Monday, September 23, 2013

Waiting for blue skies and birds

During our last two weeks in Illinois we endured a heat spell. Daily temperatures exceeded those in Florida, and the humidity was almost as high. 

There were warnings about high ozone levels and a haze permeated the atmosphere. Most days the sky was fairly bright but generally lightly overcast, whether from the smog or clouds. This produced low light conditions requiring me to use a flash, but most of my latest Illinois photos turned out soft or harsh and grainy and were assigned to the recycle bin. Happily, there were some exceptions. 

A huge flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds (and a few European Starlings) settled down on the roof of this old barn at the sod farm where we saw the American Golden-Plovers.

Cowbirds on old barn 20130911

Cupola 20130911

The water tank has seen better days.

Water Tower HDR 20130828

A cold front rolled in just before we left and the skies turned blue, so all was not lost. Some parting shots from Illinois included an immature male Common Yellowthroat.

Common Yellowthroat immature male 4-20130912

Migratory Tennessee Warblers had moved south in good numbers.

Tennessee Warbler 2-20130911

Palm Warblers came in on the front. The eastern form, they are much brighter than the western race we have in Florida all winter.

Palm Warbler 2-20130911

American Redstarts moved erratically through the branches, and the poor light made it impossible to stop their action.

American Redstart 2-20130906

Swainson's Thrushes hid in the dark lower canopy, but I could not throw away this poor shot because I loved the bird's pose.

Swainson's Thrush 2-20130911

Sandhill Cranes, restless to start their southward journey, flew overhead.

Sandhill Crane 20130911

This immature male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was either lingering locally or transiting from the north.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 20130911

Back home in Florida there was rain every morning for six days. It was too risky to walk the mile or two into our local wetland preserve. One morning we drove out to Chapel Trail Nature Preserve in the neighboring City of Pembroke Pines. 

We were able to walk the boardwalk for almost an hour before the clouds rolled in and we made a hasty retreat to our auto before the skies opened up again.

This is usually a good place to find long-legged waders, but the exceptionally high water levels have dispersed the schools of fish, causing the herons and egrets to hunt far and wide.

Indeed, we saw only a single Tricolored Heron, some distance away. 

Tricolored Heron 20130917

A lone Great Egret roosted in a tree on a small island in the middle of the greatly expanded lake.

Great Egret 2-20130917

There was evidence of migration, as small flocks of Eastern Kingbirds had gathered in the treetops.

Eastern Kingbirds 20130917

This is an immature kingbird, as evidenced by its yellow gape and gray on its upper chest.

Eastern Kingbird 20130917

The biggest treat before the rains came was a male Prairie Warbler right next to the boardwalk. The light was just perfect!

Prairie Warbler 2-20130917

Prairie Warbler 3-20130917

Then, on the morning of the Harvest Moon the forecast improved. Some of the stars were still shining as we walked out on the nearby wetlands, a quarter of an hour before sunrise.    We watched the huge moon sink into the Everglades. There must be some magic in Florida's early morning light, at least when the sun is rising in a cloudless sky. 

Harvest Moon setting 20130919

Brown Thrashers had moved in, probably beginning migration,...

Brown Thrasher 20130919

... as had Red-eyed Vireos.

Red-eyed Vireo 20130919

The local birds were done with their post-breeding molt, and that scraggly look was gone. This Blue Jay was in splendid fresh plumage.

Blue Jay 20130920

Loggerhead Shrikes were still on their territories. And, oh, what wonderful light!

Loggerhead Shrike 20130919

While we were absent, the Common Ground-Doves finished raising their families.

Common Ground-Dove 20130919

The butterflies were there, waiting for us, the Zebra heliconians...

Zebra heliconian 20130917

...this male Julia heliconian...

Julia male 20130917

... the White Peacocks...

White Peacock 20130917

...and of course the Morning Glories.

Morning Glory 20130919


  1. Great find birds to take the photographs..such nice post, love it.

  2. such great birds you get to see in both places. the cowbirds made me cringe, though, as i know they'll be rolling through here soon enough - along with blackbirds and grackles by the thousands. :)

  3. Hi Ken yet again a wonderful post of birds, butterflies and flower, all great shots.

  4. What a wonderful array of beautiful birds and butterflies. I would be greatly hard pressed to choose a favorite. Thank you for sharing with us~

  5. You clearly love what you do because you do it so well. All of the different birds, butterflies and even barn pictures are magnificent. Interesting to campare and contrast the birds in Illinois and Florida. Many of our Illinois birds end up in Florida over the winter, so you will have the opportunity to follow them at both ends of thier migratory lives. Very nice post ...

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  6. Very lovely birds of great variety.

  7. Another fabulous post. I enjoyed both birds and butterflies.

  8. What a fantastic variety of birds Ken! They are all great, that Shrike is stunning! Lovely rural shots as well, I love the watertank photo. You got some beautiful colour in that harvest moon!

  9. Great series, I love all the warblers. And the crane in flight is awesome. Have a happy day!

  10. What a lovely variety of photos! I love to see birds in other countries, as ours are quite limited. All your pictures are awesome.

  11. So much to love here. Even the ILL shots in what you said were poor light are wonderful and better than I could hope ever to take. I didn't know about that scary weather condition there.

    Florida light really is amazing .... just seeing your pictures makes me eager to be back again...and it won't be too much longer. Thank you for every picture!

  12. What a wonderful crop of birds, butterflies, barns and even that glowing harvest moon.
    You just got to love that 'if it aint broke, don't fix it' water tank.

  13. The Prairie warbler is just wonderful, always love to see images of the Blue Jay as well, what really caught my eye was the image of the old barns and water tower, very evocative. Great post with some fantastic species

  14. Wonderful post full of gorgeous birds. I love the old barns with the falling-down water tower too.

  15. The water tower made me laugh. Sooner or later someone is going to get an unexpected shower.
    I know what you mean about low light and I sympathise, however you got some brill shots - Prairie Warbler, Vireo, Shrike especially.


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