As we entered the final week of our stay in Illinois at the peak of spring migration, we tried to get out every morning. The weather was mostly cooperative but temperatures varied wildly, going down to freezing one night and the next day we were in the mid-80s (F).
Although our hopes were high, we were disappointed at how few warblers we were seeing. Some birders were reporting well over a dozen species but we were lucky to find 3 or 4. Others reported similar bad luck in our usual haunts. Indeed, one morning we found not a single warbler. We also missed a favorite target bird, the Scarlet Tanager, although I got a fleeting look at one flying several hundred yards away at Bliss Woods.
Rather than grouse about what might have been, we should rejoice in the variety of habitats we visited and the beautiful birds we did see, most of which are uncommon or unseen in South Florida.
I love getting good shots of small birds, so I was elated when they appeared among the flowers, as did this Baltimore Oriole in Fabyan West Park...
...and this Killdeer in Jones Meadow Park.
Six Great Egrets roosted on a dead tree at Jones Meadow.
I almost forgot I was not back in Florida when one left its roost and settled at the edge of the lake.
A Green Heron lifted off from a hiding place nearby.
Jones Meadow provided us with our only sighting of a Chestnut-sided Warbler.
Tree Swallows had already set up housekeeping.
These two seemed to be having a property dispute.
Mallard Drakes dabbled in the wetlands next to the lake. Were their mates sitting on eggs?
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks became quite numerous.
A House Wren fluttered his wings as he sung his heart out.
A nest must have been nearby, as he was reluctant to leave the trunk of this old dead tree.
Field Sparrows were claiming nesting territory along the margins of the prairie at Aurora West Forest Preserve.
I particularly liked this pose.
Demure Warbling Vireos sang loudly in the trees but rarely ventured out from the leafy cover.
At Nelson Lake, an Eastern Meadowlark was in full song.
A male Northern Cardinal stopped singing just long enough to stare down from his perch.
An American Goldfinch added another touch of color.
It was unusual to see a lone Sandhill Crane overhead, bugling as if calling for a lost lover.
Among the "little birds," a pair of Clay-colored Sparrows gave me my best photos of this species, even though they were reluctant to come out from behind the branches.
The budding trees attracted House Finches. This male was particularly bright.
Yellow Warblers were common along the Fox River, at Les Arends Forest Preserve...
...but a few miles up-river, Fabyan West preserve presented us with our most treasured sighting-- a Yellow-throated Warbler, which is near the northern limit of its range. Singing high in an oak tree and flitting from branch to branch, it was not an easy capture.
The Yellow-throated Warbler is aptly named.
Another nice warbler was nearby-- the Blackburnian.
The Orchard Oriole, smaller than the Baltimore Oriole and brick-red rather than bright orange, has been my "nemesis bird," as I had never gotten a good view of one. The Japanese Garden at Fabyan sheltered one that finally came out into the open!
An American Robin fed its two chicks.
In fairness to the mammal kingdom, here is a cute chipmunk in a beautiful setting inside the Japanese Garden.
We cannot overlook the spring flowers, such as these tree blossoms...
...or the Wild Blue Phlox.
I'm quite sure that this is a Hickory tree bud, but it is an object of unexpected beauty.