A Travellerspoint blog

A Fantastic Week of Fall Birding!

sunny 79 °F

Although I was very busy with school and my choir this week, I actually managed a decent amount of birding, also, taking advantage of this being the heart of fall songbird migration.

Wednesday morning was a "late arrival" morning for my high school, so I met up with local birder Jill Anderson and we birded the nearby Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve from 7:00am to 9:00am.

The most productive area was the forest edge on the western edge of the soccer field north of Chicago Avenue. When we arrived, the first sun rays of the morning were illuminating the trees, which were in turn magically active with dozens upon dozens of migrant warblers and vireos.

Beautiful BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS, such as this cooperative specimen, were pleasantly common:

BLACKPOLL WARBLERS like this one were also fairly prevalent:

And although obscured by a leaf, this CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER'S sides still showed chestnut! (usually the chestnut completely disappears in the fall)

A couple of MAGNOLIA WARBLERS like this one foraged frenetically in the trees at about eye level.

Although only a quick and blurry look, this was my first BLUE-HEADED VIREO of 2015 that Jill pointed out to me:

Along with a few unphotographed RED-EYED VIREOS, this uncommon PHILADELPHIA VIREO made for a vireo trifecta!

At one point, a HUGE walking stick bug literally appeared out of nowhere, perched on my shirt! Jill said she didn't mind, so I moved it to her shoulder and snapped a picture.

While walking to the parking lot, I suddenly spotted this amazingly cooperative BAY-BREASTED WARBLER that was foraging on the ROAD only 10 feet in front of us!

This perched TURKEY VULTURE ended our fantastic outing at Thatcher Woods:

Here is the list for the Thatcher Woods trip on Wednesday:

33 species

Mallard 12
Turkey Vulture 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 8
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 16
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Philadelphia Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 3
Blue Jay 10
Black-capped Chickadee 6
White-breasted Nuthatch 4
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1
Swainson's Thrush 8
American Robin 5
Black-and-white Warbler 4
Nashville Warbler 4
Common Yellowthroat 1
American Redstart 6
Magnolia Warbler 4
Bay-breasted Warbler 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 17
Scarlet Tanager 1
Northern Cardinal 2
American Goldfinch 1

Later that day (Wednesday), my family decided that after school we would have a family biking outing to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. While my mom, dad, and sister biked together, I did a birding bike ride and found some nice things...


I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the characteristic call of a BARRED OWL: "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for yooooou?!"

Three times before this, I have heard Barred Owls on various birding outings, but I have never actually seen one...so I was determined to see it! I started replicating the call with my voice (being a singer goes hand in hand with being a birder!), and after my voice was hoarse from owl-calling, a medium-sized raptor soared through the mid-canopy of the deciduous forest above me. With my excitement mounting, I moved around, straining my neck in desperation, and laid eyes on the beautiful, jet-black eyes of the first Barred Owl I have ever seen!

It was SO cooperative and it even flew to a more photogenic perch:

Bird-of-the-day for Wednesday obviously goes to the fantastic BARRED OWL, the first one I have ever seen! (but not a life bird because I had heard it calling before). Runner-up to the super-cooperative BAY-BREASTED WARBLER at Thatcher Woods with Jill Anderson. Here is the full species list for my birding trip to the Morton Arboretum:

27 species

Canada Goose 10
Mallard 1
Double-crested Cormorant 1 Flyover
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) X
Mourning Dove 4
Barred Owl 1 Called numerous times. Obtained good photos & video of it calling. Seen VERY well!
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee 4
Blue Jay 2
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin 5
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Bay-breasted Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Chipping Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 4
Northern Cardinal 2
American Goldfinch 1

Before school on Thursday, I noticed some activity in the elm trees ringing my backyard, and I found some nice migrant birds:

This male NORTHERN PARULA, the first of fall for me, is a beautiful and uncommon warbler for Oak Park:

This BAY-BREASTED WARBLER was nice even though I only managed this terrible photo of it very high in an elm:

Also, I obtained a terrible photo of my first RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET of fall:

Bird-of-the-day Thursday to the male NORTHERN PARULA. Here is the short list for the short time I was birding that day:

12 species

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) X
Chimney Swift 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Northern Parula 1
Bay-breasted Warbler 1
Northern Cardinal X
House Finch 1
House Sparrow 10

Today (Saturday, September 26) I attended an Illinois Young Birders' Club field trip to Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary on the north side of Chicago from 7:00am to 8:45am. Thanks to my dad for driving me there.

It was a large group of young birders and parents. I felt weird taking photos of the group, so I decided to get creative as we birded Montrose Beach:

Among the many RING-BILLED GULLS, we found two HERRING GULLS including this immature bird who was feasting on this dead fish:

This COOPER'S HAWK was a bad sign for smaller birds; however, thankfully it didn't get too close:

At one point, a group of SANDERLINGS flew in. I obtained a rather comedic photo of this one individual:

What it looks like when not "dancing:"

We also came upon a group of four BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, a species I have only seen once before (also at Montrose Beach, and in late September). This species loses their namesake black-bellied breeding plumage in the fall:

Because I had to leave early, I split off from the group and birded the Magic Hedge before I departed. It was fairly active, and their were a few pockets of warblers and sparrows such as this MAGNOLIA WARBLER:



Female YELLOW-RUMPED "Myrtle race" WARBLER. This was the most common warbler:

Nonbreeding-plumage female BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER:

The small water feature at the Magic Hedge always attracts some nice migrants and it is great for close photos. Here is a male TENNESSEE WARBLER bathing:


And finally, here is a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER bathing:

It was a fantastic outing. Bird-of-the-day to the bathing BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER and runner-up to the BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS. The full species list for the Montrose Point trip is below:

38 species (+2 other taxa)

Canada Goose 5
Mallard 2
Double-crested Cormorant 5
Osprey 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Black-bellied Plover 4
Killdeer 6
Sanderling 3
Ring-billed Gull 50
Herring Gull 2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 15
Chimney Swift 200
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Empidonax sp. 1
American Crow 4
Black-capped Chickadee 6
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 1
European Starling 5
Northern Waterthrush 2
Tennessee Warbler 2
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 2
American Redstart 2
Cape May Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 10
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
Wilson's Warbler 1
White-crowned Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 4
Song Sparrow 1
sparrow sp. 1
Northern Cardinal 4
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 10

So in summary, it was a fantastic week with a surprsing amount of very productive birding! Bird-of-the-week goes to the BARRED OWL at the Morton Arboretum on Wednesday and runner-up to the NORTHERN PARULA in my yard on Thursday. The sheer diversity of birds in migration is astounding, isn't it?

Stay tuned, because tomorrow I will be leading a private bird walk for the group with which I traveled to Costa Rica this past summer! Speaking of bird walks, I have a couple openings in some upcoming Oak Park Bird Walks:

Sunday, October 4 @ 8am - 1 more spot
Sunday, October 11 @ 8am - 1 more spot

Email me at [email protected] to reserve one or both spots. For more information on Oak Park Bird Walks, please visit:

Good birding,

World Life List: 865 Species (no recent life birds)
ilmigration.blogspot.com (bird migration forecast blog)
sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/ (Oak Park Bird Walks)

Posted by skwclar 16:18 Archived in USA Tagged me lakes beaches people children birds

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Great birding!! Loved your barred owl sighting. Phenomenal!

by The Gunkels

Thanks Henry for another great post...especially loved your barred owl story!

by katie

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