A Travellerspoint blog

Fall bird walks, shorebirds, and herping: happiness

Cook County, IL

all seasons in one day 85 °F

It has been a productive week for birding and nature watching, that’s for sure! On saturday I led the second bird walk of fall which had a couple nice things. RED-EYED VIREO:


My year-bird RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH for Cook County was the obvious highlight of the walk. These guys are certainly invading into the area — an August presence of them is quite notable too and hopefully is a harbinger of an irruptive-species winter to come!

The two young Kennedy boys on the walk loved seeing this COOPER’S HAWK. Love it when young people join the bird walks.

Later in the day, I was off to Montrose Point yet again to chase another new bird for the year, BAIRD’S SANDPIPER! And upon arriving to the beach, there it was! Super cool! An under-appreciated beauty.

Our two expected plovers at this time: SEMIPALMATED (left) and KILLDEER (right). Note the plumage differences.


Another quality shorebird, this immature RED KNOT, had stuck around for quite a while as of saturday!

Bird-of-the-day saturday to the Baird’s Sandpiper with runners-up to the Red-breasted Nuthatch and Red Knot.

Today, I led another bird walk on this beautiful morning. It started off slowly and we were entertained by a squirrel with some corn on the cob:

Another RED-EYED VIREO, they seem to be moving through:

SWAINSON’S THRUSH are making their way back south again, as well.

And the RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH was present in the same place as last saturday! Cool!

One irritating bird was a flyover cuckoo that we saw fly into a tree but could never relocate. Dang! Would have been nice to get eyes on that for the birders.

Since it rained last night, I headed to the Palos area for herping after the bird walk! Salamanders tend to be most active following rains when a lot of their burrows are flooded. I started at a location where Tiger Salamanders have been reported in the past, but I came up empty. There were only two Unisexual Mole Salamanders at this location. This is an all-female type that interbreeds with Blue-spotted males to produce more all-female offspring. They were introduced to Cook County from southern Illinois but do not appear to be affecting the native (& state-endangered) Blue-spotted population too badly.

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE at that location:

So then I continued on to my main herping spot for the day where I was hoping to pick of Blue-spotted and possibly Spotted or Newt. Blue-spotted, there were!

And then I found an absolute MONSTER of a Spotted Salamander. This guy must have been eight inches long, and as it was only the third Spotted I have ever seen, I was just about shaking with excitement. These are such cool creatures and to have one this huge living in our county’s woodlands just blows my mind. What a cool find.

More Blue-spotted.

And I just kept lucking into Spotted after Spotted today! It was like a miracle. This location (which I am DEFINITELY keeping secret since these guys are commonly poached for the pet trade) held nine Spotteds today including tiny ones ranging all the way up to the eight-inched beast. Super cool salamanders, maybe my favorite species.

This preserve has a number of dried-up streambeds this time of year. In southern illinois, Cave or Long-tailed Salamanders would inhabit this type of habitat but I really did not expect to find any of the northern species hiding in the rocks along the streambed. Boy, could that have been farther from the truth! In one single flip, I found four salamanders of three species: Spotted (yellow spots), Blue-spotted, and 2 Eastern Newts (the gray ones!). Next time I return to this preserve, I am definitely gonna spend most of my time following these dried-up streambeds. Too cool!

Another streamside flip held this Eastern Newt eft that was a simply incredible shade of yellow-orange. Wow! This is one of two places in the county to find Newts so I was stoked to find three of them today! Another awesome species.

One of the gray newts for comparison.

So, an incredible day of herping after a great bird walk! Creature-of-the-day definitely goes to that one monster Spotted Salamander.

Stay tuned for more birding (and herping) adventures!
World Life List: 1119 Species

Posted by skwclar 21:23 Archived in USA

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comment with:

Comments left using a name and email address are moderated by the blog owner before showing.

Not published. Required
Leave this field empty

Characters remaining: