Thursday, August 25, 2016

Summer birds in Illinois

We rarely see American Robins near our south Florida home, so they are a welcome sight when we return to Illinois:

Robin on a fence 20160628

Spring migration is over. Most of the local breeding birds have finished nesting and as July approaches the woodlands fall silent. Now is the time to retreat from the cool shade and visit the prairie, where the calendar appears to have been turned back. 

Nelson Lake north HDR 20130812

In a sense, the forest is the enemy of the Midwestern prairie. After the last of the glaciers retreated some 14,000 years ago, the bare land progressed from soggy tundra to evergreen woodland. As the climate warmed and dried, hardwoods such as hickory and oak invaded and eventually blanketed the land. 

Drought and lightning combined to cause wildfires which produced huge swaths of grassland, and herds of bison helped to keep the prairie open. Prairie plants developed extensive underground roots which resisted destruction from fires and grazing until human settlement turned most of their habitat into rich cropland. Water-filled depressions (potholes) were left behind by the glaciers. These provided places for bison to wallow and waterfowl to find refuge. They often resisted cultivation.

Restored prairie pothole at Nelson Lake Marsh/Dick Young Prairie preserve, near our second home in Kane County, Illinois:

Nelson Lake prairie pothole HDR 20160627

Now the remnants of the prairie require human intervention in order to prosper. The grasslands survive because of controlled burns and selective removal of invasive shrubs, trees and other vegetation, both native and exotic. At  Nelson Lake preserve the grass is tall and seed heads are golden, inviting me to render my photo as an oil painting (click on photo for enlarged views):

Nelson Lake barn OIL  20160627

Song Sparrows and Common Yellowthroats have started second and even third broods, and are singing vigorously.

Song Sparrow 20160627

Song Sparrow HDR 2-20160605

Common Yellowthroat 2-20160628

Common Yellowthroat male 4-20150714

Old fence posts are the tallest roosting places in the grasslands, and a Savannah Sparrow keeps watch from one:

Savannah Sparrow HDR 20160629

Tiny Henslow's Sparrows are hard to find in the tall grass. Note the greenish tint on its head:

Henslows Sparrow crop 20120620

Grasshopper Sparrows prefer areas with shorter grass:

Grasshopper Sparrow 2-20150714

Sedge Wrens rattle their songs along the path:

Sedge Wren 03-20160629

Bobolinks are still feeding  their young. Their upside-down plumage pattern makes them favorite subjects as I try to obtain a perfect pose:

Bobolink 2-20160629

Bobolink on post HDR 04-20160605

The demure female Bobolink is nonetheless beautiful:

Bobolink 2-20150831

Colorful Dickcissels do not arrive in any great numbers until mid- to late June. 

Dickcissel 4-20160629

Dickcissel 3-20160627

American Goldfinches wait for thistle and milkweed to produce the down for their nests and seeds for their vegetarian babies:

American Goldfinches 20160629

American Goldfinch female 20160628

I catch the reflection of a goldfinch as it sips at a nearby creek:

American Goldfinch HDR 04-20160505

Red-winged Blackbirds defend their territories with song...

Red-winged Blackbird HDR 20160606

...and action, as one takes on a Red-tailed Hawk:

Red-tailed Hawk 2-20160513

Red-winged Blackbird chases Red-tailed Hawk 20160628

Red-winged Blackbird attacks Red-tailed Hawk 20160628

Spiderwort and Black-eyed Susan are common summer flowers in the prairie:

Spiderwort 20160628

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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. Hello, great variety of birds. I love the robin on the fence and the Bobolink.
    Beautiful photos. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  2. your bird shots are always so stunning. i really enjoy the sparrows in the grasses. and a good fence or two, also. ;)

  3. I love your robin on the photo. Our European robins an yours have similarities as well as differences! European robin's red breast is limited to a breast patch and is brighter and more of an orange shade. Love also the other birds and what you are writing about the prairie.

  4. Robins love our neighborhood. I don't see other kinds of birds except some annoying magpies and some woodpeckers. Sometimes we hear the coo of a dove or two.

  5. Pretty shots! I like the goldfinch reflection and the oil paint edit!

  6. You have a beautiful series of photos, but that first shot is my favorite. Classic!

  7. a beautiful series of images. my favorites are the first and second image.

  8. Beautiful pictures of birds.

  9. Wonderful shots, KCS. Love that goldfinch at the creek.

  10. So many stunningly beautiful images of birds. Loving the little Sedge Wren and what wonderful captures of the Red-tailed Hawk in flight.
    Have a truly wonderful weekend :)

  11. aw, I feel renewed. Loved this visit. Such cutie pies

  12. Superb photos! The goldfinch drinking is my favorite. :-)

    1. @Kenneth Cole Schneider: My reflection. The text was on the window so it's reversed for those inside but not for those outside, unless you see it reflected on something inside. Yes, mind bending. One of the reasons why I love reflections. :-)

  13. Very nice shot of the Robin on the fence. - You have such a great variety of birds. I like that lots of them seem to pose on fence posts for you. Loved the shot of the Goldfinch drinking water. Also like your barn shot with the oil painting edit.

  14. So many beautiful pictures, and the yellow irds has a great reflection!

  15. These are exceptional photographs. I too love the Goldfinch with its reflection, found the hawk and blackbird exchange fascinating, the robin on the fence, pretty scenery and all your bird close-ups fantastic. The flowers are very pretty also and I thank you so much for once again sharing them with Today's Flowers. Have a great weekend :)

  16. Lovely series. The Goldfinch drinking and the Hounslow Sparrow are my favourite shots.I am glad the Prairie is being protected. Every country should do more conservation!

  17. Your bird photography is really gorgeous Kenneth. Love the fence shot and the last bird shot was so well captured. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

  18. Hello Ken!:) Such a delightful variety of birds and truly captivating images, of all the different Sparrows, the adorable Wren, and the more colourful Goldfinches, and Common Yellow Throats.
    The Red-winged Blackbirds are always a pleasure to see, and I loved the action shots with the Red-tailed Hawk. It's amazing that a smaller bird would challenge a Hawk!

  19. Hello Ken, gorgeous photos and wonderful variety of beautiful birds. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

  20. The Bobolinks are both gorgeous birds! Love that little goldfinch drinking too. Beautiful photos! Enjoy your weekend.

  21. All wonderful photos of the varied birds ~ love the ones you captured on fences and posts ~ very creative ~

    Wishing you a Happy Weekend ~ ^_^

  22. Beautiful shots. Very cute birds.

  23. Nice pics of the birds. Love the goldfinch and the reflection.

  24. Funny how things coincide - just back from Darwin, where a good part of the habitat is grasslands, which have been maintained by fire (natural from lightning, and from Aboriginal burning) - did not get has many shots of seed eating finches as I had hoped for - but there is always next year!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  25. Beautiful images of birds.
    Greetings from Poland.
    Monika B.

  26. You have dozens of 'beautiful' here today! Wow...such an impressive array of song birds and colors. I too think the females are equally beautiful.

    Thank you, kindly, for stopping by I'd Rather B Birdin' this weekend to add this post to the linking tool. It's always appreciated by us birders and nature lovers!!

  27. Fabulous photos! Love the goldfinch at the creek...they are all wonderful! The grasslands are beautiful and I really enjoyed your narrative. It's my understanding that, sadly, the original grasses are mostly gone, and in only a few spots in the Midwest there are areas where they are trying to preserve them. What we see are more modern species.

  28. Wirklich tolle Fotos. Mir gelingt das so nah nie. Und das Spiegelbild des Gelben, Daumen hoch!!!

  29. The landscapes and clear blue skies are just as beautiful as the birds you showcase! I was particularly taken with the bobolink pictures - we never see those up here. Migrations are already underway and I am sure the hummingbirds will leave in the next week or so. Always sad to see the summer birds leave.

  30. Beautiful photos, I especially love the goldfinches.

  31. I really enjoyed the prairie tour Ken; lots of birds I've never seen (the dicksissel particularly and most of those sparrows. And the bobolink with those amazing upside down patterns is fascinating. We spent a little RVing time in Illinois, not enough obviously and not in the right parts, because I actually forgot that it is a prairie state. We've visited places in Colorado that are set aside to preserve or return the native grasses to the prairie. Too bad that these grasslands nearly disappeared.

  32. I don't believe I've ever seen a bobolink - they're beautiful! I looked them up and see that we're within their range, but neither my husband nor I have seen one.
    These are all great shots. Thanks for linking up at

  33. What a lovely post and the red winged blackbird is beautiful!

    Greetings from Dubai and will be back soon. Have a fantastic day!


  34. love the photo of the GoldFinch in the creek..... beautiful....

  35. Lovely photos! You have a good eye. I have trouble focusing with my eye balls. Glasses are such a pain!


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