A Travellerspoint blog

Miller bird walk & Palos birds & herps

Cook County, IL

semi-overcast 71 °F

Saturday I spent the whole day out birding and herping. I started out with an Oak Park Bird Walk at Miller Meadow Forest Preserve for eight lovely participants. YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS abounded in the many edge habitats found there:

As did PALMS:

Everybody admired this beautiful female AMERICAN KESTREL:

Any ideas for this flyover passerine with a grayish head, yellow underside, and black tail?

This FOX SPARROW was a lifer for bird walker Kris G which was cool:

A PEREGRINE FALCON flew over at one point:

A quick stop back home yielded a cute AMERICAN GOLDFINCH at our thistle feeder.

Then, I couldn’t believe my eyes as Simon and Oliver had found a Sabine’s Gull at Saganaskee Slough in the Palos region of Cook County — an unbelievably rare bird for the county and the first chase-able one in decades. DANG! So I was off in a hurry as this would be a life bird for me. Upon arriving at the Slough, I met an array of birders scanning the water (including infamous birder Jeff Sanders who is lying his way through a Cook County big year — he is a birder who is famous for “stringing” — reporting birds that actually aren’t there, and other birders have found devious methods to prove his fickle habits). Moral of the story: DON’T STRING!

Anyway, I saw a raft of RING-NECKED DUCKS out on the slough:

And then, I saw it. Out in the distant line of gulls, a noticeably smaller bird with a dusky smudge on its head and brown wings: LIFE BIRD SABINE’S GULL!!! Woot woot! HELL YEA! This was one I missed down in southern Illinois two weeks ago so I was super excited to run into this one.

It soon took flight, showing us its beautiful, unique wing pattern:

Congrats to Oliver’s dad for finding the bird, and to Oliver and Simon for clinching the ID and getting the word out. A super rare bird and impressive find! Simon, Peter, Oliver, his dad and I spent the rest of the day social-distanced herping Palos and we had a blast. Unfortunately they all had a super-rare Eastern Milksnake before I arrived that would have been a lifer for me! Dang it.

Well, at least I picked up a neonate (juvenile) NORTHERN WATERSNAKE:

We checked a preserve along the Des Plaines River for snakes but came up empty despite several miles of walking in appropriate habitat. Dang! At least we snagged a BLUE-SPOTTED and this UNISEXUAL MOLE SALAMANDER:

Oliver had needed his lifer Newt so we all headed to a nearby preserve that has at least four salamander species including Newt in hopes of snagging this new herp for him. Blue-spotteds abounded — we had 14 in total:

And Simon flipped a log and snagged Oliver his lifer EASTERN NEWT! And it was a tiiiiny one! Here is a picture with size comparison.

We also found a lemon-yellow eft Newt.

And a CHICAGO GARTER SNAKE near a dried-up vernal pool:

Unisexual Mole:

SPOTTED! These guys are suuuuper gorgeous and we were stoked to get four salamander species.

Oliver and his dad left for the afternoon and the Tolzmanns and I continued to another preserve we had heard has salamanders, and we did end up finding some Blue-spotteds, but the real highlight was this gorgeous SPRING PEEPER. Note the X on the back.

It was a great day out in the wilds! Bird-of-the-day to the Sabine’s Gull, with a very far runner-up to the Ring-necked Ducks. As usual it was great to be out enjoying nature with like-minded people.

Good birding,
World Life List: 1120 Species (1 life bird: Sabine’s Gull)

Posted by skwclar 16:26 Archived in USA

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