A Travellerspoint blog

First fall bird walk & two days of epic shorebirding

Cook County, IL

all seasons in one day 96 °F

Yesterday I led the first bird walk of “fall” (as songbirds start moving through in mid-August; fall migration is overall a little more thinly-spread than the outrageous push of birds in May). It was the hottest day of the year (later in the day the temperature would flirt with 96F), and we could already feel it on the early morning bird walk. An AMERICAN GOLDFINCH greeted the group on the Purple Coneflowers out front:

Birds proved to be extremely few and far between. We only tallied 16 species for the walk but saw a few other interesting sights such as this cool spider:

And a magnificent Eastern Tiger Swallowtail:

Later in the day, I caught wind that there was a pair of Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the Montrose Beach, so of course I hopped in the car to chase!

I parked along Marine Drive, walked the long, HOT way in, and went straight to the area of the beach where I joined my friends Simon & Peter among others in reveling in a pair of EXTREMELY close BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS! They were so close and tame that they fed within five FEET of us at times at the wall alongside the public beach. I would never expect to get such a killer look at this species which is usually found in Illinois by scoping hundreds of yards out into a rural sod farm.

Just look at that absolutely thrilling plumage — such a crisp, detailed mix of patterns and sandy-brown hues — just a GORGEOUS bird in total! Probably my favorite shorebird.

They briefly flushed along with the other shorebirds in the area, but circled back to land nearby.

A solid bird to find any day, a WILLET!



Here again with the contrasting reddish back of a LEAST SANDPIPER in the background. In this photo you can easily contrast our two most common peeps: Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, which can prove tricky to identify from a distance.

Here’s the Least again:


Simon pointed out this cool Common Thread-waisted Wasp, a lifer insect for me! (though most probably would be, lol!)

And soon enough, the Buffies were back for more crushing views.

Bird-of-the-day yesterday goes to the Buff-breasted Sandpipers with runner-up to the Willet.

Today, I was back out chasing shorebirds again! I had two targets which had been seen at Techny Basin North this morning: Stilt Sandpiper and American Golden-Plover. I arrived to Techny in the one o’clock hour and promptly began scoping out the basin again under the blazing sun of what turned out to be another killer-hot day.

I immediately noticed the presence of a smattering of shorebirds in the muddy basin including this SOLITARY SANDPIPER:

A nice find was this PECTORAL SANDPIPER.

A solid amount of shorebird reshuffling occurred when this RED-TAILED HAWK swooped through.

Then, after a good amount of scoping the flats with my camera, my eyes fell on one of the target birds today: STILT SANDPIPER! Basically a dowitcher with a shorter bill, I was super stoked to get this bird for Cook County this year.

And then along with a KILLDEER, I found the other, rare target for the day: AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER! This is the second time I have seen this species this year, but today was a much better look as the other sighting was in May from the absolute opposite side of the Volbrecht Road Fluddle in southern Cook. Cool birds!

I called it a day and headed home. While I was stopped at a red light on Cumberland Ave though, I got a text from Isoo saying that there was a Wilson’s Phalarope at Montrose. So given the verrrry uncommon nature of this species in Cook County, I made a U-turn, headed back to I-90, and was on my way to Montrose yet again.

After parking quite a ways away and having yet another sweaty walk to the beach, a really nice number of shorebirds were present including this WILLET.


And then, my eyes rested on a sight I will probably never see again: BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (top), RED KNOT (left), my target, the WILSON’S PHALAROPE (right), and LESSER YELLOWLEGS (bottom). INCREDIBLE! The first three species are extremely uncommon for the area so I was just stoked to see them all foraging together.

And some close-ups of the target phalarope! Victory — 3/3 targets today!!!

And one of the continuing RED KNOT from last week (!). These shorebirds would never stick this long if it was a regular year and the beach was open!

And more shots of the continuing BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS!!! Another example of an extremely uncommon species that would be a touch-and-go sighting if it was any other year.

Here it is with a preening KILLDEER.

And a couple of SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS to wrap it up.

Bird-of-the-day today to the Wilson’s Phalarope with runners-up to the Stilt Sandpiper, American Golden-Plovers, Red Knot, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers. GREAT shorebirds to choose from!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1119 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:27 Archived in USA

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Pretty darn good day of birding despite the heat!

by Mary Stevens

Two dream days in a row! Wow, nice Henry! And great photos of them all.

by Poo

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