A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey day in March?

Cook County, IL

semi-overcast 50 °F

A good showing of raptors from the neighborhood early this afternoon inspired me to get out further afield in the early evening.

On my midday walk with Tian, two immature COOPER’S HAWKS shot over like rockets at one point. Note the bright white rump:

Then, I heard the piercing cry of a Buteo and looked up to see an immature RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, a first sighting of this species in Oak Park for me!!! Awesome! I suspect that, unless this is a migrant, it is the immature bird I saw at Columbus Park the other day. I wouldn’t be surprised if that hawk ranges far into Oak Park since Columbus borders Oak Park.

Later, I caught wind of a gaggle of Wild Turkeys at Glenwood Woods Forest Preserve in southern Cook County. So, of course I hopped in the car and made the hour-long drive south in hopes of finding my first Cook County Turkey. When I arrived, it was fairly birdy but the birds were flighty. So, songbird-wise, I only ended up getting a photo of this HERMIT THRUSH, probably a recent arrival:

I spent a good while looking but unfortunately failed to find the Turkeys. Shucks! It was a shame because these had just been seen by others just two hours prior. Probably the nearby fast-moving freight trains didn’t help my situation. I couldn’t stay overly long because I had parked the car in a pull-off that didn’t quite official (if you know what I mean ;))

So, since I had already made the long drive, I set my hopes on a nearby hotspot called Zander Woods recently visited by my friend Isoo O’Brien where I was hoping to find some specialty woodland birds at the preserve. I arrived and immediately flushed up a sparrow flock which of course included SONG:

And some gorgeous FOX:

And this FIELD:

As I had hoped, RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS abounded! It was perfect habitat for them: open oak savanna. Nice! Birders love oak savanna.


White-tailed Deer:

I had a nice hawk trifecta including a RED-TAILED, a calling RED-SHOULDERED (another species I was hoping to find down here, yay!) and this tiny SHARP-SHINNED which sat briefly between terrorizing the forest birds. Awesome! My first “Sharpie” of the year!

Across the road on Wampum Lake, I was stoked to find a mixed raft of AMERICAN COOT, PIED-BILLED & HORNED GREBES — this is the first time in a long time I can recall seeing Horned Grebes in their breeding plumage! Awesome!

RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS with CANADA GEESE in the background, and the blob in the foreground is a TREE SWALLOW, believe it or not!

Bird-of-the-day to the Oak Park Red-shouldered Hawk and runner-up to the Sharp-shinned Hawk & Red-headed Woodpeckers at Zander Woods. No awards to the missing Turkeys, but it was still a great day! And it was particularly nice to get out of this depressing quarantine. The cases everywhere, including here in Illinois, are multiplying by an exponential scale — things are not looking good.

STAY SAFE and good socially-distant birding,
World Life List: 1111 Species

Posted by skwclar 18:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New yard bird!

Oak Park, IL

rain 48 °F

My “alarm clock” this saturday AM: a wonderful male FOX SPARROW! New yard bird for me!! I immediately ran downstairs & outside, and snapped these pics:

Its sparrow-family relative the DARK-EYED JUNCO was also present. At this point, it is probably a migrant junco from points further south rather than one of the birds that overwintered in the area.

Bird-of-the-day to the Fox Sparrow! Now for my rant-of-the-day: although they will probably never read this, I just needed to write down somewhere how thankful I am towards our essential workers: firefighters, policemen and women, our armed forces, sanitation workers, anyone with medical-related professions, and anyone out there risking their lives for the right thing. How absolutely brave, patriotic, and giving of you to be out there, working for others, during a time of such danger. Furthermore, I am extremely ashamed to live in a country where for weeks, not only the president, but many other government leaders downplayed the threat of Coronavirus. This is the SAME treatment they give about our climate — not giving a damn! As an American, a Christian, a birder, and a human being, I am so incredibly disgusted. What filth. How dare it take thousands of American deaths for some politicians to wake up to the need to fight this virus with all of our might. I shall say we should take China as a good example of (of course not perfect, but) a fast, aggressive, continuous response to the epidemic. Please, I beg of you, do ANYTHING to slow the spread of this nasty bug: social distancing as well as common-sense ways of avoiding germs.

Good birding. And PLEASE, stay safe!!!
World Life List: 1111 Species

Posted by skwclar 15:43 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Quick glimpses of many birds!

Thatcher Woods, IL

overcast 46 °F

After checking the forecast for tomorrow, I saw that it would be quite stormy so I decided to get out before classes today. I decided to head somewhere close: Thatcher Woods.

Some mammalian life in my backyard before leaving — Eastern Cottontail, native around here (they are invasive in some parts of the continent):

Eastern Chipmunk — these mammals have, in the last decade, made a huge insurgence into Oak Park.

Upon arriving at Thatcher, I immediately noticed that many birds were around. Here is a HAIRY WOODPECKER:

But, as the title of this post suggests, so many of the birds I saw today only allowed for quick looks! They were busy foraging before the rains arrived this afternoon, I think.


COMMON GRACKLE. Unfortunately I once again failed to find any Rusty Blackbirds.

Many FOX SPARROWS were singing around the preserve, but not a single one allowed for a decent picture! Thatcher Woods is where I remember getting my life bird Fox Sparrow a number of years ago.

Then, all the sudden I flushed a huge GREAT HORNED OWL which flew over the Des Plaines River and into a thick grove of trees, out of sight. Dang! I tried hooting a few times, but it was to no avail — no photos.

There were a few WOOD DUCKS on the river though, nice to see:


Then, I heard a familiar, tingling song and sure enough there was a beautiful BROWN CREEPER!

Another nice singer in the area which was a CAROLINA WREN which was a great surprise since this species is actually quite uncommon this far north in Cook County. This is the first time I’ve ever had this species in Thatcher Woods. Again, no photos — disappointing!


The COOPER’S HAWK is also active on “birdy” mornings of course!

Off to hunt!

Then, I drove over to the northern parking lot where I found my first-of-the-year KILLDEER on the lawn:

In fact, there were three:


Nice DARK-EYED JUNCO. We probably have a little less than a month left of admiring these winter birds now. Bring it on, migration!

One unsettling sight was a couple of young adults for whom I stepped to the side to give a proper “social distance” and they continued to plow through the center of the path, causing me to traipse into some bushes to avoid contact with them. So inconsiderate! Why can’t you just step to the opposite side of the trail to be “better safe than sorry?” Some people just don’t care, unfortunately — that’s why it’s up to us to be as careful as possible with regards to how we lead our lives as to not spread the Coronavirus. Stay safe everyone!

Bird-of-the-day to the Carolina Wren with runner-up to the Great Horned Owl.

Good anti-social birding,
World Life List: 1111 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:08 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Snooping Around for Snipes

Miller Meadow Forest Preserve, IL

semi-overcast 28 °F

Thanks to a tip from my friend Jill Anderson, Tian and I headed to Miller Meadow Forest Preserve in Hines, IL to look for Wilson’s Snipe which have been seen in the marshy grassland there the last few days. Upon arrival, I spotted my “spark bird” which first got me interested in birding: COOPER’S HAWK:

Then, I pointed out an opossum to Tian which she found extremely cool.

We even tracked it all the way to its den which was in a large man-made depression in the ground. Awesome!

I hope this RED-TAILED HAWK doesn’t find it though:




Sure enough, I soon flushed a total of eight WILSON’S SNIPE in the marsh Jill said they were in! These guys are nearly impossible to photograph at most times due to their affinity for tallgrass marshes and their tendency to fly away as fast as they can as soon as they sense your presence. Unlike the Woodcock at Montrose yesterday (which happen to be an extremely similar species), I was able to snap a couple recognizable shots of these birds in flight. Bird-of-the-day! Thanks for the heads-up, Jill.

Stay tuned — this is just the beginning trickle of spring migration. It just gets better and better as the temperatures warm up! (and hopefully the virus will, too)

Good birding,
World Life List: 1111 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:07 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Merganser Trifecta

Chicago, IL

overcast 34 °F

March is probably my least favorite month for birding. None of the “fun” summer birds have arrived on breeding grounds yet, and migration is nothing apart from waterfowl over Lake Michigan (best seen with a scope, which I don’t have). Because I would otherwise go stir-crazy though, I just had to get out, despite the relative lack of interesting bird sightings being reported in the area. Today I covered Columbus Park just outside Oak Park in search of two Red-shouldered Hawks that have been tracked there by renowned birder Eric Gyllenhaal. Afterwards, I drove to Montrose Point to see if I could pick up any of the migrating ducks offshore, as well as hopefully find a few Woodcocks and a Long-tailed Duck which have recently been seen in the area.

This HAIRY WOODPECKER greeted me right when I left the house — always a nice find for the backyard:

As you can see, after thirty minutes of searching at Columbus Park, I did find this immature-type RED-SHOULDERED HAWK seemingly carrying nesting material. Interesting!

Other than that Columbus was quiet. So, I continued on to Montrose where this RED-BREASTED MERGANSER was floating in the harbor.

Others were migrating offshore:

As well as their cousin the COMMON MERGANSER:

And the HOODED MERGANSER, a bit of a surprise, completed an unexpected “merganser trifecta” for the day: all three types!!

Other ducks were flying by, including NORTHERN SHOVELERS:


Unfortunately, I missed the Long-tailed Duck and White-winged Scoters I was hoping to see — these sea ducks are definitely less common here than out east in NY.

In the sparrow department, I had SONG:


And a nice, but shy FOX:

Several times I flushed a couple AMERICAN WOODCOCKS from the hedge areas but, infuriatingly, they were much less-cooperative than the super-tame ones in Bryant Park, NYC — never allowing for photos.

On the way out, I made one final attempt for the Long-tailed Duck in the harbor, but all I could turn up were HORNED GREBES, including this individual:

Bird-of-the-day to the Red-shouldered Hawk with runners-up to the three Merganser species! Stay tuned: more birding will definitely follow in this crazy quarantine.

Good birding,
World Life List: 1111 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:46 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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