Saturday, May 25, 2013

Heading back to Florida

Waiting at our door to be picked up by the limousine to the airport at 6:00 AM on our last day in Illinois, I pondered the evolution of our homesite, a former tallgrass prairie turned into a cornfield. Long ago it was covered by ice, then became a wet and barren land deeply scarred by glaciers, succeeded by a lush evergreen forest. As the climate warmed and the land dried up, hardwoods overtook the spruce and fir. Grasslands did not complete their dominance of the land until only some 3,500 years ago. The entire life of our little prairie patch and now its death at the hands of man occupied but a tiny moment of geologic time (see my reference to the Nelson Lake  pollen studies that document the genesis of the local prairies). 

The noisy carpenters would not arrive for another hour. I listened to the dawn chorus, now muffled by the presence of 29 new townhomes in various stages of construction. Only a few acres in the several blocks now under development will be spared as a "park." The songs of a multitude of robins nearly drowned out the subtle refrains of a meadowlark, Song Sparrows, goldfinches, and surprisingly, the distant territorial peeping of a Spotted Sandpiper and the serenade of a Vesper Sparrow on the roof of our building.

This view from our third story front window had formerly overlooked our "front yard birding patch."

Illinois front yard 20130516

Presently a patch of grassland planned for the park remains relatively undisturbed, though half of its surface has been graded and the pothole was filled in. Last spring it attracted a Muskrat along with nesting Red-winged Blackbirds and visiting ducks, geese and Sandhill Cranes. I doubt that the sandpipers and sparrows will be able to find a breeding niche as there is no longer any open water and the only shrubby cover is beside an old pile of topsoil that almost certainly will be removed for lawns and foundation plantings.

The "park" will occupy the area beyond the black plastic fence. The topsoil mound is presently its highest point, just right of center.

Illinois condo from SW corner 20130516

In 2011, I took this photo of a Sandhill Crane from my front doorstep.

Sandhill Crane 20110819

Earlier in the week our younger granddaughter had a school excursion to the Brookfield Zoo, where the apes, big cats and wolves were main attractions.

Gorilla 20130510

Lion 20130510

Wolf 2-20130510

Despite temperatures that varied between 30 and 82 degrees (F), our last couple of days in Illinois provided some photo opportunities at Nelson Lake. Warblers remained scarce, but we did see two Blackpolls...

Blackpoll Warbler 20130516 eastern (yellow) Palm Warbler...

Palm Warbler 20130516 American Redstart...

American Redstart 20110511

...and a Magnolia Warbler.

Magnolia Warbler 5-20110510

Two reclusive Lincoln's Sparrows appeared briefly. As usual, they stayed behind the branches.

Lincoln's Sparrow 2-20130516

Another LBJ (Little Brown Job) was this Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow 2-20130515

For color, here are mandatory last shots of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak...

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 2-20130516 American Goldfinch...

American Goldfinch 20130515

...and a Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal 20130515

On our last free evening we baby-sat with our two granddaughters, first taking them out to dinner and then visiting Jones Meadow Park. They played and I explored the area as twilight advanced.

A Spotted Sandpiper flew over the lake and headed for the adjacent wetland, where I caught it in flight as it passed over a female Mallard.

Spotted Sandpiper and Mallard 20130515

The low light imparted a softness to the image of a Great Egret in flight.

Great Egret in flight 2-20130516

In the waning light, the girls collected dandelion stalks and fashioned them into a long chain. I captured these images with my long lens so they would not suspect they were under surveillance.

Dandelions 4-20130516

Dandelion detail 20130516

Addendum-- After we departed, our Illinois granddaughters had some excitement. Let me tell it as narrated by the 9 year old, and the photos are from her mother's cell phone. I assume this Northern Bobwhite was a captive reared bird often used to train hunting dogs.

Yesterday after school, a Bob White (which are not normally seen in our area) flew into our glass door & knocked itself out. Our big dog, Agramonte, proceeded to investigate. He pawed at it & then picked it up in his mouth.                                                                      

Thank goodness Mom was able to get Agramonte to drop it!  We were so worried about the health & safety of the bird (which was identified as a Bob White by Grandpa) that we decided to bring it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Elburn at the Forest Preserve on Rt 38. When we brought the box (covered with a white cloth) into the Center, the naturalist uncovered the box & the bird flew out & all around the Center's Office!! The naturalist examined the bird & determined that it was not injured. She then asked us to bring the bird back home to our house & set it free!! It was quite an exciting time at the Orama house, but everything ended well as the bird flew off into the prairie behind our house!!

Just after it hit the glass door.

Bobwhite first shot 20130522

Taking Bob White to the Rehabilitation Center with Sis in school clothes.

Bobwhite in car 20130522

At the door of the Center.

Bobwhite at rehab door 20130522

The naturalist examining Bob White.

Bobwhite checkup 20130522

Back home I'm ready to release him.

Bobwhite before uncovering at home 20130522

Just before Bob White flew into Mom's face when we let him go. Wish we had it on You Tube.

Bobwhite before flying away 20130522


  1. What a wonderful series of photos! The housing gave me a bit of a twinge but I know those new developments are going up everywhere. Then I go into the countryside and see all those wide open spaces still. Sweet shots of your grandkids.

  2. I am so sorry that the subdivision building is going on so quickly. I had hoped the developers had run out of money and the bird paradise would be safe for a while yet.
    Love your granddaughters and their concern for nature.

  3. A bittersweet post, for certain.
    Man's "progress" may cost us our souls.
    In the end, you display our only hope - our children and their children.

    Safe journey, Ken!

  4. glad the bob white is fine! haven't seen one of those in years!

    and the blackpoll was a new one for me. very cool.

  5. Wonderful photos! Sorry about the housing development.

  6. Lovely bird-photos, well done!

  7. Too bad about the buildings. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  8. Oh the cost of urban expansion!!! It's disheartening isn't it?

    As for the birds, they're all awesome...and the 'excitement' of the quail saga...glad to read it was not harmed ---great post Ken.

  9. "Progress"in the form of houses and shopping centers makes me feel sad but what can we do? Hmmmm.

    How neat to rescue the bobwhite! Warblers seem to be a tad scarce here at the moment too. I wonder where they are?

  10. Great post and photos, Ken! Your bird shots are awesome. Neat story and rescue of the Bobwhite. Sad, that more housing is considered "progress". Have a safe trip and a great day!

  11. Wonderful birds. It's the same with the housing everywhere. In the fifteen years we've lived here new houses have come up like mushrooms everywhere.

  12. as a photographer my favourite shot is the one with the girl and the dandelion seeds. :)

  13. As always you've out done yourself with wonderful bird shots! And, I' m impressed with those zoo shots - nice job!

    Lovely young ladies!

  14. Shame about losing most of your little local birding patch Ken. Hopefully some of the species will hang on in there and new ones will like what they see and move in. As usual your bird pictures are brill, especially the Blackpoll, Redstart and Lincoln's - not forgetting the Spotted Sandpiper surprising the Mallard. Good tale about the Bobwhite with a happy ending too.

  15. a lovely post with lots of interesting photographs to enjoy. Glad Bob White is in the right place now

  16. Wonderful set of images. The birds are cute.

  17. Wow I so love the birds they are so pretty! Great shots!

    Inviting you to join Water World Wednesday

  18. A great series of photos. It's so good your grand-daughters care about the environment and the birds.

  19. Wow - quite the day you had! Love your photos and stories.

  20. Progress can be nasty sometimes.

    Wonderful shots from the zoo.
    As always your bird photos are marvellous! A great variety and the grosbeak is my favourite.

    Quite an adventure the girls had, I'm glad the bird was unharmed!

  21. Wonderful post, Ken! I love the photograph of the Blackpoll Warbler!

  22. brilliant detailed post with some fantastic birds and a great story that unfolded well to end with

  23. Oh Ken I loved the last look at the Illinois birds. It's hard to see civilization encroaching on your birding meadows though.

    The series by your granddaughter (and daughter's pictures) is wonderful!I really LOVE that you have the third generation of birders there! Heartwarming altogether!

  24. It's sad to see the loss of your birding patch. 'Progress' and nature don't often go well together. I love the bird and zoo animal pics. Glad to hear of the rescue of the Bob White, well-told by your granddaughter.

  25. Nice pictures.

    I try to use longish lens with my kids - otherwise they just pull crazy faces!!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne


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