A Travellerspoint blog

Orland Grassland

sunny 69 °F

Yesterday I birded Orland Grasslands South near Orland Park in southern Cook County, Illinois. I decided to go because the preserve hosts many quality breeding birds, and it was forecast to be a pleasantly cool day in the upper 60's - perfect weather for birding in a grassland area, and an anomaly for June weather which is usually in at least the lower 80's.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day with very good birding. I happened to meet quite a few bird photographers, including someone from Chicago and a few photographers from the west coast with whom I birded extensively.

Right when I arrived at the preserve, I found a pair of Killdeer doing their "broken-wing display" on the trail ahead...obviously there was a nest nearby, but I didn't try to find it because I didn't want to disturb them any further.

Then, the photographers and I found a good number of grassland species including the most cooperative HENSLOW'S SPARROWS I have ever seen:

As well as a singing male EASTERN MEADOWLARK:

It was great meeting everyone!

On the way out, I found a few good things including this EASTERN KINGBIRD:



And, like last post, I'll end this post with a photo of a deer...this time, it was a beautiful young fawn!

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Henslow's Sparrow, which luckily was two photographers' #1 target bird of their trip! Runner-up to the Eastern Meadowlark. Honorable mention to the adorable fawn deer, although that isn't a bird!

The full list from yesterday is included below.

Good birding,

World Life List: 887 Species (no life birds yesterday)

30 species (+1 other taxa):

Wood Duck 4
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Killdeer 2 Broken-wing display by both parents of an assumed nest nearby.
Mourning Dove 8
Chimney Swift 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
flycatcher sp. (Tyrannidae sp.) 1
Blue Jay 1
Tree Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 2
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 4
Common Yellowthroat 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Henslow's Sparrow 2 Conservative count, probably 3 or 4 simply in the small patch of grassland I covered.
Field Sparrow 4 Conservative count.
Song Sparrow 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 10
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
House Sparrow 2

Posted by skwclar 17:51 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes people children trees animals birds sky trains Comments (0)

3 days of summer birding!

all seasons in one day 80 °F

This post is for three awesome days of birding in my first week of summer: Thursday, June 2 - Saturday, June 4.


A pair of rare Hudsonian Godwits, a large species of shorebird, had been reported at a random puddle in a farmer's field near the town of Grayslake, about an hour north of Chicago. Since this species would be a life bird for me, I made the long commute up to the Grayslake area. Thanks to my aunt Betsy for helping out with picking me up at the Metra stop!

On the Metra ride up there, I spotted a male INDIGO BUNTING along the railroad tracks while we were waiting due to a delay. The weird turquoise appearance of the photo was due to my taking this photo through the Metra's window.

When I arrived at the puddle, there were plenty of birds around, including this rather uncommon GREEN-WINGED TEAL:

The godwits; alas, were nowhere to be found.

Bird-of-the-day for Thursday goes to the Green-winged Teal, with runner-up to the Indigo Bunting.


Jonathan, my birding friend from Indiana, came by with his dad at 8:00am to pick me up for an exciting day of birding. Our first planned stop was Grant Street Marsh in northwest Indiana in hopes of Least Bittern & Yellow-headed Blackbird; however, we made an unplanned stop along the highway to view some beautiful MUTE SWANS on Wolf Lake, including a family with cygnets:

A CASPIAN TERN also flew by:

Grant Street Marsh was rather quiet as we failed to find the bitterns (very unlikely) and didn't try hard for the blackbirds.

Although we had originally planned to spend most of the day at Indiana Dunes State Park, Jonathan's father, Ed, graciously allowed for us to change our plans and head south to two preserves called Kankakee Sands and Willow Slough, which are both large, beautiful preserves that are right next to each other.

As soon as we rolled down the window at Kankakee Sands, we were serenaded by many grassland birds including a few very cooperative GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS:

And many, many DICKCISSELS:

At our first stop, we hoped to find Western Meadowlark and Lark Sparrow, and although we failed to find these birds, there were some others around including HENSLOW'S SPARROWS, an unseen calling YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, and this male YELLOW WARBLER:

Once we were on the road again, I heard a strange noise from the woods so we stopped (thanks to Ed, Jonathan's dad and the person who drove the entire day, for enduring many "STOP!"s by both Jonathan and me!).

"Bob-a-white!" The noise was a singing NORTHERN BOBWHITE far in the woods, the first time I have ever heard that beautiful quail actually sing. Unfortunately, we never managed to see this species as they like to stay hidden far in the cover of dense bushes and shrubs.

"STOP!" A bit further along the road, I spotted this first-year male BLUE GROSBEAK, a nice find and our only one the entire day:

Then, a pair of birds flew up into a tree alongside the road and actually started mating! It was a pair of very, very uncommon LARK SPARROWS, with Indiana being one of the easternmost places in the world to see them. These were life birds for Jonathan.

Further along the road, we spotted a GREAT HORNED OWL flying away from us into the woods, and a beautiful RED-HEADED WOODPECKER also entertained us nicely:

After turning onto a gravel road, Jonathan and I heard a strange warbler's song over the din of the wheels of the car moving over the road, and we both simultaneously shouted, "Stop!"

Then it sang again, more clearly this time: "Churr-ee! Churr-ee! Churr-ee!"

Sure enough, it was my beautiful life bird KENTUCKY WARBLER, a species I have been wanting to see for years!

In that same area, we also had BROWN THRASHER, WILD TURKEY, and a calling but sadly unseen YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT.

Further along the road, we ran into a pocket of birds which included LEAST FLYCATCHER, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, and this female SUMMER TANAGER. We were racking up quite a day list!

Further along, a group of WILD TURKEYS strutted away from the road:

And we were treated to some of the best looks at a pair of YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS we had ever had:

One minute after we were talking about a place where we could possibly find Bell's Vireos, I heard a very warbly song alongside the road and the car stopped. Amazingly, it was a BELL'S VIREO! This was a life bird for Jonathan.

This BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON flew over, our only one of the day:

At Willow Slough, we parked near a dike in search of Marsh Wrens and Virginia Rails. Sure enough, we heard the MARSH WRENS fairly easily and spotted this Beaver swimming away from us:

Unfortunately, we never got a Virginia Rail.

Next, we headed to an intersection where Upland Sandpipers have been reported, which would be a life bird or both of us, as well as Western Meadowlarks, which would be a life bird for Jonathan.

On the way there, we found this PECTORAL SANDPIPER, thanks to Jonathan's dad for pointing it out:

Once we arrived at the rural intersection in the middle of nowhere where the sandpiper & meadowlark had been reported, Jonathan's camera unfortunately died.

Soon enough, an UPLAND SANDPIPER flew over, singing its telltale "wolf whistle!" It was a life bird for both of us! This is a very rare and declining species, so we were thrilled to find it.

It landed far away, here is a distant photo of it:

Then, we heard a pleasingly melodic song and after spotting this squat yellow bird on a nearby wire, Jonathan had his life bird WESTERN MEADOWLARK, a needle-in-a-haystack find among so many Eastern Meadowlarks we had on Friday! This was also a neat find for me because I have never seen one outside of Idaho, and they are quite uncommon east of the Mississippi River.

After dinner at a good restaurant in a little town called Brook, we went out birding again and spotted these PURPLE MARTINS:

Returning to the same intersection, we heard the Upland Sandpiper again and were once more treated to great looks at the Western Meadowlark. The sunset was phenomenal:

Then, we headed over to Willow Slough to see if we could find Whip-poor-Will, owls, and any nocturnal animals. We saw a family of raccoons in a dead snag:

And we soon came to a place where at least six or seven EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILLS were calling all around us. It was an ethereal experience, and we even spotted one bird's "eye-shine" (when illuminated by our flashlight) on the road ahead of us:

Cruising slowly down the roads of Willow Slough, we also observed two opossums, a mother Common Snapping Turtle laying eggs, at least forty Bullfrogs were calling at one spot, and we heard two calling BARRED OWLS. It was a very cool nocturnal birding session.

Thanks so much to Jonathan's dad, Ed, for extending our birding time and driving the entire day! We did at least eight hours of birding, and picked up nearly ninety species overall, and Jonathan found six life birds while I found two.

Bird-of-the-day for me will be a tie between my two life birds, the Kentucky Warbler and the Upland Sandpiper. Runners-up go to the mating Lark Sparrows and the super-cool Eastern Whip-poor-Wills at night. It was one of the best days of birding so far this year!


After returning home around midnight after owling, I woke up less than seven hours later to lead a morning bird walk at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve. It was a well-attended walk and we saw quite a few birds - overall, it was very enjoyable.

We started off the day with this commonly-heard but rarely-seen WARBLING VIREO:



Flyover GREAT EGRET, a nice find for Miller Meadows:







And a nice White-tailed Deer poked its head above the weeds toward the end of the walk:

It was a good morning of birding! Bird-of-the-day for Saturday goes to the male Bobolink, which displayed his lark-like song & flight pattern right over our heads. Runner-up to the flyover Great Egret, a nice surprise.

It was a fantastic three days of summer birding, only made better by beautiful weather! It is so nice that school is over, oh my gosh I was so busy this past year and now it is finally summer!

Good birding,

World Life List: 887 Species (2 life birds on Friday: Kentucky Warbler & Upland Sandpiper)

Posted by skwclar 15:15 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes people children trees animals birds sky night trains Comments (3)

Miller Meadows Bird Walk & Columbus Park

all seasons in one day 82 °F

Today, I led a bird walk at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve in Maywood, IL and then did a bit of birding in Columbus Park, IL.

Eight birders showed up for the bird walk, which turned out to be quite productive. The best non-photographed bird we had was a pair of YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS, a great species, that simply moved through the vegetation too quickly for photos.

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER at the beginning of the walk:






One of at least six GREAT BLUE HERONS seen on the walk:


First-year male ORCHARD ORIOLE, a nice find:

It was a great walk! Here is the full species list for the walk:

38 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 5
Wood Duck 2
Great Blue Heron 6 Conservative count, probably 7 or 8. Two birds were seen perched in the trees on the edge of the north meadow and the others were all flyovers.
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Ring-billed Gull 20
Mourning Dove 4
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 2 Seen briefly in some small trees on the east side of the meadows.
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 2
Warbling Vireo 3
Blue Jay 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3
Tree Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 4
House Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
American Robin 15
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 2
Common Yellowthroat 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Savannah Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 5
Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 1
Dickcissel 3
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Eastern Meadowlark 4
Common Grackle 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
blackbird sp. 2
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 1

Following the walk, Aerin Tedesco and I birded Columbus Park where it was overall quiet but nice to get out for a walk on a nice summer morning.

There were a few birds; however, including this EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE:

And a good number of WOOD DUCKS:

Thanks to Aerin Tedesco for giving me a ride home from the birding.

Bird-of-the-day for today goes to the first-year male Orchard Oriole identified first by Aerin at Miller Meadows. Usually the Yellow-billed Cuckoo would get bird-of-the-day, but they wil have to settle for runner-up since they didn't allow for photographs!

The next Miller Meadows bird walks will both take place at 8:00am on June 4 & June 25 - meet at the west parking lot off of 1st Ave.

Good birding,

World Life List: 885 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 21:12 Archived in USA Tagged me lakes people trees animals birds sky Comments (0)

Piping Plover, Part 2!

sunny 76 °F

Today, the last day of my Memorial Day weekend in Michigan with my aunt Mary and uncle Mory, my uncle and I drove to Muskegon State Park again in hopes of getting more photos of the Piping Plovers nesting on the beach.

We saw a deer on the drive there:

Once we arrived, we found the nest of PIPING PLOVERS we had found on Saturday; however, we also found a second nest nearby due to the tip of a worker there. Thanks! The second nest had two adult birds and at least three speckled eggs (that I could see).

Then, we had an amazing photo shoot with foraging adult plovers on the beach. Here is my uncle Mory with his camera. The beach was absolutely beautiful.

Here are my photos, enjoy!

Bird-of-the-day goes to the beautifully cooperative Piping Plovers, a threatened species, as we saw a total of three adult birds and at least five eggs amongst the two nests. Very cool!

The full species list from Muskegon State Park is attached below.

Stay tuned, I am leading a bird walk at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve tomorrow!

Good birding,

World Life List: 885 Species (no recent life birds)

22 species (+2 other taxa)

Mute Swan 1 Flyover
Double-crested Cormorant 6
Piping Plover 3 One nest with 2 adults & at least 3 eggs; one nest with only 1 adult and at least 2 eggs.
Killdeer 1
Ring-billed Gull 9
Herring Gull 1
tern sp. 2 Probably Caspian.
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 1
Tree Swallow 1
Bank Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 2
swallow sp. 4
American Redstart 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 1

Posted by skwclar 10:16 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes beaches people trees animals birds sky Comments (0)


semi-overcast 80 °F

Today I birded with my Uncle Mory at the Allegan State Game Area in southwest Michigan in search of a few target warblers. We were hoping to find Cerulean, Prothonotary, Hooded, and Blue-winged Warblers, with our main goal being a prospective life bird for both of us - the Worm-eating Warbler.

We found this INDIGO BUNTING near the beginning of the trail where we would search for the warblers.

We ended up seeing or hearing all of our target warbler species except for the Prothonotary; however, they were all extremely, let me repeat - extremely, uncooperative and allowed for fleeting glimpses at the most.

The only photo I obtained of the main target bird of the day, the Worm-eating Warbler, was this terrible one. And the only reason why I got this photo is because I had to creep around through the dense thorns and briars, on a 45-degree angle wooded hillside, for twenty minutes. In the process, I got a few scratches, picked up a tick (what a nasty creature!), obtained this miserable photo of the bird, and became very frustrated and hot!

It was actually productive, yet frustrating, birding. I identified many birds by ear, including goodies such as BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, and even YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, yet I failed to see any of these - and this was the case for many more birds today, as well.

Later in the evening because my uncle and I were in Grand Rapids for a wedding reception, we searched for a pair of PEREGRINE FALCONS that are nesting downtown. At one point, one falcon flew over us; however, it soon flew out of sight and we were never able to obtain any photographs.

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Indigo Bunting, with no awards to the annoying warblers. Runner-up to the Peregrine Falcon. The full list can be found below. It was a good day of birding, but the birds were just not very cooperative!

Thanks to my Uncle Mory for driving and birding with me today!

World Life List: 885 Species (1 life bird today: Worm-eating Warbler)

Posted by skwclar 20:07 Archived in USA Tagged me people trees animals birds Comments (0)

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