All animals that inhabit this area, including humans, have to cope with the changing of the seasons. There are four basic responses to the cooler temperature and shorter daylight. Which is your favorite strategy for surviving the winter?
Do you eat more food during this time of year, loading up on high calorie goodies? You may be a Snacker. It is a natural instinct. You are like the squirrels, rabbits, and some birds that fatten up and keep going all winter long.
Do you travel to warmer climates during the winter? Wings are not required to be a Flapper. Count yourself in the company of warblers, monarch butterflies, and herons if you leave the area in winter. You may be migrating to escape the cold, but these animals are generally traveling to find more plentiful supplies of food.
Do you become sleepy and hibernate for four or five months every year? Then you are a Sleeper, like a bear, turtle, or frog. These animals undergo physical changes that shut down their respiratory systems and metabolism during the winter. You are probably not a true sleeper, even if it sounds appealing.
If you are prone to feeling tired and sleeping more in the winter, then it’s more likely that you are a Napper. Animals like skunks and opossum cozy up in burrows or under deep piles of leaves and sleep. Occasionally they emerge, find something to eat, and then go back to bed.
Snacker, Flapper, Sleeper, Napper — try to say that three times fast as you prepare for another midwestern winter!
I love Warblers! They are amazing and beautiful little birds. They migrate thousands of miles each year. A few of these jewels breed in the Chicago area, but most only pass through for just a few weeks each spring and fall on their way to breeding grounds. I marvel at their journey. They fly when the winds are favorable, and look for green spaces to spend the day fueling up on insects before heading out again for the next leg of their journey. I can only imagine how good the Chicago Botanic Garden must look to these tired birds as they approach the city. It’s a green oasis with trees, prairies and water.
My choices of possible warbler locations in the Garden are many. Mary Mix McDonald Woods, near the entrance, is a likely place to spot many birds so I head there first. As I approach, I’m greeted by a lovely female cardinal – a nice start to my walk. I slow my pace. Many birds can be found along the edges of the woods, and I don’t want to scare them off. I walk in a few feet and I hear the chirps of white-throated sparrows, another migrating bird. After a few minutes I see the flittering of small birds. Yes, here are my beloved warblers. They are first-year yellow-rumped warblers, hopping from tree to tree picking off bugs. One poses just long enough for me to focus and fire off a few shots. Another migrating bird makes a brief appearance, the Brown Creeper, scooting quickly up one tree and then another. I hear a call from the top of the trees. I focus my camera lens on the sound to find a yellow-bellied sapsucker. So many birds, and I have yet to make it off the first bridge! – All this in less than half an hour! I am anxious to see what else is around, so I start walking the paths. The rest of the woods are surprisingly quiet. I remind myself that when the birds are “hopping,” THAT is the place to be. It is not “better” someplace else. It’s good lesson in life as well. The grass is not greener on the other side!
I hope to see more warblers before the fall is over. There will be birds moving through for weeks to come. A good time to check for warblers is after a night of winds from the north. The birds will fly with the wind and will drop down onto the Garden in the morning. The woods, prairie, and top of the waterfall garden are all great places to check for new arrivals.
Warblers move so fast and are often hidden behind leaves and branches. It is a real treat for me when I get a good shot of these tiny birds. I probably toss 2/3 of all the shots I take. The best advice I can give to you is to get out often and to practice as much as you can. It WILL be worth it!