A Travellerspoint blog

Grant Park & Plum Creek Forest Preserve

Cook County, IL

overcast 59 °F

Today, upon waking up, I got a notification on the “Cook County Notables” groupchat that two Prairie Warblers, a semi-annual vagrant to the Chicago, had shown up in Grant Park, downtown! Since this was a warbler species I was not expecting to get, and one I could add to my ever-growing spring warbler list, I knew I had to chase it even though it was a long shot (the observation was from 6:15am and I woke up at 7:30am).

Upon hearing that my friend Isoo was chasing the bird too, though, my hopes were raised as I combed through Millennium and Grant Parks, searching for flocks of warblers that might be containing a Prairie or two. I arrived to the appointed location (Grant Park along Columbus Drive a bit north of Roosevelt), met Isoo, and accordingly, we ran into some very nice warbler flocks. One particularly obliging bird was this stunning CAPE MAY WARBLER, one of my favorites:

And I was able to get my best shot ever of a LEAST FLYCATCHER:


Then, I heard a distant, rising “zee zee zee zee zee zee zee zee zee!” and I told Isoo, “dude I think I might have just heard it.” So, we started walking in the direction of the song and stopped in our tracks when the buzzy song repeated again. Isoo shouted, “THAT’S IT!” and, incredulously, we sprinted towards the grove of trees which was likely hosting the bird.

And there it was. Team Isoo - Henry strikes again. PRAIRIE WARBLER! We really thought we weren’t gonna get this one (like we did with the Whip-poor-will), but we GOT IT! Incredible!!!!!! Illinois life bird and a great addition to my spring warbler list. (I’ve seen this species in New York and in warmer climates like Florida & the Caribbean. This species nests in Illinois, but in points much further south)

AMAZING! So, I headed back to the car and decided to drive down to Plum Creek Forest Preserve for more birding and herping for salamanders. As soon as I arrived at the preserve, I heard a “sweet-dichety!” and sure enough, spished out this lovely male CANADA WARBLER — another new warbler for the spring for me, and quite the stunner!

BARN SWALLOW in the play meadow field. I also had two singing HENSLOW’S SPARROWS there.

Then, I headed into the oak woodland where before today, I have flushed up BARRED OWLS but never managed to have seen one sitting at this preserve till today! Well, today was my day with this sweet, obliging individual! Awesome — any time spent with owls is a special time indeed.

And, as the ground was extremely moist following the huge rains yesterday, I had the luck of the Irish with salamanders. I found 21 in total including my first-ever Unisexual Mole Salamanders (meaning they can reproduce on their own and they are all females). TOO COOL! They are separated from the other resident Mole salamander, the Blue-spotted, by their larger size, less-dainty shape, and much more uniform black color.

Here is a Blue-spotted from today for comparison. I couldn’t believe my luck in finding these super cool creatures.

These six were all under the same log! INSANE! All logs and sals placed back to original positions, as they should be.

Other amphibians were out and about today too, including an American a Toad and this unidentified frog — anybody got an ID for me?

Back to birds — the warblers were in CRAZY numbers at Plum Creek. For example, I counted 18 BLACK-THROATED GREENS. Here is a female BLACKPOLL with one of her cool identifying marks: bright orange feet!

And the male for comparison:

Second-year male BLACK-THROATED BLUE:

Female GOLDEN-WINGED, awesome!

And a preening BLUE-WINGED — look at those white tail feathers:






TUFTED TITMOUSE, an inner-woods specialty species at Plum Creek:

And before calling it a day, I spotted a warbler very low to the ground and given its gray head and incomplete eye-ring, I was looking at my first MOURNING WARBLER of the spring! So with the Prairie, Canada, and Mourning, I only have one more warbler to track down this spring: the elusive Connecticut! My warbler list for the spring is attached below.

What an incredible day! Prairie Warbler at Grant Park, 68 bird species & 21 salamanders (individuals) at Plum Creek makes for a whopper of a fun outing. Bird-of-the-day to the Prairie with runners-up to the Canada Warbler & Barred Owl. Great stuff!

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1115 Species

Spring 2020 warbler list: 35/36 so far

1. Ovenbird: Washington Park, May 1
2. Worm-eating Warbler BONUS RARITY: North Pond, April 28
3. Louisiana Waterthrush: DuPage County, April 4
4. Northern Waterhthrush: North Pond, April 28
5. Golden-winged Warbler: Thatcher Woods, May 11
6. Blue-winged Warbler: Washington Park, May 1
7. Black-and-White Warbler: North Pond, April 28
8. Prothonotary Warbler: Mihiel Woods East, May 9
9. Tennessee Warbler: Jackson Park, May 2
10. Orange-crowned Warbler: Oak Park alley, April 24
11. Nashville Warbler: Hegewisch Marsh, April 27
12. Connecticut Warbler
13. Mourning Warbler: Plum Creek Forest Preserve, May 18
14. Kentucky Warbler: Mihiel Woods East, May 9
15. Common Yellowthroat: North Pond, April 28
16. Hooded Warbler: LaBagh Woods, May 14
17. American Redstart: Jackson Park, May 2
18. Cape May Warbler: Jackson Park, May 10
19. Cerulean Warbler: Lyman Woods, May 3
20. Northern Parula: GAR Woods, May 3
21. Magnolia Warbler: North Pond, May 2
22. Bay-breasted Warbler: 515 N Elmwood Ave, May 14
23. Blackburnian Warbler: North Pond, May 2
24. Yellow Warbler: Jackson Park, May 2
25. Chestnut-sided Warbler: Jackson Park, May 10
26. Blackpoll Warbler: Jackson Park, May 10
27. Black-throated Blue Warbler: LaBagh Woods, May 10
28. Palm Warbler: Big Marsh, April 27
29. Pine Warbler: Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, April 18
30. Yellow-rumped Warbler: Thatcher Woods, April 4
31. Yellow-throated Warbler: North Pond, May 2
32. Prairie Warbler BONUS RARITY: Grant Park, May 18
33. Townsend’s Warbler BONUS RARITY: Deer Grove Forest Preserve, April 17
34. Black-throated Green Warbler: Gillson Park, April 28
35. Canada Warbler: Plum Creek Forest Preserve, May 18
36. Wilson’s Warbler: GAR Woods, May 11
Bonus: Brewster’s Warbler (Golden-winged X Blue-winged: LaBagh Woods, May 10

Posted by skwclar 21:57 Archived in USA

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All I can say is WOWZA!!!

by Poo

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