Thursday 31 July 2014 84 °F
Today I spent my last full day in Illinois before I leave for Idaho by birding Rollins Savanna, a beautiful forest preserve in the far northern suburbs of Chicago that has been attracting some nice southbound migrant shorebirds recently.
It was a long commute--2 hours and 45 minutes, to be exact, from Oak Park, which included a bike ride, an "L" ride, a LONG Metra ride, and a LONG walk to get to the preserve.
It was worth it, though! Rollins Savanna is always a reliably fantastic place for birding and as soon as I stepped inside of the preserve I was picking up new birds left and right.
The mudflats which have been attracting good shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers, phalaropes, etc.) to the preserve, however, are at the opposite end of the 2000-acre preserve and therefore I still had a long walk ahead of me, part of which was tramping through prairie vegetation taller than me--and I'm well over five feet tall!
Some nice birds seen along the way to the mudflats included:
This SEDGE WREN. This species is extremely hard to photograph as they typically lay hidden, skulking in dense prairie vegetation, however, this bird was obliging and, lucky for me, perched nicely for its photo:
This transitional-plumaged BOBOLINK was also a pleasant grassland species seen. Note that in summer they are solid black on the bottom and in the winter they are a solid grayish color all over, so it was nice to see one of these in this funky plumage:
It was a grueling walk through vegetation that was taller than me, in order to get to an optimal viewing spot for the shorebirds. Then, I FINALLY arrived at the mudflats. Oh, the glorious mudflats, how us birders love them so. Or more like we love the shorebirds they harbor in May, July, August, and September, and there were plenty of them around today.
There were ten shorebird species in total, probably about fifty individuals all around. I gained two lifers: SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, which was fairly common on the mudflat today, and this far-off WILSON'S PHALAROPE, which is a very uncommon bird, so it was nice to see and, albeit distantly, photograph:
Some of the other shorebirds included the ones pictured below, such as this nice PECTORAL SANDPIPER:
And this tiny LEAST SANDPIPER (trust me, it is hard to tell from the photo, but this bird is barely any bigger than a goldfinch):
This LESSER YELLOWLEGS was "buzzed" by multiple animals while it was feeding innocently. First, this NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW took issue with the bird:
Then, if you look closely, you will see that the yellowlegs, the bird on the left, is being buzzed by a dragonfly in this photo. The other bird in the photo is a SOLITARY SANDPIPER:
This GREATER YELLOWLEGS was also nearby, watching its "lesser" cousin get bullied by swallows and dragonflies:
On the way back from the mudflats, I found this elegant GREAT EGRET:
And this flashy pair of SANDHILL CRANES:
Then it was another three-hour commute home to top off a fantastic birding excursion.
Stay tuned, because I will leave for my two-week journey to Idaho tomorrow!
Bird-of-the-day to my life bird WILSON'S PHALAROPE, which is quite a rare species. Runner-up to the nice SEDGE WREN who sat up for his photo (for once!).
World Life List: 678 species (2 life birds today: Wilson's Phalarope and Semipalmated Plover)
Full bird species list today:
Great Blue Heron
KING RAIL (heard calling very clearly)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (life bird!)
PECTORAL SANDPIPER (FOS)
WILSON'S PHALAROPE (life bird!)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
SEDGE WREN (very cooperative & it let me take photographs of it)
MARSH WREN (definitely not as cooperative today)