A Travellerspoint blog

Bird walk & Yellow Rail chase

Cook County, IL

sunny 75 °F

This morning I led my final Oak Park Bird Walk from in front of my house for four wonderful participants. YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS were prolific, as expected:


TENNESSEE WARBLER was nice, but brief:

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. A nice array of classic October migrants.


This leucistic (partial albino) AMERICAN ROBIN was a striking individual, wowing the walkers present:

And throughout the walk, we counted upwards of forty PINE SISKINS! Finally, on the way back, Lori and I had one sit up at the top of a conifer for a good view finally:

It was an enjoyable walk. Later in the day, I headed to Rainbow Beach in Chicago to meet me friends Isoo, Simon, and a few others to chase a reported Yellow Rail reliably reported from there this morning by Steve H. We were hoping this third try for the species this season would finally be fruitful. Yellow Rail would be a lifer for all three of us if seen, so fingers crossed!!!

I arrived around 4:30 and we immediately began scouring the dune area surrounding where the Yellow Rail had been seen earlier by Steve. We made sure to avoid trampling rare plants that call that preserve home such as the Prickly Pear Cactus, one of which was in bloom:

We were occasionally distracted from the Yellow Rail search by many NELSON’S and a single LECONTE’S SPARROW in the dunes, as well as waterfowl out in the harbor including GREATER SCAUP and REDHEAD:


By far the rarest duck we saw was this SURF SCOTER, which I think is my Illinois lifer for this species! A really cool and uncommon find for Chicago, particularly this early in fall.

Unfortunately, the odds were against us since it was one tiny Yellow Rail against a bunch of hopeful birders: the rail almost always wins! So, after a while of thorough searching, everyone was tired of combing the dunes and the group split up. The Tolzmanns and I headed to a nearby park where there is some good herping opportunities: we were hoping to catch a Five-lined Skink!

And as you can see, that I did! The first herp I laid eyes on was this beautiful COMMON FIVE-LINED SKINK, and as soon as I saw it, I put my hand down on it so it couldn’t get away from us this time. Bingo! A super cool creature that is limited to one tiny area in Cook County.

That wasn’t all, though! I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and yelled “snake!” and thankfully Peter with a quick hand grabbed a beautiful DEKAY’S BROWN SNAKE which had also been resting under the board with the skink. A very cool creature and only the second one I’ve ever seen.

We walked a little ways to an area we flipped last week and had one more Skink which got away from us and I scooped up two beautiful PLAINS GARTER SNAKES including this nice-sized individual!

Anyway, the Tolzmanns had to hurry home and I was getting hungry so we called it a day. Even though we dipped on the Rail, it was a successful day of birding and herping nevertheless and nice to see the likes of Isoo, Simon, Peter, Andrea, Josh, Matthew, Ted W, Glenn G, and Craig T among others. Bird-of-the-day to the SURF SCOTER with runner-up to the unphotographed LECONTE’S SPARROW. Stay tuned: I have a herping adventure with the Tolzmanns planned this weekend!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1119 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:00 Archived in USA

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