Thursday, October 13, 2016

Naturally sepia sparrows

Our stay at our second home in northeastern Illinois coincides with the visible signs of the changing seasons. In Florida, we slip seamlessly from wet season to dry, with no noticeable change in the foliage. Here in Illinois, the prairie has turned to gold, and the slightest breeze sends leaves flying from the trees. 

This path at nearby Nelson Lake/Dick Young Marsh county preserve runs along the south end of the lake:

Nelson Lake south prairie HDR 20160929

A wide view of the lake:

Nelson Lake to west HDR 20161007

On the lake we "discovered" a flock of fourteen migratory American White Pelicans, but then learned that they had already been reported a couple of days earlier:

White Pelicans 02-20160929

A Gray Squirrel watched me from a tree along the trail:

Gray Squirrel 20160929

Cedar Waxwings were plentiful, helping themselves to the numerous berries:

Cedar Waxwing 2-20161005

A cold snap curtailed the butterflies, but during the prior week they added color to the landscape. A Red Admiral gleaned nectar from the Heath Asters along the path:

Red Admiral 20160929

A Painted Lady put in an appearance:

Painted Lady 20160929

Sparrows were suddenly in season, and a mixed flock got my attention. They blended so beautifully with the high grasses that I rarely got good "field guide" images with my new camera, a Canon EOS 80D. Although my subjects were usually partially hidden, I loved the monochromatic effect as I viewed them through gaps in the blades--

Immature White-crowned Sparrow:

White-crowned Sparrow 20161007

Song Sparrow:

Song Sparrow 02-20161007

Swamp Sparrow:

Swamp Sparrow 01-20161007

Lincoln's Sparrow:

Lincoln's Sparrow 20161003

Adult White-crowned Sparrow:

White-crowned Sparrow 20161003

My photos were all taken without a flash, often under heavily overcast skies, but I was pleased with the low-light performance of my new camera. This shot of a White-throated Sparrow hiding deep within a thicket came out surprisingly bright:

White-throated Sparrow 20161007

This Savannah Sparrow posed briefly out in the open:

Savannah Sparrow 20161007

My patience in pursuing a Swamp Sparrow paid off when it unexpectedly landed out in the open on the path just in front of me:

Swamp Sparrow 03-20161007

I also obtained a clear photo of another Lincoln's Sparrow:

Lincoln's Sparrow 2-20161009

As if on cue, a Black-capped Chickadee plunged into a sea of bokeh created by autumn leaves:

Black-capped Chickadee 20161007

A White-crowned Sparrow flew up into a small oak tree to provide the day's favorite image:

White-crowned Sparrow 20161005

Our daughter's Tibetan Mastiff, Siboney, is now almost 11 months old and weighs over 100 pounds...

Tibetan Mastiff Siboney 03-20161007 

...out-sized by 130-pound Agramonte:

Tibetan Mastiff Agramonte 02-20161007

Windy weather spoiled most of my "reflections," but the water was reasonably placid for this view of the Fox River from Lippold Park:

Fox River at Lippold Park HDR 20160927

Under fair skies, leaves are beginning to turn on the majestic twin oaks near the entrance of Nelson Lake:

Twin Oaks at NelsonLake HDR 20161007

In keeping with the theme, an Eastern Bluebird found a very appropriate landing place on a sign advertising yet another new development near us:

Eastern Bluebird 05-20161007

A Great Horned Owl has been calling most mornings from our roof or those of neighboring condos, but it always flies away well before sunrise. In an ultimate test of my new camera I took this hand-held image as it roosted on the roof across from us. I tried to stabilize the camera against the window pane. At ISO 6400 the shutter speed was 1/4 second. Oh, well, there is a limit to the low-light performance of my new gear!:

Great Horned Owl 02-20161003   

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display


  1. You outdid yourself on this exposition. Kudos. Hugs to those tiny pups. Gorgeous creatures. I've always loved sparrows. In my first non-fantasy novel, my character often studies sparrows, the imagery being his wish to be free.

  2. Wow! Fantastic nature shots in Illinois ~ Love the dog too! ~ thanks!

    Wishing you a special weekend ~ ^_^

  3. What a gorgeous and delightful series, Kenneth! The birds, the gray squirrel and the dogs...and everything else are so beautiful!!

  4. I love the sparrow album -- your camera came through for sure. I plan to bookmark this post and maybe I can remember to consult it if I ever get a decent sparrow picture. All your birds are wonderful; I'm envious of your cedar waxwing, a bird which I can identify, but don't see nearly often enough.
    Isn't it fun to be around family (and out of the hurricane season)! I hope your Florida home suffered no damage. (our little one is on Florida's west coast, so , so far so good!)

  5. love those sparrow shots! so beautiful. and i adore those huge beasts you call family!

  6. look like a beautiful nature area. a nice variety of birds.

    your daughters dogs are beautiful.

  7. What beautiful dogs! And lovely shots of the sparrows.

  8. A fantastic series on all the Sparrows kenneth and i love those 2 dogs but glad I do not have to feed them.

  9. Bom dia
    Wonderful pictures. Ho Mr. Cole, you live in paradise.
    Thank you for sharing with us.

  10. Always amazing nature photos here. - Wow those are some BIG dogs!

  11. Hello, wonderful collection of sparrows. I love seeing the White Pelicans. Pretty sky shots. Thank you for linking up and sharing you post! Happy Saturday, have a great weekend!

  12. Hello Ken!:) Another fabulous selection of photos. Love the Waxwing and butterfly images, and all the many sparrows you managed to capture on camera. They are all beautiful, and so are your Grand-dogs.:)

  13. That a lot of different sparrows in one spot. We have a song sparrow that has returned this fall to visit our cabin. Hope it stays around all winter like the last one. We so miss our summer birds and all their chirps. - Margy

  14. Oh I enjoyed your pics of different sparrows and especially the white-crowned sparrow. The oak leave are dramatic in the pic too. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  15. Those dogs....oh my!! Gorgeous breed.
    As for the sparrows....thanks for IDing them for us. I find a lot of times they're difficult to identify.

    I know what you mean about the 'change of seasons'. Hard to tell in the subtropics [tho drier in some seasons, most all is evergreen, right?

    Thanks so much for joining in with us birders this weekend at I'd Rather B Birdin''s always a pleasure.

  16. beautiful the sweet sparrows and those gorgeous dogs!

  17. Your shots are all great, and enjoyed especially seeing the cedar waxwing. A bird I have not seen in my area. Also Agramonte is very handsome!

  18. Absolutely beautiful! I will say the monochromatic sparrow picture is just stunning! You certainly have great creativity with your photos! Have a wonderful week ahead.

  19. What a gorgeous dog Siboney is. I was delighted with your bird ID's, especially the sparrows which I am always trying to learn about, and thank you so much for ID'ing mine. I enjoyed those lovely views, along with the butterflies and the cute little squirrel, and the owl outline with the explanation of what shutter speeds you used. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos with Today's Flowers. Wishing you a very happy week :)

  20. It's always fun to see what is around you. Lovely birds and butterflies. The squirrel is too cute!

  21. Great shots - what sort of camera is the new one?

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  22. In reply to Stewart's question about my camera gear--
    Hi, Stewart--

    I just replaced my Canon 60D with the 80D. Still using the same lens system: fixed 300 mm L/4.5 with 1.4x extender (420 mm f/5.6 system

    My 60D started acting up after 5 years-- trouble with center point auto focus, lens detached unexpectedly plus some damage to LCD from wear and tear.

    Am very satisfied with better image quality and low-light performance. Am still experimenting with touch screen, video and time lapse features not found in 60D

  23. Great photos, all!
    Thanks for linking up at

  24. Such gorgeous spots to have nearby! I loved all your amazing photos!


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