A Travellerspoint blog

Palos Preserves with Tian

Cook County, IL

semi-overcast 40 °F

Today I was fed up with being quarantined in the house so Tian and I drove the car in order to partake in the one self-isolation-friendly hobby out there: birding!! (have I mentioned I’m an introvert?) My main target bird for the day was Pileated Woodpecker — I have never photographed one of these birds in Cook County well enough for my taste. It would be a long-shot since, similar to their extinct cousin the Ivory-billed, they need large tracts of forest and therefore cover extensive ranges, making them tricky to find. Probably the most reliable location for this species in Cook County is Cap Sauer Holding Forest Preserve, which was our first stop. As we pulled up, a male EASTERN BLUEBIRD served absolutely crushing looks on a wire overhead. Awesome!

Then it and a seemingly paired-up female bird moved into the woods, where I believe they were investigating possible nesting sites. Great to see!

A good sign: many woodpeckers were present, including RED-BELLIED:


Searching for the Pileated from a fallen log spanning a ravine. Tian opted to ford the ravine instead of cross the log.


And just as we were about to give up on the Pileated, I taped its call from iBird Pro and sure enough, a giant male PILEATED WOODPECKER flew in, agitated! Taping was extremely limited so as not to further disturb the bird (extensive taping, such as that used by the infamous Birding Bob in NYC, overstresses the birds and can unnecessarily distract them from foraging or resting).

What a cool-looking, prehistoric bird! This is a male given its red mustache and complete red crown.

On the way out of the preserve, I spotted a few distant RING-NECKED DUCKS in the neighboring Bergman Slough:

Then, as we continued down Ford Rd, I spotted another Pileated — a female this time! I believe this is the first time I have gained relatively-close views of a female bird, differentiated from the male by its black mustache and partial crown. Awesome — a good sign for breeding in this large oak forest.

Next stop: McGinnis Slough for waterfowl. A bad sign was this immature BALD EAGLE which I saw (unsuccessfully) swoop down to the water at one point.

Also in the raptor department, a beautiful close flyby RED-TAILED HAWK:

Probably due to the raptors, the waterfowl stayed extremely distant with the bulk of the closer ducks being the more common MALLARDS and NORTHERN SHOVELERS such as this male:


Diving ducks such as more Ring-necks and even a few CANVASBACK were present but too far out for any discernible photographs.

Next stop was Saganashkee Slough where I found the two “winter” merganser species, RED-BREASTED:


On the way back home, we searched for Wilson’s Snipe at Miller Meadow but unfortunately came up empty. I did have my FOY (first of year) KILLDEER though!

So, a GREAT day! Bird-of-the-day to the Pileated Woodpecker. Runner-up to those distant Canvasbacks. Both species are very high-quality birds for Cook County!! Please continue to keep healthy everyone :)

Good birding,
World Life List: 1111 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:16 Archived in USA

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