A Travellerspoint blog

January Big Day & Brant Chase

Cook County, IL

semi-overcast 34 °F

Isoo and I started off the new year on January 3 by conducting a January Big Day to see if we could break the record set the day earlier. We had moderately good luck in the morning in the Palos starting with two GREAT HORNED OWLS pre-dawn and a few helpful pick-ups like bonus BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS at Sagawau Canyon Nature Center:

And it was good to clinch WHITE-THROATED SPARROW early in the day at Saganashkee Slough which unfortunately was frozen over:

We picked up a few more Palos specialties like PILEATED WOODPECKER, TUFTED TITMOUSE, and CAROLINA WREN so then continued to our next stop which was Diversey Ave Basin on the North Branch of the Chicago Reever where we picked up BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON and this PIED-BILLED GREBE:

RUDDY DUCK was an important pick-up at North Ave basin and then we continued on to the Lincoln Park Zoo where we picked up the wild ducks which hang out with the stocked waterfowl there: AMERICAN WIGEON, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, and this WOOD DUCK:

Next stop — Solidarity Drive next to the Planetarium where we chummed for gulls and luckily picked up this gorgeous immature Thayer’s ICELAND GULL, super cool!

Next stop: Washington Park where we snagged NORTHERN SHOVELER in a tiny little area of open water and the CACKLING GEESE that have been overwintering with the larger and larger-billed CANADA GEESE:

At Rainbow Beach, we picked up most of the Aythya ducks for the day: GREATER SCAUP, REDHEAD, and not pictured here, LESSER SCAUP, but we annoyingly missed Canvasback which were there the day earlier! Argh!

Next stop: Calumet Park where we got our target quickly: NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL! I’d never actually seen one before in Illinois so this was an awesome sighting. We also picked up MONK PARAKEET at the nearby Skyway Bridge.

So it was off to Wolf Lake where we missed Northern Mockingbird and Trumpeter Swan but picked up a surprise calling NORTHERN BOBWHITE, NORTHERN HARRIER, BALD EAGLE, MUTE SWANS, and these COMMON REDPOLLS:

And Indian Ridge Marsh came through with my Illinois life bird NORTHERN SHRIKE which was suuuuper awesome!


Big Marsh was dead but luckily O’Brien Lock and Dam pulled through with the overwintering WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS.

Next stop: Bend of the Little Calumet River where we picked up HOODED MERGANSER and this DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:


Turtlehead Lake Forest Preserve was a dip on Red-breasted Nuthatch but thankfully Isoo pulled a SHORT-EARED OWL sitting impossibly far out at Killdeer Wetland, putting us at 67 species for the day.

At the Ridgeland Ave. farm fields south of there, we lucked into a group of at least 30 HORNED LARK:

With a LAPLAND LONGSPUR mixed in! These were #68 and #69 for the day respectively and we needed 75 to break the record...was not gonna happen since the sun had already set and we could only possibly pick up two more owl species for the day.

So, we gave it our best shot, snagged a BARRED OWL (#70) in Orland Park, but yet again missed Eastern Screech-Owl in Palos despite trying desperately for it. Well, 70 would have to do for the day which is still a great total for any day in the winter. So, it was a GREAT day with a lot of quality winter birds seen — Iceland Gull, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Common Redpoll, and Lapland Longspur are all great pick-ups for the winter.

This past monday, Tian and I headed to Montrose to hopefully find a super-rare bird for the Midwest: Brant! I’ve only ever seen one in Illinois and that was the only other one to have shown up in recent history, so this would be a darn good bird if found.

We headed to the harbor where it was last reported to find some other waterfowl like LESSER SCAUP:

COMMON GOLDENEYE drake and hen:

An AMERICAN BLACK DUCK feeding with the MALLARDS — the Black Duck was new for 2021:

Tian in front of many of her favorite birds — CANADA GEESE:

Then, a friendly birder pointed us to the western edge of the harbor where we found it — BRANT! A tiny goose scarcely larger than a Mallard and with a beautiful white neck band that is distinctive. Awesome bird!!!

We then headed to the Magic Hedge to see if we could find some uncommon wintering birds there including Lincoln’s & Savannah Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark. The more common NORTHERN CARDINALS were giving stunning views in the afternoon light:

And it was sweet to get some killer looks at this COMMON REDPOLL before my camera died:

It was a successful chase and a great day out with Tian! So bird-wise, a pleasant start to 2021 despite the happenings in our country...

Good birding,
World Life List: 1123 Species

Posted by skwclar 04:09 Archived in USA

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Wow, good pics of the Brant! So glad you had a good day. In tough times, we have to celebrate the goodness in nature.

by Mary Mc

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