Look At That Bird!

It is bird migration season, so I have been on the lookout for birds.  I even joined in with someone, for the first time, to help on the Bird Count in the forest preserve for the global big day of birding on May 4th, 2019.  Since there are many birds I have never seen before I try to take pictures of the birds I see, if I am able to do so, so I can look them up in a bird book to verify what I have seen or try to identify a bird.  Because of that some of the pictures to follow may not be the best quality, but they are fun for me as I remember the sightings.  I put in a few wild flower pictures in at the end, because I can’t help noticing them when I am in the woods!


Yellow Warbler


American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Belted Kingfisher


You can’t see very clearly, but I think this is a black-throated blue warbler.


Ruby-throated hummingbird.  All the pictures above were taken at McClaughry Springs in the Palos Forest Preserves.


Up in the woods above McClaughry Springs we saw a flurry of warblers.  This is a pine warbler.  We also black-and-white warblers and palm warblers.

Last weekend we went to Sagawau Environmental Learning Center, where they were having a special birding festival.  We checked out the woods and the feeders there.


Baltimore Oriole


Tree swallow


Rose-breasted grosbeak


Rose-breasted grosbeak


We spent a while watching bird banding, which was fascinating.  Here a chipping sparrow is getting banded.  The lady doing this let me release the sparrow when she was finished!


American goldfinch


Back in my backyard – the goldfinch is a regular visitor.  You can see how the green plants are shooting up today!


I noticed a white-throated sparrow pecking around the garden the other day.


Male northern flicker


I took this picture in April of the mute swan on her nest at Lake Katherine.  I have not been back to see the cygnets, so I hope they survived.


We flushed this pileated woodpecker on our walk in the woods yesterday.  This was the best picture Dan got.  When Dan and I walk in the woods he takes the camera and I use my binoculars, so I need to credit him for a number of the bird pictures.


Jack-in-the-pulpit.   I nearly missed this flower that was off the path in the shade.




This looks like another kind of trillium.


Virginia bluebells


Back in our yard again – This was a bumper year for the “profusion” crabapple.  It was stunning!  It looks like the robins built a nest in it a few days ago, once the blossoms had fallen.  I am curious if they will stay there as it is quite close to the house.  A few years ago this tree lost almost all its leaves, but so far it looks healthy this year.


Finally, I am a book worm and I loved this book.  It was entertaining and kept me interested and wondering what would happen to each person in the book.

Bluebird, Sapsucker and Tree Swallows

The yard is slowly greening up and I am doing various early spring chores.  This blog is getting to be more and more about birds, though, as I wander around the nearby forests and grasslands on birding adventures.


Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis)


As Dan was taking these bluebird pictures we could actually see the bird singing.  I went to a program on birding by ear at the Sand Ridge Audubon Society on Friday, so now I am noticing bird calls more, though still can’t identify many.


Male yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius).  I saw my first ever yellow-bellied sapsucker in our yard in the last two weeks and saw another one in the forest preserve yesterday.


Closer look at yellow-bellied sapsucker


This is a yellow-bellied sapsucker in our yard a week ago.  It just pecked a hole in our chinquapin oak tree.


Female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).  The cardinals are nesting in our yard.


The trail along the slough at the Little Red Schoolhouse yesterday.


Just to the right of the trail is the slough.


It looks like the tree swallows are back and have found a home.


Tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)


I think this is some kind of veery or thrush.


Another shot of my mystery bird with a white eye ring, and some speckles on the chest.


Can you see the adult bald eagle with the white head working on a fish lunch?  I watched a few eagles as Sag Slough one day, but I did not have enough zoom to get a clear view all the way across the water.


Sunset at Orland Grasslands.  I went twice to see if I could find a woodcock, but no luck.  The first time I was in the wrong place and the second time they had completed a prescribed burn, so I am sure the woodcocks had relocated.  Still, I ended up with a gorgeous sunset!

Visit to Orland Grasslands

I wanted to see a meadowlark, so I took a drive to Orland Grasslands.  Most of the morning I was not sure what I was looking at, but here are some of the bird and prairie pictures I took.


Male American Goldfinch pauses while working on thistle seeds.


Male and female American Goldfinches


And now there are three…  I just love the bright colors.


Right from the start of my walk I saw a lot of these male birds singing above their nesting areas.  I thought they were meadowlarks, but now I think they are dickcissels.




Dickcissel singing


Another dickcissel.  If any of these are really meadowlarks please let me know.


Here is another new bird for me.  My guess is that it is a grasshopper sparrow.


Here is the same bird singing.  There is a tiny bit of yellow on the wing, a white eye ring and the little color above the eye.  I might be wrong, though….  The only way to learn is to spend time looking at birds and at my new Peterson Field Guide to Birds.


This little bird was on the bike path.  I wondered if it was a baby bird that had come out of the grass.


I zoomed in on this black bird out in the prairie.  I think it is a bobolink, because of the light patch on the back of the head.


Here is a blurry close up of the bobolink.  I could be wrong.


In a wooded area I saw an oriole.


A tree swallow was getting ready to find some bugs.


Here is one of two other tree swallows that were preening on a branch.


Looks like a downy woodpecker.  Another one went up the tree and out of the picture.


I chased this singing bird around for a while, and never got a good picture.  I think it was some kind of flycatcher.


It was a beautiful morning to be in the prairie, with the flowers starting to give it color.


The pink coneflowers were blooming.


This monarch is the only butterfly picture I got.  I could hear a bull frog in the pond and the crickets were starting to make noise.


I am thankful for the chance I had to enjoy this beautiful morning!

Plum Blossoms and Mounds of Green Growth

It has been a cool windy week with frosty nights.  It seems like the garden is a little slow in getting going.  I did some weeding and put some mulch down on Friday, but I will wait for some warmer weather to continue garden work.  I have really enjoyed seeing the plum blossoms this week.

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Prunus americana – American plum tree blossoms.

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The branches are full of blossoms all waiting to be pollinated.  It was a windy cool day and I did not see a lot of pollinators out there today, but I am sure they will come.

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We planted two native plum trees a few feet apart to form a privacy screen.  They are vigorous growers and will sucker from the root system, so I have been cutting those back.  The two trees are not quite the same plant and the one on the right is growing taller and has more blossoms this year.  In the back the crabapple is getting ready to bloom soon.

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Crabapple malus profusion.  The crabapple has been looking ready to bloom for a while.  You can see that the leave are looking mostly green now, though some still look bronze colored.

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This is what the little leaves of the profusion crabapple looked like a week or two ago when they started to emerge.

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Around the garden green leaves are mounding up energetically.  In the front is yarrow and behind it is sedum.  There are still some coral colored daffodils blooming.

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Coral bells – heuchera plum pudding and Korean feather reed grass – Calamagrostis brachytricia.  Once the weather warms up the bigger plants crowd out the huechera and it also does not want too much sun, so it is nicest at this time of year.

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Growing grass from seed.  I put some grass seed under the plum trees and used up a free bag of grass starter soil, probably with some fertilizer in it.  The grass is growing in some places.  In the front yard I put down some top soil with no special fertilizer and over seeded my grass, but don’t seem to see the grass seeds sprouting after about 2 weeks.  Maybe if the weather warms up there is still hope….  In any case I am letting the grass get tall this spring to encourage as much growth as possible and maybe crowd out some weeds.

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Walking around Lake Katherine this morning the only bird picture I got was what I think it a tree sparrow going into its nest in what was probably previously a woodpecker cavity.  I am pretty sure I saw a few yellow warblers for the first time, but my camera and photography skills were not good enough to get pictures.

Frost:  One night I put plastic over the lettuce and collards to protect them from frost.  Then next night I did not do anything and the frost seemed to be quite significant.  Still the romaine lettuce and collards seemed to have survived it with no damage.  It looks like two or three more cool nights and then things will start to warm up!