Monday, May 9, 2011

Woods Walk

After a long day in the car coming home from a poor show in Madison, Wisconsin, a drive that took us through one of the biggest cities in the country (Chicago) and one of the most polluted industrial areas in the country (Gary, Indiana) I was ready for a walk in the woods. Lisa and I unloaded the van, grabbed binoculars and camera gear, and set off to check on our little spot in the woods, the place were we've been pulling garlic mustard to help preserve the native flora there.

My intent was to get pictures of whatever flowers were blooming, so I didn't bring along my tripod, or my lens extender that turns my 300mm into a 420, necessary equipment for photographing birds. As fate would have it, long before we came across any trillium or Jack-in-the-pulpit, we ran into some birds.

The first part of the trail runs along a marsh, and it's a great place to see birds. The first one we spotted was a Black-throated green warbler. I was so excited--I've only seen this bird once before, last year in Ontario, and to find it practically in my back yard was a delight.

In that same spot was a pair of Blue-gray gnatcatchers. The female was working the branches looking for, well, gnats I suppose, while the male sat and sang to the little lady.

A closer shot of the male.

After checking out our target area, which was pleasantly devoid of garlic mustard (yay!) we decided to walk the rest of the loop. We came across an Eastern towhee working the leaves under an Autumn olive, then further along heard a song neither one of us recognized. We stopped and waited to watch for movement in the shrubs. Finally this little fellow showed himself--a Magnolia warbler!

This was a first for me and I took a whole bunch of crappy photos to celebrate. I plan on going back out today with the proper equipment and try to get some better shots.

Next we spotted a pair of White-throated sparrows. This is the male--notice his yellow lores, the area just in front of his eye.

Where the end of the trail meets the beginning, I again heard rustling in the leaves under some shrubs. We waited patiently, me squatting with camera ready as the bird was behind some branches at first. Finally it emerged. An Ovenbird! At first I thought it was a kinglet, so small and olive-colored. For some reason I thought Ovenbirds were brown and stripped. Silly me.

Last but not least, near a small creek that crosses the trail, we saw this Black-throated blue warbler. Again, I had seen this bird last year in Ontario, but never here at home. What a treat! I can't wait to get out this afternoon and see what else we can find!

"In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks." John Muir

So true--we went looking for wildflowers and found a whole bunch of warblers instead!


  1. Now that's a fabulous walk, especially after such a rough trip. That you were able to photograph each bird, eloquently I might add, is just the frosting on the cake. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Bill. I went back today with proper equipment but the birds did not cooperate. We have some weather coming, the birds seemed to be laying low.