Saturday, October 25, 2014

A colorful birding "shoulder season"

Our stay in northeastern Illinois began near the end of warbler migration, so we were mostly in the "shoulder season" of birding, a more quiet time before the northern bird species start to arrive. The pair of Bald Eagles that nested last year near our Illinois home will not lay their eggs until early spring, but they were roosting in their nest tree:
Bald Eagles at Mooseheart nest 2-20140930

Bald Eagle 20141017
By the time we were ready to return home to Florida at the end of October, the winter sparrows began showing up in fresh plumage.

White-throated Sparrows sported their golden lores;
White-throated Sparrow 2-20141009

White-throated Sparrow 3-20141009
White-crowned Sparrows are notably larger than their white-throated relatives and breed on the Canadian tundra. This one suddenly appeared on the deck of our daughter's home and posed very cooperatively:
White-crowned Sparrow 02-20141010
The immature White-crowned Sparrow has a buffy crown but this does not detract from its beauty:
White-crowned Sparrow 07-20141010
Song Sparrows are seen all year, but the local breeders fly south in the winter and are replaced by migrants from the north:
Song Sparrow 04-20141008
Larger and more richly colored Fox Sparrows followed:
Fox Sparrow 2-20141021
Ruby-crowned Kinglets move through after most of the warblers have departed, and will linger until cold weather sets in: 
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2-20141009
Kinglets are active feeders, "hover-gleaning" for insects in the tips of branches:
Ruby-crowned Kinglet hover-gleaning 20141009
Hardy (Slate-colored) Dark-eyed Juncos, commonly called "Snow Birds," will remain all winter:
Dark-eyed Junco 20141009

Dark-eyed Junco 20141023
Canada Geese arrived by the thousands in V-formation flocks, joining the permanent resident population. This video captures the sense of being immersed in the wild echoing calls of flocks of geese as they fly overhead. Many settled into the small pond in Jones Meadow Park, very close to our condo. Try to ignore the passing airliner! (If video does not display in the space below, please visit this link.)

Canada Geese 20141017 Canada Geese landing 20141007 Canada Goose in flight 20141007 These migrating geese come in two distinctly recognizable sizes. The smaller ones actually represent a separate species, the Cackling Goose, which breeds high in the arctic tundra and spends winter more to the south. The four in the foreground exhibit not only smaller size, but short necks, rounder heads and stubbier bills: Cackling Geese 20141022 Three Canada Geese are joined by a Pied-billed Grebe: Canada Geese and Pied-billed Grebe 20141007The number and variety of birds was down, but in contrast to their muted plumage, the fall colors were superb. This is something that we really miss in Florida, where the Wet Season simply transitions into the Dry Season without fanfare around the middle of October. At Hawk's Bluff Park near our daughter's home in Batavia, Illinois this magnificent Oak provided copper highlights: Hawks Bluff Park 3-20141016 The Cottonwoods along Mill Creek added gold to the palette: Mill Creek 20141016 Hawks Bluff Park 20141016 In early October we had already experienced a few snow flurries, so we were a bit apprehensive about our daughter's invitation to join her family for a long mid-October weekend over 200 miles to the north in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. The city straddles the namesake inlet and bay that connects Lake Michigan with Green Bay. We were pleasantly surprised to find cloudless skies and fair temperatures. From the lawn of our condo on the bay, sunset was serene and colorful despite the clear sky: Sturgeon Bay sunset 4-20141011 At a local farm, Sugar Maples were in fine color: Autumn color at The Farm in Sturgeon Bay WI 20141012 Large flocks of migrating ducks followed Sturgeon Bay southward. This flock consisted of over 20 Redheads with a Red-breasted Merganser taking up the lead position.Ducks in flight2 20141012 Ducks in flight Merganser 20141012 Hundreds of Horned Grebes foraged just offshore. This was the first time I ever was able to photograph this species, though the images suffered because the sun was behind the birds: Horned Grebe 20141012 These two Mallard drakes, though seen at a distance, were in better light: Mallard drakes in flight 2-20141012


  1. loved the sounds in the video! beautiful array of birds from small to large. and thanks for the new (to me) terminology of 'shoulder season'. :)

  2. Shoulder season is wonderful there. Such beautiful pictures.

  3. First of all, the Autumn foliage is gorgeous!!! If the redheaded ducks are leaving your area, I must look forward to them arriving here soon. When I lived in Colorado for 40 years before retiring to the coast, we used to see Canadian Geese year 'round. I haven't seen one since. And one more....I LOVED the variety of sparrows. That 2nd one of the white throated is priceless.

    Thanks, Ken, for sharing this link over the weekend at I'd Rather B Birdin'

  4. Those are amazing flight photos of the geese. Wow!

  5. Love seeing those geese. It looks like one is putting down its landing gear!

  6. Excellent photography as usual. I love the eagles and the geese. Have a great week!

  7. Very nice post. Loved all the great bird shots, especially the Eagles. Some lovely fall scenery too.

  8. Absolutely wonderful photos! Love the eagles and the sparrows, and then the geese in the Autumn foliage were just wonderful!

  9. These are perfect photos and a wonderful post.

  10. Hi Kenneth. Yet again a wonderful post fills with fantastic selection of birds, all photographs excellently by yourself. Loved the video of the geese. A magnificent sight and sound to behold. Also the fall colours in these shots are stunning. Love the Sparrows, very pretty.

  11. The Sparrows are all very sweet, and a great looking Grebe.

  12. The eagles are awesome! Awesome post and lovely photos, Len!

  13. I love the sound of the geese flying overhead. These are beautiful shots of such a great variety of birds. Your photos are also full of fall's colorful beauty.

  14. There is sooooo much to know about birds and birdwatching..... I'm such a rank amateur I don't even know how to differentiate the sparrows... but, mostly I think I have house sparrows only ... although, one day I spied a chipping sparrow...

    Can you come and check out my today's guy and let me know if I have correctly identified him/her? ....

  15. You absolutely live in a heavenly place! Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos and interesting video!


Thank you for visiting Rosyfinch Ramblings! I will enjoy a visit to your page just as soon as possible. Some anonymous comments and some containing active links may not be accepted.