Monday, October 25, 2010

Views From the Water's Edge

Below are a series of photographs taken from the water's edge of beautiful Lake Michigan and scenic North Pond in Lincoln Park.

A colorful male Wood Duck wades in the cool waters of North Pond

A lone Semipalmated Plover scans the shoreline for tasty treats

A Northern Shoveler glides on a reflective pond

One of several Horned Larks seen foraging along the beach

A handsome Peregrine Falcon stands in the shallows of Lake Michigan

A striking Killdeer enjoys a sunny day at Montrose Beach

A stunning Hooded Merganser swims in a sunlit pond

A Black-bellied Plover searches the shoreline for delectable morsels of food

A pretty Dunlin gets doused by Lake Michigan waters ...

and recovers quite nicely

A most beautiful autumn day at North Pond

A diminutive Pied-billed Grebe delights in a morning swim

A tiny Sanderling searches the shoreline for sustenance

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Most Unusual Sighting

This fall I have had very little time to go birding because of an especially busy schedule. Today, I finally had some free time to partake in one of my favorite activities. On this beautiful autumn Thursday, I set out to one of my favorite birding areas in the city of Chicago. My eyes were delighted with a plethora of Yellow-rumped Warblers, gleening tiny Golden-crown Kinglets, nibbling Orange-crowned Warblers, foraging Hermit Thrushes and a few stately Red-tailed Hawks. As the winds picked up and the sky became overcast I decided to call it a day and made one final tour of the bird sanctuary. My ears perked with the sound of a foreign bird song very close by. I scanned the tall grasses and sparsely leaved bushes for the source of the interesting tune. A splash of dazzling orange caught my attention. Mouth agape, with unblinking eyes, I shook my head to gather my wits. This brilliantly colored bird did not belong here. The dense rainforests of Uganda or damp tropical terrain of Costa Rica came to mind ... not the lake front of The Windy City. I snapped many photographs while observing my gorgeous subject dine on ripe seeds of tall grasses. With awe, I noticed the shape of the beautiful bird began to change. The radiant orange feathers of the nape and wing coverts seemed to become more plentiful and full. A most amazing sight! After a couple of minutes, the impressive bird flew a short distance to explore some nearby bushes. Elated with glee at my magnificent sighting,  I pulled out my cell phone and called Bruce to have him check the bird field guide (yes, I know I should have brought it with me) for an identification. He ran through all the Orioles but I believed this bird was not of that family. I knew a little more research was necessary and would have to wait until I returned home. I watched the luminous bird through the branches for five more minutes until it disappeared into the brush.

Upon my return home, I immediately began searching for the identity the bird. Surprisingly, it was an Orange Bishop Weaver native to northwest and eastern Africa. It is most often found in open savanna with tall shrubbery. Worried about  the welfare of the bird flying around a big city, I called two local zoos thinking the bird might have escaped. I was curtly told that no bird or animal had escaped from either zoo. Neither party was thrilled when I asked if they could refer me to someone who could help. I was given a number for a Chicago wildlife rescue service and gave them a call, but had to leave a voicemail message. Upon further research, I believe the bird was probably a pet and somehow escaped. Just last month I spotted a blue and white budgerigar in the same area. Yes, seeing this resplendent bird was a magical experience for me but I am also worried about how it will fare in this environment. Below are several photographs of this most unusual, wondrous sighting.

A most magnificent looking bird!

All puffed up!

A most striking profile ~ Take note of the color of the wing coverts in this photograph

If you compare the previous image to this photograph you will see that many of the wing coverts have filled out to a brilliant orange

One of the first photographs I took of the Orange Bishop Weaver ~ As you can see, its appearance changed drastically