Anyone who’s walked near wetlands or water during red-winged blackbird nesting season understands this sign — “Beware of red-wing [sic] blackbirds. Birds may exhibit aggressive behavior.” They left me alone.
Squirrel wasn’t going to let the red-tailed hawk perched on the stump keep it from a snack.
Christmas present for birders from the feeders at Sapsucker Woods (Cornell). The pileated woodpecker to your right (middle feeder on the post) is the male.
Sometimes on Saturday mornings I check out the Sapsucker Woods Pond webcam from Cornell. Today it was especially worth it for this very hungry female pileated woodpecker.
I was excited to see swans that aren’t the mute variety near Little Red Schoolhouse. Their galloping takeoff is something to behold.
May 2, 2021
I talked J into going to Morton Arboretum to check out the spring ephemerals. On I55, he mentioned he’d sent me a text message mentioning his car’s battery light had come on. The internet in my hand suggested this could be a sign of a bigger alternator problem, and sure enough many other lights had joined the battery indicator. Time to turn around.
On the return, the gas gauge showed nearly empty. He’d recently gotten gas, and we suspected this was also related to the failing alternator, but he stopped for gas at BP on 51st just in case. The quick topping off proved the theory. Of course, now the car wouldn’t start.
Short (!) version: Triple A tried a jump start, then called for a tow. Meanwhile the gas station attendant and then the manager (owner?) were unhappy over and over again that a pump was being blocked. They allowed me to appease them briefly several times by reminding them you can’t move a car that won’t start.
With the tow on the way, I went to catch a bus, but ended up summoning a Lyft car. J’s total time at the gas station — two to three hours. Happy weekend!
May 9, 2021
The next weekend we did make it to Morton Arboretum, where flowers still bloomed. I even found a Jack-in-the-pulpit on the way back to the Big Rock parking lot. They’re not easy to spot in all the green.
On the west side, we came upon Heartwood, part of the Human+Nature exhibition by artist Daniel Popper, which hadn’t opened officially. Heartwood requires you to be photographed between its halves, doesn’t it? The rest looks like it is fabulous, but I’m going to miss the trolls.
Lake Marmo (or Marmite, as I have to call it) glowed spectacularly purple from the top of the rise approaching it. People stopped to take photos, but I couldn’t capture it.
We sat on a lakeshore bench snacking on a charcuterie box from Redbird Cafe in Homewood (I think). As we watched, a great blue heron flew by a time or two, moving from the opposite shore to down shore not far from the bench. Finally, it took off and flapped by to my left, almost close enough for me to feel the air from its slow wingbeats.
I also spotted what could have been taken for a headless duck, but was of course a muskrat. It swam from the island toward us, disappeared under the bank on my left, and reappeared with a mouthful of grass clippings. He was as busy as a . . . beaver?
May 25, 2020
This late afternoon, we didn’t see as many different birds as on the previous visit. I suspect the migrants had moved on, many to the great boreal forests of Canada.
A great blue heron was fishing, catching and swallowing a meal as I watched.
As on the previous visit, I saw Canada geese with neck bands. One led her family into the lagoon and swam back and forth. I joked that she was trying to lose her entourage, which stuck to her no matter which way she went.
Another goose rested on one leg, then limped off. I assumed she was injured (and was calculating what I could do to help) when I realized she’s missing her left foot. There’s no way to know how it happened, but I would not be surprised if her leg had been entangled in fishing line at some point. The careless non-disposal of fishing line is a common problem in some forest preserves and could be one in the parks too.
I missed getting a decent shot of a great white egret that flew off in front of me, but I’m also fond of robins. With his dark head, this looks like a male.
Finally, here are the certificates for the geese I reported.
May 15, 2020
When European starlings and American robins would descend on the field next to us to feast on the stirred-up insects and invertebrates after a rain, my dad would say, “There aren’t as many robins as there used to be when I was growing up.”
On this day in Washington Park, I saw more warblers than robins, but I did spot this handsome fellow. More bird photos to follow.
May 15, 2020
When I go to Washington Park, I may find a few guys fishing and a few walkers or cyclists, but usually there aren’t many people around. It’s a shame because the Fountain of Time is a masterpiece, and the lagoons are gorgeous.
In this time of plague, though, Washington Park, which has remained open, is suddenly popular. When J. and I went in the late afternoon, people were barbecuing (couples and single families only), cycling, walking, dog walking, and, in some cases, peering at the trees with binoculars or cameras. No guys fishing that I recall.
Sometimes we see a great blue heron or a white egret, but this time I got my first good look at a different heron — the black-crowned night heron with its chunky build, stooped posture, and distinctive red eyes. They’re found in several places in Chicago — someone took a photo of one atop a bus shelter! — but they’re endangered in Illinois.
All by myself I managed to spot a few warblers, including several male yellowthroats, a palm warbler pretending to be a dandelion, and the back side of a magnolia warbler (plus the front side, but the photo is blurry). When I posed an ID question on the Chicago Audubon Society group page on Facebook, someone commented, “We have a warbler book that has, what I call, the underwear section. They call it the undertail patterns : ).” My warbler was sporting magnolia “underwear.”
A couple tried to tell me about a warbler they’d spotted that must have been rare or unusual, but I missed it and don’t even remember the name.
None of my wood duck platoon photos turned out, unfortunately, but here’s a striking pair.
Canada geese are ubiquitous in Hyde Park, especially near the lagoons. In this group, a few sported easily read neck bands. I reported the bands and got a few details back from the U.S. Geological Survey, of all organizations. Like teenagers, geese apparently stick with their friends.
Washington Park may not be the Magic Hedge or beach at Montrose Harbor, but it wasn’t a bad day after all.