Kane County Audubon conducted its monthly “first Saturday” morning bird walk at Dick Young/Nelson Lake Forest Preserve in Batavia, Illinois. Over the course of our pleasant four hour three mile trek around the lake, temperatures warmed from the high 30s into the high 50s. The walk produced the first Fox Sparrow and Dark-eyed Juncos of the season, though I (and some of the others who were not up with the pack leaders) must admit I missed seeing both. Somewhat unusual, an Osprey hovered over the lake. I will be seeing many more next week, when we return to Florida for the winter.
Two Cackling Geese trailed in a wedge with their larger Canada Goose cousins. I still have not succeeded in taking telescopic photos of flying birds (though my practice shots of airplanes and helicopters have been pretty good). My problem is that, even if I can center the birds in my lens, auto-focus does not work and my lack manual focusing skills and failing eyesight combine to produce only a few blurs against the clouds.
A Ruby-crowned Kinglet hover-gleaned in the trees. Of about 12 shots, I captured the image of this hyperactive little bird on only a couple of frames:
As is my habit, I tended to lag behind the group whenever a photo opportunity presented itself. This was the case when I caught sight of a dark sparrow that appeared to be a Swamp Sparrow.
Indeed it was, but my images, though helping us confirm its identity, were not very satisfactory:
While I was concentrating on the sparrow, others in the group appeared to be telling me it was a wren, but it turned out they were looking at another bird that lurked in the thick brush along the trail. Finally we got a good enough look at it to identify it as a Sedge Wren, a species that I have spent quite a bit of time trying to photograph (see: Summer at Hawk’s Bluff Park, Batavia, IL and Short-billed Marsh Wren). They are fairly common breeders in the damp meadows around Nelson Lake, and I usually found them in the spring, when the males sang heartily on territory. Usually my views were distant and obscured by high grasses. This time, my luck changed, but only after the group had moved on and I lingered in hopes of getting a better shot at this bird.
The Sedge Wren suddenly crept up so close to me that I had to quickly switch my camera to a macro setting, rewarding me with eye-popping full-frame views of a usually elusive subject:
Alert and inquisitive, it sang a few bars of its territorial song as it held its stance right next to me:
Finally, a Downy Woodpecker posed quite a while for us. One of my photos caught him jumping from one twig to another.