A Travellerspoint blog

Three target birds

DuPage County, IL

overcast 37 °F

Today, I set out west to DuPage County by car in search of three primary target birds: a vagrant Eared Grebe that has recently been discovered at the main lake at West Branch Forest Preserve out in West Chicago, a Louisiana Waterthrush that was found just earlier this morning at a high school retention pond in Keeneyville, and several Bonaparte’s Gulls which have turned up at a manmade reservoir called Bensenville Ditch (just south of O’Hare Airport). The Grebe would be a new bird for Illinois for me, and the other two are also very quality birds for the area.

NB: Dear all, thank you for all the extremely kind comments. Even if I don’t respond, trust me, I read all of them and greatly appreciate! :)

Apart from driving to the wrong end of the forest preserve at first, I almost immediately spotted the EARED GREBE when I parked at the main lot of the West Branch Forest Preserve. It was also great to meet Anna, the finder of this bird, (from a proper social distance) who had returned to obtain more photos of it. The Eared (right) almost exclusively hung out with the only other grebe present: a brilliantly-plumaged HORNED GREBE. Cool, and so awesome to compare these similar species side-by-side:

And of course a solo shot of the brilliant HORNED, which unlike its Eared Cousin, is not uncommon — still incredibly striking, though:

Next stop: a random high school retention pond in Keeneyville, Illinois where the Waterthrush had been seen earlier this morning. A good sign upon arrival was a high activity of songbirds in the perimeter bushes and trees, including this stunning YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. Nice, a classic harbinger of migration season!

Both Kinglet species were present, including GOLDEN-CROWNED:


And then, I heard it: LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH! I quickly walked over to the other end of the pond from where the song originated and managed to track the bird down among the mixed flock of passerines. Too cool!! My best views I have had of this species, possibly ever.

On to my next stop — Bensenville Ditch for Bonaparte’s Gulls. I arrived and immediately saw a few birds loafing around on the reservoir including RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS (front) with AMERICAN COOTS (behind):

GREATER SCAUP. Note the clean cut-off between the white sides and gray back which helps to differentiate these guys from Lessers.

COMMON LOON in beautiful breeding plumage:


More coots:

And I was treated to my best views EVER of BONAPARTE’S GULLS in all different stages of their plumages! Here is an individual still in nonbreeding plumage.

More of a “transitional” bird with a partially-dark, scruffy-looking head:

And a few beautiful birds with almost-completely dark heads:

The white gulls in the background are also Bonaparte’s. I had six in total, a nice count for the area!

There were also a couple HOODED MERGANSERS present.

After such a successful “sweep” of all three targets, I wanted to continue my streak of lucky birding so I stopped at Thatcher Woods before going home. There were a number of FOX SPARROWS:


A gorgeous pair of WOOD DUCKS — I hope they successfully raise a family in the floodplain this year!


It was a great, great (albeit chilly) day of birding — possibly my favorite since returning back to Chicago. Bird-of-the-day to the Eared Grebe with runners-up to the Louisiana Waterthrush & Bonaparte’s Gulls. Stay tuned, even though these are absolutely crazy, dark times for us humans, spring migration is just starting to ramp up for the birds!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1111 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:54 Archived in USA

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Hi, Henry, are the grebes at the Deep Quarry Lake or Bass Lake at the West Branch Preserve? What time of day did you see them?

by Kris G

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