Today, my family, Tian, and I drove to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in search of birds, and Illinois’ one herd of American Bison. Target breeding birds for Midewin include Ring-necked Pheasant, Bell’s Vireo, all the grassland sparrows, Northern Mockingbird, Western Meadowlark, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Loggerhead Shrike, among others.
We started at the trailhead off of River Road which, I believe since it was the earliest part of our morning trip, held the greatest number of birds of any of our stops. A female BALTIMORE ORIOLE was there to greet us:
But soon the smaller ORCHARD ORIOLES proved themselves to be more common than the Balts:
Sub-adult male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK:
And my best bird, by far, was a singing YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT that I tracked down with my dad. A great breeding bird for the area and just a beautiful species in general.
A nice surprise on the way back to the car included a WILD TURKEY that we flushed and it proceeded to trot down the trail, away from us. Very cool!
A heard-only target bird on that trail was BELL’S VIREO.
Next stop: Explosives Road. Upon crossing the train tracks, we pulled off to the side of the road and I immediately picked up a good heard-only species, GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, and an exceptional heard-only: WESTERN MEADOWLARK, my first for Illinois! Its song is significantly more convoluted and melodic than the Eastern’s and, to a discerning ear, distinctly different.
We were afforded great views of DICKCISSELS alongside the road:
This HOUSE WREN was missing its tail:
And we got a beautiful look at this male INDIGO BUNTING.
At the third stop, Iron Bridge Trailhead, it was nice to see a BOBOLINK:
Then, we saw ‘em! At first — just six!
And soon, we counted a total of over thirty-seven American Bison in Illinois’ only (heavily-monitored) wild herd of these beasts.
So cool! Plus, we were treated to another classic staple of the prairie, EASTERN MEADOWLARK, on the way out.
Tian and the family posing for a quick photo.
My last stop at the Hoff Rd Trailhead was quiet apart from two calling YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS and this single CHIPPING SPARROW:
Later today, I led a bird walk through the neighborhood where we were surprised to find a wonderful lingering migrant species: SCARLET TANAGER! In fact, it was our only (definitive) migrant passerine of the walk.
This RED-EYED VIREO was present but it’s probably a resident as they breed in Oak Park annually in medium numbers.
Another nice find was about fourteen CEDAR WAXWINGS.
Probably the best avian observation on the bird walk was a heard-only observation of a SORA whinnying from the tiny fen in Taylor Park! So cool to get this rail in my “local patch” — my first ever!
And we spotted the female COOPER’S HAWK barely peeking her head up above the nest! Hopefully, she has success!
Bird-of-the-day to the Yellow-breasted Chat & Wild Turkey at Midewin, with runner-up to the Scarlet Tanager & Sora in Oak Park. Stay tuned — tomorrow I lead an Oak Park Bird Walk at Miller Meadow Forest Preserve!
World Life List: 1115 Species