Sunday, August 25, 2013

Waiting for fall migrants

We are now at our second home in NE Illinois, enjoying a respite from south Florida's heat and humidity. We wasted no time getting out on crisp and cool mornings, but found that this time of year is not ideal for birding. Local resident species are undergoing a post-breeding molt. With few exceptions, they are conserving energy and hiding out. 

Some may already be heading south. To our distress, we found no Bobolinks or Dickcissels in the prairies of local preserves. We looked for Henslow's and Grasshopper Sparrows but found none. We hope to catch the front end of fall songbird migration before returning to Florida.

A ragged Field Sparrow suddenly perched on a flower stalk.

Field Sparrow molting 20130812

American Goldfinches provided most of the action, singing and rollicking all around. They have waited for the thistles and milkweed to go to seed and furnish the down for nests and seeds for nestlings.

American Goldfinch 20130812

I came across a female goldfinch sitting tight on an unusually deep-looking nest not far off the path. You must look closely to even see her.

American Goldfinch on nest 20130812

This Song Sparrow was waiting for us to move away before flying down to feed a nestling.

Song Sparrow 20130812

Seven Caspian Terns rested on the shore of a small retention pond near our home. Note that the second from the right has a leg band, and that the next one to the left has a shorter and paler bill and mottled plumage that identifies it as an immature bird. 

Caspian Terns-- one is banded 20130812

Caspian Tern in flight 20130812

Lippold Park, along the east bank of the Fox River, was more productive. We hoped to see some early warblers, to no avail. Black-capped Chickadees foraged in the large oak trees.

Black-capped Chickadee 20130814

A male Northern Cardinal peered at us through the understory.

Northern Cardinal 3-20130814

Indigo Buntings sang and did their best to hide among the leaves.

Indigo Bunting 2-20130814

When one did come out into the open, the strong light made it difficult to capture its deep blue plumage against the sky.

Indigo Bunting 20130814

A Solitary Sandpiper probed the mud flats along the river.

Solitary Sandpiper 2-20130814

An Osprey coursed over the river...

Osprey 20130814

...followed by an adult Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle 20130814

One morning a male American Kestrel roosted on a street light next to our condo. Despite my "pishing" and squeaking  I could not get it to look my way!

American Kestrel 20130812


  1. Beautiful variety of birds. I am waiting to see more migrants too.

  2. your goldfinch sure are pretty. love the terns! would love to see some in person sometime.

  3. Beautiful birds! Here many birds have migrated already and many more will soon follow.

  4. Nice series, Ken! Coincidentally, we're "waiting for migrants" here, too! Give 'em a push, will you? :)

    Don't hurry home just yet, it's still hot and muggy!

  5. Ken, the American Goldfinch sitting tight is a great shot. How well the bird's colouration meshes with the bright, sunlit leaves. Shame about the Kestrel not looking your way and sometimes these birds seem out to frustrate the camera. Love the Solitary Sand pic - so like our Green Sand but yours has an eye ring as you know, which has just reminded me to check out carefully the next Green Sandpiper.

  6. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  7. Great photos - they are all beautiful birds but I especially like the American Goldfinches.

  8. a wonderful variety; even the humble sparrow you say ragged is beautiful

  9. These are phenomenal photographs. I wish I knew more of these birds! the goldfinch is so lovely with its bright yellow - and I love the red cardinal. I can't believe you have so many different birds around.

    My Wild Bird Wednesday is at:

  10. HI Ken Great selection of wonderful birds for us to feast our eyes on.

  11. Very lovely and colorful birds.

  12. Beautiful shots. Love the shot of the Goldfinch nest. Although they are all around here, I've never spotted a nest.

  13. Lovely post - I have to admit loving the American Kestrel, superb plumage

  14. What some people call bad birding days would be other people's heaven! I think you found some wonders there! (Although I would have liked to see the dicksissel...I don't even ever think I've seen that on a blog, let alone in person)....but the birds you did find are wonderful. We never see indigo buntings (only once when we wintered in TX) and same with cardinals... We do have lots of goldfinch in Oregon, but I've never seen their nest. That was one amazing photo. Thanks for all....and glad you got away from Florida heat for a while!

  15. When I read your paragraph about the missing bobolink and dickcissels, it made me think of our sad, cold spring.

    I don't know what your spring was like there (hopefully better than ours!), but up here we had snow in May, after many migrating insectivores had returned. There was a mass die-off. Every E. Kingbird and Meadowlark that I normally photograph in a field down the road from my house is gone. Not a single one left. Just heartbreaking. I'm hoping yours are just moving around or have already started to head back south.

    In case you missed it when it was cycling through, this is what our May was like:

  16. Nice pictures - I love the Caspians - I hope to get some pictures of the same species this summer.

    The person who organises the wader banding I am involved in regularly travels to band the knot that feed on the horseshoe crab eggs - remarkable coincidence!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  17. I really loved your entry Sparrow image as well as the Goldfinch, wonderful!!!


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