Saturday, May 18, 2013

Peak migration but few warblers

As we entered the final week of our stay in Illinois at the peak of spring migration, we tried to get out every morning. The weather was mostly cooperative but temperatures varied wildly, going down to freezing one night and the next day we were in the mid-80s (F). 

Although our hopes were high, we were disappointed at how few warblers we were seeing. Some birders were reporting well over a dozen species but we were lucky to find 3 or 4. Others reported similar bad luck in our usual haunts. Indeed, one morning we found not a single warbler. We also missed a favorite target bird, the Scarlet Tanager, although I got a fleeting look at one flying several hundred yards away at Bliss Woods.

Rather than grouse about what might have been, we should rejoice in the variety of habitats we visited and the beautiful birds we did see, most of which are uncommon or unseen in South Florida.

I love getting good shots of small birds, so I was elated when they appeared among the flowers, as did this Baltimore Oriole in Fabyan West Park...

Baltimore Oriole COREL  2-20130514

...and this Killdeer in Jones Meadow Park.

Killdeer 20130507

Six Great Egrets roosted on a dead tree at Jones Meadow.

Great Egrets 2-20130507

I almost forgot I was not back in Florida when one left its roost and settled at the edge of the lake.

Great Egrets 20130507

Great Egret 20130513

A Green Heron lifted off from a hiding place nearby.

Green Heron in flight 20130509

Jones Meadow provided us with our only sighting of a Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Chestnut-sided Warbler 3-20130507

Chestnut-sided Warbler 20130507

Tree Swallows had already set up housekeeping.

Tree Swallows 20130509

These two seemed to be having a property dispute.

Property dispute 20130509

Mallard Drakes dabbled in the wetlands next to the lake. Were their mates sitting on eggs?

Mallard drakes 20130513

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks became quite numerous.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 20130508

A House Wren fluttered his wings as he sung his heart out.

House Wren 20130508

A nest must have been nearby, as he was reluctant to leave the trunk of this old dead tree.

House Wren 2-20130508

Field Sparrows were claiming nesting territory along the margins of the prairie at Aurora West Forest Preserve.

Field Sparrow 2-20130508

I particularly liked this pose.

Field Sparrow 20130508

Demure Warbling Vireos sang loudly in the trees but rarely ventured out from the leafy cover.

Warbling Vireo COREL 20130514
At Nelson Lake, an Eastern Meadowlark was in full song.

Eastern Meadowlark 2-20130513

A male Northern Cardinal stopped singing just long enough to stare down from his perch.

Northern Cardinal 20130513

An American Goldfinch added another touch of color.

American Goldfinch COREL 20130514

It was unusual to see a lone Sandhill Crane overhead, bugling as if calling for a lost lover.

Sandhill Crane overhead 20130513

Among the "little birds," a pair of Clay-colored Sparrows gave me my best photos of this species, even though they were reluctant to come out from behind the branches.

Clay-colored Sparrow2 2-20130513

Clay-colored Sparrow1 2-20130513

The budding trees attracted House Finches. This male was particularly bright.

House Finch male COREL 20130514

Yellow Warblers were common along the Fox River, at Les Arends Forest Preserve...

Yellow Warbler COREL 3-20130514

Yellow Warbler 4-20130514

...but a few miles up-river, Fabyan West preserve presented us with our most treasured sighting-- a Yellow-throated Warbler, which is near the northern limit of its range. Singing high in an oak tree and flitting from branch to branch, it was not an easy capture.

Yellow-throated Warbler COREL 20130514

The Yellow-throated Warbler is aptly named.

Yellow-throated Warbler COREL  3-20130514

Another nice warbler was nearby-- the Blackburnian.

Blackburnian Warbler COREL 20130514

The Orchard Oriole, smaller than the Baltimore Oriole and brick-red rather than bright orange, has been my "nemesis bird," as I had never gotten a good view of one. The Japanese Garden at Fabyan sheltered one that finally came out into the open!

Orchard Oriole COREL 2-20130514

An American Robin fed its two chicks.

American Robin at nest COREL 20130514

In fairness to the mammal kingdom, here is a cute chipmunk in a beautiful setting inside the Japanese Garden.

Chipmunk in Japanese Garden COREL 20130514

We cannot overlook the spring flowers, such as these tree blossoms...

Pink blossoms 20130509

...or the Wild Blue Phlox.

Wild Blue Phlox - Phlox divaricata 20130508

I'm quite sure that this is a Hickory tree bud, but it is an object of unexpected beauty.

Tree bud - White Ash? ID please 20130507


  1. even the 'common' birds are worthy of your attention! and you saw several i don't get to see - or rarely!

  2. Gorgeous post. This is very good photowork!

  3. Oh my gosh! What an excellent set of photos! Beautiful birds!

  4. Wonderful shots of all these lovely birds.

  5. Love the wild flowers. And your migrant photos...superior!!! Especially enjoyed the "Private Property Beyond This Point" image...what do you suppose it's saying to the other?!!!

  6. Love the pretty oriole and all the warblers. Wonderful post and photos!

  7. Thank you for sharing your beautiful "northern" birds!
    How neat to have just seen a few of these a couple of weeks ago as they passed through Florida and now we can see them at their destination!

  8. so many fabulous birds to make comment on. The Killdeer was out of this world (in yours, but not mine) and there were many others that stole my heart in this post

  9. WOW! Superb photos, I especially like the photos of the Chestnut-sided Warbler!

  10. Impressive and great collection.

  11. Great photos of so many different birds. You see such a great variety of birds with two quite separate habitats to visit.

  12. I love them all but that Baltimore Oriole has pretty much stolen the show

  13. Wonderful images of all your beautiful wildlife... a very interesting post.

  14. What gorgeous shots! I love the oriole and tree swallows! Fantastic variety!

  15. So many great shots and birds! I love those swallows with the one peaking out of the box.

  16. Gosh Ken, what beauties! They are all terrific, but I really like the Baltimore Oriole, Yellow Warbler, and of course my fave, the Grosbeak!

  17. Gorgeous captures, love the warblers!

  18. I am always in awe of your beautiful captures!
    Wonderful work Ken!

  19. Wonderful photos of the little birds as well as the egrets, green heron in flight and that terrific shot of the flying crane. I'm just a sucker for chipmunks, blossoms and birds. Thank you for the wealth you posted.

  20. Awesome Variety! Love the composition of the Killdeer and the Oriole shot! WOW!

  21. Beautiful birds and blooms!

  22. I was here earlier this week, but I am still in awe of your fabulous images.

  23. If that's a quiet day with not many species then you're going to be busy when migration picks up Ken.a number of really great shots there, the grosbeak in particular, the Tree Swallows and the amazing colours on those warblers. Super selection.

  24. You sure did get some great shots, there are some pretty birds over your way, I like the heron it is so elegant.

  25. I read the first paragraph and then scrolled along marveling at the pictures. When I got to those rookery shots, I went back to read again, thinking I'd missed you saying you were back here in Florida!

    Amazing variety of birds; I had no idea there'd be so many varieties there.

  26. Great set of pictures - do Eastern Meadowlarks do anything but sing??

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  27. What a wonderful celebration of birding, great images and oh my goodness I must say the Swallows on the sign...too, too cute. It reminded me of one that I shared recently with American Kestrels on a sign~

  28. Your hotos are wonderful! The warblers here have not been arriving in large numbers so we are also frustrated to not find as many as we would like. :)

  29. Thanks, all of you, for your encouraging comments!


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