That day, rather than venture out into the wild, we decided to take the car to Chapel Trail Nature Preserve. Almost as soon as we started out on the boardwalk, a heavy rain fell for about five minutes. I caught this Palm Warbler, which we saw bathing in the raindrops.
After spending most of my summer in Illinois, I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle. The grass in our local birding patch has grown up above eye level along the levee path, obstructing our view of the surrounding landscape. I had to push through a wall of grass for this photo in early morning light, proving there can be beauty even in our disturbed wetland.
In this now-abandoned utility right-of-way, Ospreys, hawks and eagles as well as a variety of other birds roost on the old poles and wires. Wetlands extend from the easement to the lake, which is to the north, on the right. We would like to see an osprey platform atop one or more of the poles to make up for the destruction of the Melaleuca grove where they previously nested
The high water has receded, and "wreckreational" off-road vehicles have left behind muddy tracks, fire rings and litter in wetlands that are struggling to recover. The riders vandalize the utility junctions and markers along the canal next to the heron rookery. Not a single fiberoptic cable marker was left standing.
An immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron visits one of the nest trees, perhaps where it was hatched last spring.
Herons, egrets, ibises, storks and one remaining Roseate Spoonbill share the shallow water at the edge of the lake with discarded refuse.
The spoonbill strolls with an immature Little Blue Heron.
It is joined by a White Ibis and a Snowy Egret.
A Tricolored Heron enters the picture.
I just can't get enough photos of the colorful spoonbills.
The early morning light adds a golden glow to the scene.
An adult Little Blue Heron adopts its characteristic hunting pose, tip of its bill just touching the water.
Not as flambouyant as the spoonbills, the graceful heron is beautiful in its own right.
Even from a distance, its posture distinguishes this immature Little Blue Heron, in the foreground, from the white egrets and ibises.
The immature Little Blue Heron is at the bottom of the dominance ladder, and is picked on by adults of its own and other species, such as this Snowy Egret, which chased it across the lake.
American White Pelicans approach for a landing...
...and "water-ski" to a stop.
They haul out on a rock to dry off and bathe in the morning sun.
A Tricolored Heron demonstrates its landing technique, putting on the air brakes.
Not to overlook the "little guys, " we visit the woodlands along the canal. We find this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Another gnatcatcher hovers as it gleans insects from the foliage.
It dives to snatch an insect in mid-air.
Scores of Northern Mockingbirds are already defending nesting territories in the shrubs that border the wetlands.
Yellow-rumped Warblers, migrants from the north, have become fairly common. (The spiral ribbon was probably what remained of a party balloon carried here by the winds.)
A Blue Jay tries to find out how many acorns will fit in its beak and gullet.
The Jay flies up to an extinct electric cable.
A White Peacock butterfly lends its beauty to our surroundings.
A Soldier butterfly, member of the Monarch group, rests on a high stalk of marsh grass.