summer show-offs at the Portage are back in good number. I will have a lot more photos of these guys.

Most rewarding has been the return of Green Herons now that there’s some water.

Northern Flickers aren’t always easy to see.

Here’s one more of this stunning male Scarlet Tanager.

I am pretty much over my breakthrough Covid infection, but even though it was fairly mild, it’s not something I want to repeat, so I am not considering myself invincible from this latest “booster”. I am more determined than ever to wear a mask in any indoor setting.

It’s raining this morning and cool. But we will be heating up just in time for the Memorial Day holiday. I still have a lot of photos from the last couple of weeks to share and I hope to be back soon.

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.

Blue-winged Teal and Canada Geese

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!

Leading Walks

I led two walks for the Unity Temple Unitarian Universality Congregation (UTUUC) auction again, on September 11 and September 25 this year. I didn’t take a lot of pictures, even though I was in much better shape than I was last time with the broken elbow. The pictures from the 11th are first and the ones from the 25th start with the Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

More than anything, it was good to get out with people from the congregation, most of whom I had not previously connected with, which was the whole point, beyond raising money, of offering a walk as an auction item. We had great conversations and the weather was good on both days, so I find myself looking forward to doing this again. And again.