Sunday, May 31, 2009

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatchers, which we've seeing at The Magic Hedge and in Grant Park now, are fun to watch. They swoop out, flutter a bit as they catch bugs, then swing back to sit in wait for the next unsuspecting fly (or gnat or mosquito) to flit by.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Blackburnian Warbler

These Blackburnian Warblers were all over Grant Park last week. They are still around - I saw a male one just this morning.

The first two photos are of a female Blackburnian Warbler. I have to admit when I first saw it, I thought it was a new warbler - one to add to my list ;). Then I looked it up and realized it was a female. So here's a birdwatching tip: Study what the males and the females look like since sometimes they look very different. The last two photos are of a male Blackburnian Warbler. His throat and chest are very bright orange and when the sun hits it, he's a little neon light.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spotted Sandpiper

This little Spotted Sandpiper was enjoying a day at the Montrose Beach last Saturday. When you compare him to the Ringbilled Gull (typically 17.5" tall) in the lower picture you get a fairly good idea of how little the Sandpiper (typically 7.5" tall) is.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Magnolia Warbler

Today, we're watching the Magnolia Warbler.

He sits quietly in flowers.
(OK - he sits quietly for maybe 2 seconds and then starts flitting around again)

He sits quietly in trees.
(Again - for 2 seconds - resting before another flitting spell.)

He swings precariously on small branches.
(While looking for another place to flit around.)

He slides down shrub branches.
(So he can flit around in the leaves away from the camera.)

He glares menacingly at the photographer.

He flies away.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird

I thought it was a big dragonfly the way it zipped by me. Then it sat on a limb for a nano-second and somehow I got lucky and got a "fairly" clear picture of this female ruby-throated hummingbird at The Magic Hedge.

Monday, May 18, 2009

American Redstart (Immature)

It's hard enough to identify some adult birds in the first place. It gets a lot harder when you mix in the immature ones, which haven't developed their adult colors yet. We studied this bird - and a multitude of photo angles of it - for awhile before settling on identifying it as an immature American Redstart. I think the yellow blotches and the tail "design" are the identifying features.

A few days ago, I posted a photo of the adult version. It is quite a contrast.

(Click to enlarge the photos)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Yellow Warbler

This is a Yellow Warbler. We've been seeing them around the Magic Hedge and in Grant Park for the last few weeks. "Adorable" just seems like a good word to describe this bird - perhaps due to its remarkable resemblance to a Marshmallow Peep.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bald Eagle (Immature)

Every so often, we need to be reminded to look in the sky for the birds. Sounds obvious. But, it is easy to forget when we get in the habit of looking in trees, hedges, water and the grass. Who'd think the birds would actually be flying in the sky?!?

And, who'd think there would be a Bald Eagle flying over Montrose Beach and the Magic Hedge. But there he was soaring around on Sunday morning. The immature versions have fairly distinctive lower body/wing patterns and their flight "posture" is different enough to make identification pretty straightforward.

So please remember to look up every once in awhile. You might see something interesting.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wood Duck

Wood Ducks have great plumage - like an abstract interpretation of a duck. This one was just enjoying the afternoon at Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Bird migration is picking up around here. Chicago has a program called Lights Out Chicago that encourages owners/managers of high-rise buildings to dim their lights during the spring and fall migrations so birds don't collide with the buildings during their night flights. There is also a group called the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors that works to rescue stunned (or exhausted) birds and educate people on how to make it safer for birds to migrate through Chicago. Their slogan is "Helping Migratory Birds Safely Navigate the Loop". Their website has information on what to do if you find an injured bird.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

American Redstart

This little American Redstart was a surprise and a challenge at the Magic Hedge. We were just standing around gazing at the area by the dead tree in the Hedge when I saw a flash of red. There wasn't enough red to be a Cardinal but too much to be a Redwing Blackbird (which had been the only birds with red that we'd seen).

When it did show itself, it jumped around a bit - apparently it is quite the "flitty" bird. But, it did end up sitting - maybe it was tired from migrating - enough for a picture and identification. I think we were lucky to catch it when we did since we haven't seen one since at the Hedge or anywhere else.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cedar Waxwing

We saw this pair of Cedar Waxwings (actually there were four in total but the other two were camera shy and hid behind leaves) at the Lake Katherine Nature Preserve. Their markings are so interesting.

My favorite is the bottom one: The female seems to be considering whether or not it is worth the effort to move down the branch to munch on the leaves.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

White Crowned Sparrow

A few weeks ago we'd never seen a White Crowned Sparrow so seeing this one at the Magic Hedge was quite an event. Now, they seem to be all over the place - Magic Hedge, Erie Park, Grant Park. I guess they send a few trailblazers out first to check out the good spots before they all come through on their migration. We're just starting to see a few varieties of warblers, so in a week or two, they'll probably be "swarming" around here.

This White-Crowned Sparrow seems to say "Oh No! Caught by another Paparazzi. Better fluff up my feathers and make sure I look presentable." After preening on the branch, he hopped around the ground - making sure I got his best side.

I mentioned that the White Crowned Sparrows seem to be coming through Chicago in force now. There were quite a few in Grant Park yesterday and they seem to LOVE to eat dandelions.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

The yellow-rumped warbler has some pretty distinctive markings. So once you get a good enough view, it is easily identified. The key is getting a good enough view. It tends to move around a lot. It's a lot harder to aim binoculars at where you are looking - and have them be focused - than we had realized. We're getting better but it is still a challenge. We spotted this one at the Magic Hedge on a rainy Sunday morning. I have found that patience helps -- eventually the birds do take a rest between flitting/feeding fits and even seem to pose for the camera.

But, after a short rest, they need to eat again and the wild flitting begins all over again. This photo hints at how the Yellow-Rumped Warbler got its creative name. You can just barely see that the bird's lower back (or upper rump) has bright yellow feathers.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers were quite plentiful in the Magic Hedge area in mid-April. We're now seeing them on Northerly Island and in Grant Park as well. First the Flicker was posing for us in the Magic Hedge's big dead tree. Next, I found a pair doing a little Flicker Dance (I would have shot it as a movie if I'd known how to do that with the new camera.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ruby Crested Kinglet

As we're new bird watchers we don't often know what we're seeing right away. It takes a lot of photographing and studying through binoculars to figure out the bird. On the plus side, though, once we've studied it so long we're pretty good at recognizing it again.

This was the case with the Ruby Crested Kinglet. We watched this little bird at the Magic Hedge for at least a half-hour as it flitted (oh these are quite the fast movers) around a little shrub and a small tree. Lots of pictures (many of empty branches as it had flitted away as I snapped the picture) helped us identify it.

Of course, then we started seeing the little Kinglet everywhere. And, we finally got to see it with its ruby crest raised.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cape May Warbler

Although I started this blog in late April, I intended to post all the birds seen in April first. However, I seem to be posting the most recent "cool bird" we've seen.

So the chronology is going to be a little off. Especially today because I can't resist posting these pictures of a Cape May Warbler that we saw yesterday morning (May 3) in Grant Park. Its coloring is so interesting - with its reddish cheeks, bright yellow highlights and dark stripes.

Its tinny seet-seet-seet-seet-seet call attracted us to this tree (not that we knew WHAT we were looking for until after we found it). And after about 50 photos of it with its head in the flowers, it finally rewarded us by posing out in the open.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Baltimore Oriole

We visited the Lake Katherine Nature Center this weekend and saw a number of birds, including this Baltimore Oriole.

The Baltimore Oriole, like all other birds,
eventually gets tired of being photographed
and turns its back on the photographer.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Red-breasted Merganser

I photographed this Red-breasted Merganser pair in Monroe Harbor. I think the dark rings around the eyes and the spiky crest wet from a recent dive makes the female (lower left picture) look like BeetleJuice.