A Travellerspoint blog

Broken camera, but many birds

Cook County, IL

all seasons in one day 52 °F

So, I led my last bird walk of the season on saturday at Miller Meadow, but I opened up my camera at the beginning of the walk and my LCD SCREEN HAD CRACKED! Damnit! (and my viewfinder has never worked properly) So, I still managed to lead a successful walk despite the unfortunate circumstance, and I got the camera shipped back to be repaired a few days later. Hopefully it will be back in a few days — thankfully covered by warranty.

So, since herping doesn’t require a big fancy camera, Tian and I were in the Palos region monday. It was really slow going due to cold temps and Tian bet we couldn’t even find five salamanders — soon I had one Blue-spotted, though. If we found five, she would treat the next time we eat out.

I soon picked up three more Blue-spotted and one really beautiful Spotted Salamander which was Tian’s lifer (“wow, it is really fat!”) — cool since my lifer Spotted was also at this preserve, back in July, and I haven’t seen one there since then. Overall a beautiful creature and unfortunately very commonly poached by people selling them for pets. So my mouth is shut in terms of giving out the locations for these salamanders.

One more Blue-spotted made a total of five — Tian’s treat next time! Hah!

Frustratingly enough, as soon as I got home from the salamanders, Ben Sanders let us birders know that he had found a mega-rare Little Gull at Saganashkee Slough just 10 minutes from where I was earlier that afternoon — UGH! Even though it would’ve been a lifer without camera, I would’ve wanted to see that bird, especially considering that it was the first chaseable one in Cook County in decades...

Well my luck somewhat turned around as Simon T reported it “present” when I woke up the next morning, so off I was, back to Palos in search of a lifer! Upon arriving to the Slough’s central parking lot, about twenty birders were lined up, scanning the slough for the world’s tiniest gull, apply named “Little.”

After an excruciating five minutes of suspense, Jeff Skrentny got on the bird and gave impeccable directions as to the bird’s every-single-movement over the opposite side of the slough. To the naked eye, it looked like a tiny white dot flying among the hundreds of other gulls out on and over the water, but with magnification you could make out its distinctive black M on the wings as well as the absolutely tiny size, even compared to the Bonaparte’s Gulls nearby. Great bird, and a long-awaited LIFE BIRD I’ve had major dips on previously in NY!

After the gull excitement, I drove half way back home to Miller Meadow Forest Preserve where I met Jill Anderson for some hawk watching. It was great to see her after a few years of not crossing paths due to our busy lives. It was also a great day for hawkwatching (Ben had a Golden Eagle, AT Sag Slough under an hour after I had left the slough, another UGH!). Anyway, Jill and I also had a fair share of raptors including two that gave us head-trips. This juvenile BALD EAGLE was dark enough in the shadows to confuse us into possibly being a Golden until we reviewed this photos at home — very blotchy under-wings, so yeah, just a Bald... (all raptor photos below courtesy of Jill!)

Another was this bulky COOPER’S HAWK (likely a female) that had us on the edge of thinking Goshawk until reviewing her photos at home.

43 raptors in total, a really sweet count for a two-hour watch! BALD EAGLE, AMERICAN KESTREL, RED-TAILED (many), COOPER’S, & SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS.

I was back at Miller today since there were fairly strong northerly winds. Even though they were northerlies, they were slightly out of the east though which tends to be less productive for hawk migration in this area than winds out of the west. So, raptors were few and far between, but I did have two consolation prizes: the first was a bunch of owl pellets I found and collected which were under a post where I have seen a Great Horned perch upon in the past. Super cool!

And secondly, this SNOW BUNTING I found on the way out which was my first this year and a great bird for this location! I managed a couple “digibins” — shooting with the iPhone through binoculars. First time I’ve had success with this method! And definitely one of my favorite birds.

So despite the whole camera fiasco, I’ve still had some great birding this week. Stay tuned — this is vagrant season!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1121 Species (1 life bird: Little Gull)

Posted by skwclar 20:47 Archived in USA

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That snow bunting is really cool. Glad you tried that iphone-binoc method; I didn't know about that approach. Today, just saw mountain bluebirds (vertical migration) and more Sandhill cranes 100+ or so.
Great to hear about your raptors.

by Mary McCutchan

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