Saturday, May 11, 2013

First of season (FOS) birds

Rainy weather sidelined us for a couple of days during our second week in Illinois, but the month of May started out cool and clear. On May 2nd at 5:30 AM the Chicago weather radar images revealed massive migratory movement that filled the entire coverage circle. The base velocity display indicated birds were traveling due north. Ominous echoes moving in from the west portended the arrival of a storm system. The evidence of so many northbound birds reminded me of my New Jersey childhood birding days when, in early May the nearly leafless trees sometimes seemed to drip with the color of many species of warblers.

The prior day's birding had been promising. Within a couple of hours at Nelson Lake/Dick Young Forest Preserve I had recorded 38 bird species, among them my first-of-season (FOS) Black-throated Green and Nashville Warblers as well as Ovenbird and Northern Waterthrush. I sighted all of these while standing in a small spot next to the creek that crosses the east path.

This is the "sit spot" that had been so productive the previous day. This morning promised to hold even more FOS's.

Nelson Lake creek HDR 20130502

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler 20130430

Black-throated Green Warbler 2-20130430

I was thrilled to get a good shot of a male Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler in full breeding plumage, something we usually do not see in South Florida.

Yellow-rumped Warbler 20130430

I missed a photo of the Ovenbird, but this is a poor shot of a Nashville Warbler, for the record.

Nashville Warbler 20130430

The Northern Waterthrush was more cooperative.

Northern Waterthrush 20130430

I was surprised to find a Lincoln's Sparrow, almost hidden in the leaf litter.

Lincoln's Sparrow 2-20130430

Nearby, a White-throated Sparrow explored under the shrubs, scratching noisely.

White-throated Sparrow 20130430

Mary Lou's brother from Florida was expected to arrive at Midway Airport around 8:30 AM, and she preferred to stay home to prepare for his visit. That weekend our daughter and her husband were to host over a hundred guests for our granddaughter's First Communion/Cinco de Mayo Party with a pig roast. Knowing there would be little time for hiking until after the weekend, I set out alone for Nelson's Lake at 7:00 AM, hoping for about an hour and a half of birding. Pulling into the parking lot I was greeted by the song of Eastern Meadowlarks. 

Eastern Meadowlark 20130502

I scanned the lake from the viewing platform. The lake was almost entirely dry in the fall, but snowmelt and the recent heavy rains had filled the lake. Few waterfowl were present, probably because nearly all the fish died off during the drought.

Nelson Lake HDR East observation 20130502

A White-crowned Sparrow foraged for green seeds next to the platform.

White-crowned Sparrow 20130502

It was 60 degrees (F) and storm clouds were already gathering as I headed down the path along the east prairie.

Nelson Lake SW prairie looking south HDR 20130502

American Robins formed small groups along the way.

American Robins 20130502

A Savannah Sparrow sang from a trailside shrub.

Savannah Sparrow singing 20130430

I waited at the "sit spot" for over an hour as the weather deteriorated, and saw a few Yellow-rumps but no other warblers and certainly no more FOS sightings.  A Northern Cardinal offered a bit of color.

Northern Cardinal 20130430

Against the gray sky, A Canada Goose occupied a lonely "sit spot" atop the silo next to the parking lot as I departed.  I wondered if he saw any FOS birds from his vantage point. 

Canada Goose on silo 20130502

Although the next few days were occupied with family and friends, I did get a few choice photos from our daughter's back yard deck.  The feeders were well-stocked, but this Black-capped Chickadee preferred to glean in the emerging leaves of one of their ornamental trees.

Black-capped Chickadee 20130505

The feeders attracted scores of White-crowned Sparrows, many in full song.

White-crowned Sparrow 5-20130505

The wrought iron fence railings framed this Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow 20130505

A Red-tailed Hawk wheeled overhead.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight 20130505

A robin incubated eggs in a mud and straw nest, sheltered under the eaves on a downspout at the front corner of our daughter's home.

American Robin on nest 20130505

The Great Horned Owl fledged the day after I last photographed it in the nest at nearby Fabyan Park. Here it seems very interested in something directly under its perch.

Great Horned Owl fledgling 20130429

The Wake Robins (Trillium) are opening their buds.

Wake Robin - trillium 20130506

Blue Violets, the State Flower of Illinois, are now in bloom.

Violets 20130506


  1. Ken, awesome variety of birds and flowers. Your photos are always a treat to see. Have a happy weekend!

  2. love the blooms and the skies! sweet robins! adorable owlet. the hopping warbler is brilliant!

  3. Sharp and Clear! great photos!
    Well done!

  4. Great series!! Love the fluffy owl. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  5. A fantastic series of photos! So interesting to see these birds in your world! Especially loved the hawk, the several photos of the savannah sparrow and the fluffy little owl may be my favourite!

  6. That owl image made me giggle with delight! And the Canadian Goose on top of the world looking down on creation was a fun image too. Golly, all those wonderful sparrows...all we get around here [that I've seen anyway] are house sparrows and Lincoln's.

    Great images.

  7. Fabulous series. I love the goose on the roof.

  8. Ďakujem za návštevu môjho blogu. Tu vidím veľa zaujímavých vtákov. U nás kvitli fialky približne pred mesiacom.

  9. What a fabulous selection.

  10. Again! - great photos and a beautiful series of birds. Thanks for your comment about your grand-daughters and their enjoyment of the recorded kookaburra calls. I wonder how they would like it waking them in the morning!!

  11. Great series of shots, love those storm clouds coming over.

  12. What a delightful series Ken! Many top shots here, love that fuzzy owl, and the trillium is beautiful.

  13. first time I heard the expression FOS. But seems right this time of year. Love the "jumping shot" of the warbler in particular. :)

  14. Beautiful birds, great variety.

  15. Whatever state you're living in, your birds are amazing! Wonderful pictures...the owlet is wonderful, but I couldn't pick a favorite; they are all great pictures and wonderful sightings.
    Amazing...and looks like your daughter and family are inheriting your 'bird-whisperer' genes, with a robin building her nest and all the lovelies at their feeders!

  16. Great photos of an interesting bird fauna.

  17. Terrific captures of your FOS birds and the landscape shots with gorgeous skies are lovely!
    A truly well-rounded lovely post!

  18. Such a wonderful cache of birds again, as I have come to expect from you. Thank you for this treat.

  19. What a beautiful set of images and if I had to choose, it would be very difficult, but the Great Horned Owlet is brilliant. It looks so small to have flown, and hopefully it has done well since~

  20. Wow, great the owl!

    Love the Yellow-rumped Warbler too!



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