A Travellerspoint blog

Indiana Dunes State Park

overcast 88 °F

Back to a regular post...yesterday my family and I visited Indiana Dunes State Park. I was hoping to find Cerulean, Prothonotary, and if I was really lucky, maybe my hoped-for life bird Prairie Warbler.

Upon arriving at Trail 2, I immediately found ACADIAN FLYCATCHERS to be quite common:
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This damselfly was nice:
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At one point there was a pretty stream crossing:
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Suddenly, from the treetops I heard a buzzy song: "zeer-zeer-zeerzeryy!" It was one of my target birds for the day, the sky-blue Cerulean Warbler! This is a bird of the canopies of mature forests, and he lived up to his reputation, only allowing for this one distant photo:
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Male RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD:
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GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER:
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There were a lot of these beautiful flowers along the trail, thanks to my Uncle Mory for the identification of this as an Upside-down Lily:
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EASTERN PHOEBE:
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It got my hopes up for a Prothonotary Warbler when a bright yellow bird flew across the trail, but it "only" turned out to be this pretty male YELLOW WARBLER:
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And finally, some nice RED-HEADED WOODPECKER shots:
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Unfortunately, I never found my hoped-for Prothonotary & Prairie Warblers, but one target bird out of three is better than none! It is also getting to be a quiet time for birders in Illinois because the peak of the breeding season has passed and the only migrants coming through at this point are the first few autumn shorebirds.

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Cerulean Warbler, with runner-up to a gorgeous male Ruby-throated Hummingbird that flew up to me and then hovered five inches away from my nose for about three seconds! How cool is that?! I didn't raise up my camera for a photo for fear of scaring him off, but it sure would have been an awesome photo!

So...plans for the rest of the summer are as follows: Next Thursday my dad and I will fly out to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State for a 4-day birding trip. Then, after about a week and a half in Chicago I will be out in Idaho July 26 - August 20 for my family's annual trip there. That trip will be a bit different than in past years; however, because for the first two weeks I will be attending an intensive opera camp called "The Encounter" which means I will not be posting for the first two weeks of the trip. The last two weeks will be free for me and I have many exciting birding day and overnight trips planned! Stay tuned!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 897 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 15:16 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes children trees animals birds sky woodpecker hummingbird eastern_phoebe indiana_dunes acadian_flycatcher cerulean_warbler phoebe yellow_warbler Comments (0)

Cuba

all seasons in one day 94 °F

Very early this Monday morning, I returned from my choir's week-long tour to Havana, Cuba. It was possibly the most eye-opening trip of my entire life, and the entire choir was changed by this tour.

As the first youth choir to travel to Cuba from the USA, it was an immense privilege for my choir, the Voice of Chicago, to travel to a country with such a vibrant culture and that has had strained relations with this USA for sixty years.

Although this was truly an amazing tour, I will be honest with you, it was not all fun and games. We had 16-18 hour days, sweated through our uniforms during every concert after a full day in the blazing heat, and many, including my, hotel rooms were not in good shape. These hardships; however, made all of us think about our daily lives and I think that we can say that we now have a greater appreciation for everyday things such as air conditioning, plentiful clean drinking water, reliable toilets, etc. that many people around the world unfortunately do not have - which is the case for many Cubans.

This trip was all about experiencing the culture of Cuba, so it will not be bird-focused; however, I did take a few bird photographs and I did get a few lifers.

We spent one day in Florida before spending a week in Cuba, and once we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, we immediately headed to the beach:
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In the afternoon, we split up into three groups and took a "gator tour" by airboat:
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DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:
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Beautiful PURPLE GALLINULE, life bird:
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Family of LIMPKIN, life bird:
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On the tour, I also gained my life bird BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE.

The next day, we flew to Havana, Cuba on a charter flight out of Miami. I luckily got a window seat and it was cool getting our first views of Cuba - a land so mysterious, so unknown - but enchantingly beautiful:
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After waiting through many long lines in the airport, we sat on the air-conditioned bus and I spotted my life bird CUBAN EMERALD hummingbird. Unfortunately, I did not see its smaller cousin, the Bee Hummingbird, which is the smallest bird in the world, a Cuban endemic species.
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The experiences we had on tour were just phenomenal. From just seeing the country from the bus to numerous cultural exchanges with choirs and musical groups, we really experienced the best of Cuban culture. It was astounding to meet such pure, happy people who enjoy life with such kindness and pride in their culture - and it really made us thing about how we live our lives.

Now I will leave you with these photos, and my only "talking" will be naming birds that I have included. The Cuba tour was a truly awesome experience and it changed my life.

Henry
World Life List: 897 Species (10 life birds on the Cuba trip)
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GRAY KINGBIRD:
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RED-LEGGED THRUSH, life bird:
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BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD:
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COMMON GROUND-DOVE:
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Posted by skwclar 13:37 Archived in Cuba Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises beaches buildings skylines people children animals birds sky planes Comments (2)

Last bird walk of the season!

sunny 85 °F

Today I led the final bird walk of "spring," at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve in Maywood, Illinois. It actually turned out to be the most productive walk at Miller this spring in terms of # of species, 39 in total, and the number of birders who showed up was actually the highest of the entire season.

Photographically, I didn't have a spectacular morning; however, a birder who attended the walk obtained even better photos than I did - view his Flickr photo stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sid-p

And here are some of my photos. These are DICKCISSELS:
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Male EASTERN MEADOWLARK:
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The wildflowers were also quite pretty:
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Birds-of-the-day to the Dickcissel and Eastern Meadowlark. It was a very pleasant walk overall.

I am happy to announce that, through Oak Park Bird Walks this season, I have raised a record $943.00 for La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica to conserve important lowland rainforest habitat (which migrant birds from North America use in the winter) in the country and to support tropical ecology research that promotes the conservation and knowledge of tropical wildlife.

Off to Cuba on Monday! I'm so excited!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 887 Species (no recent life birds)

39 species today:

Canada Goose 2
Mallard 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
Warbling Vireo 2
Blue Jay 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Tree Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Robin 7
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 4
Common Yellowthroat 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Chipping Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Dickcissel 6
Bobolink 2
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Eastern Meadowlark 3
Common Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 3
Baltimore Oriole 5
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 10

Posted by skwclar 08:49 Archived in USA Tagged me children trees animals birds sky dickcissel eastern_meadowlark miller_meadows Comments (2)

Junior Naturalists' Bird Walk

sunny 80 °F

First of all, this Monday, June 27 I will be leaving with my choir, the Voice of Chicago, for a week-long tour to HAVANA, CUBA! This will be one of the best experiences of 2016, and it is a groundbreaking tour because we are the first youth choir from the USA to visit the country. We will be performing with renowned Cuban artists, opera singers, and choirs from all over the world as well as engaging in other diverse cultural activities. I will not be able to post during the trip because I have decided not to bring my iPad; however, I will probably make several posts about it after I return home on July 3. I do not expect to do any birding, if at all, on this tour because the choir keeps us extremely busy; however, it will be a stellar travel and cultural experience for me and for everyone.

Today I led a bird walk, for the second year in a row, for the Junior Naturalists' summer camp at Dominican Univeristy in River Forest. My sister, Pearl, participated this year and she, as well as the group overall, enjoyed the outing.

We walked into Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve and almost immediately found hands-down our best bird of the day, a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO! It flew over the group twice, giving everyone great views.
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Flyover RED-TAILED HAWK:
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White-tailed Deer, fawn:
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WOOD THRUSH:
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Owl or hawk feather:
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EASTERN PHOEBE:
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One of two male SCARLET TANAGERS we saw, an excellent surprise!
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Bird-of-the-day to the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, with runners-up to the Scarlet Tanagers. A very productive walk for mid-June!

Excited for CUBA on Monday!!!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 887 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 20:16 Archived in USA Tagged me people children trees animals birds sky red-tailed_hawk wood_thrush eastern_phoebe yellow-billed_cuckoo scarlet_tanager Comments (0)

Illinois Beach State Park!

sunny 93 °F

Today I birded with birding friend Al Stokie in northern Lake County, Illinois. Although it felt quite hot at times (it topped out at 93 degrees today!), we had a productive day of birding.

After an hour-and-a-half commute on the Metra, Al picked me up in Waukegan and we headed to the south unit of Illinois Beach State Park in search of shorebirds and assorted uncommon nesting birds.

On the beach, we didn't do well in the shorebird department; however, we did find a pair of juvenile HORNED LARKS, a fairly exciting find!
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Nearby, we found a few very uncommon plant species including this Hoary Paintbrush (a relative of the more widespread Indian Paintbrush):
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Although we failed to find one of our target birds, the Lark Sparrow, there were some neat birds around as well, including this GRASSHOPPER SPARROW:
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Then, we birded the campground nearby and found this very uncommon YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. This is the only place where this species nests in Lake County and one of the few places in northeast Illinois as it is typically a more southern bird:
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Then, we drove to the Sand Pond area in the north unit of the state park in hopes of a Yellow-breasted Chat. That bird was not to be found today, despite the fact that we searched for a very long time for it. We had some nice birds to make up for it, though, including this male EASTERN BLUEBIRD:
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And the female:
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A fledgling RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD:
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Male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT:
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Female HOODED MERGANSER:
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A very vociferous BROWN THRASHER:
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And our best species at Sand Pond was two male BLUE GROSBEAKS, another species that is typically much more common further south in Illinois. Illinois Beach State Park is quite possibly the furthest north breeding location for this species in the state:
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A Leopard Frog was also nice:
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We ended the day by viewing (with Al's scope from very far away) a PIPING PLOVER sitting on its nest near Waukegan. Since it is in a restricted location with lots of security, Al told me I couldn't take any photos, and they wouldn't have turned out very well anyway because the nest was quite far away.

It was a fantastic day! Bird-of-the-day goes to the two cooperative Blue Grosbeaks, and runners-up to the Yellow-throated Warbler and Piping Plover. The full list for today, a good total of 69 species, is attached below.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 887 Species (no recent life birds)

69 species today:

Canada Goose
Mallard
Hooded Merganser
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
PIPING PLOVER
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD
European Starling
Horned Lark
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
BLUE GROSBEAK
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 21:32 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes beaches people children trees animals birds sky Comments (1)

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