A Travellerspoint blog

Early/mid march recap


all seasons in one day 61 °F

This month I have been out a fair bit for birding and now, herping, but have simply not had the time to post here. Well, consider this a “catch up” post for the month of March!

Tian, Pearl, and I visited Thatcher Woods early in the month when snow was still on the ground from the crazy arctic February we had. I was glad to see my first-of-the-year COMMON GRACKLE, a species that is actually in decline believe it or not:

As well as this beautiful PINE SISKIN in the trees above the Trailside Museum:

White-tailed Deer are a reliable sight from the entrance road north of Chicago Ave:


With the warmer temperatures those means that salamanders have come out for the year! So, last thursday Oliver B. and I set out for a downstate daytrip to find the rarest salamander that still lives in Illinois: the Jefferson Salamander! (the even rarer species, the Hellbender, is almost undoubtedly extinct due to pollution and habitat loss).

We met the lovely owner of the farm, Brian, and he very generously led us to the woods where the Jefferson breeds. After flipping for about thirty minutes, Oliver turned up a Smallmouth Salamander under his log which was a great first salamander of the year but not what we were looking for. Then, I spotted the tail of another salamander under the same log, pulled up the creature, and it was a JEFFERSON SALAMANDER! Identified by its non-smooshed face (unlike the Smallmouth), much grayer coloration, and long toes. Incredible! We had found quite possibly the rarest salamander and most likely one of the rarest amphibians in the state. Here you can compare the Smallmouth (left) with the Jefferson (right):

This past monday, Simon told me he had his first salamanders of the year in Cook County so I headed over with Tian and Pearl to a preserve where I had heard there is a large population of Tiger Salamanders. That would be an epic first salamander of the year for Cook County. I spotted a distant MUTE SWAN on one of the distant bodies of water in the preserve:

And after flipping probably like three hundred logs, I found this beautiful, large Eastern Tiger Salamander, the largest Tiger I’ve ever seen and the second-largest salamander I’ve seen (behind one monster Spotted last summer).

Yesterday, Simon and I headed to the Calumet region to set minnow traps for fun (yes, I got a fishing license) and to bird the region. We had our first BLUE-WINGED TEAL of the year at Indian Ridge Marsh:

And our first GREEN-WINGED TEAL of the year at Big Marsh along with this slightly-early GREATER YELLOWLEGS!

FOX SPARROW was nice too:

At Eggers Grove I pulled my first TURKEY VULTURES of the year in Cook County:

And I also found my first snake of the year, a beautiful Chicago Garter Snake! Awesome.

We checked the minnow traps after birding throughout the morning and unfortunately hadn’t caught anything. Bird-of-the-day yesterday to the Greater Yellowlegs with runner-up to the Blue-winged Teal.

Today I birded at Montrose Point while my sister was hanging out with friends nearby. The sparrow/butterfly garden and dunes were indeed full of sparrows, particularly SONG:

As well as SAVANNAH:


My first TREE SWALLOW of this year was a welcome sign of spring!

As was this beautiful EASTERN MEADOWLARK:

This flyover immature BALD EAGLE is a great bird for Montrose:

A female COMMON GOLDENEYE was paddling around in the harbor:

So nothing crazy today but nice to get out again. Bird-of-the-day to the Bald Eagle with runner-up to the Tree Swallow.

Super thankful to announce I have received the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and can’t wait to complete my vaccination April 9.

So it’s been a decent month and I can’t wait for the rest of spring! Next weekend, Oliver, Simon & family, and I are heading down for a three night camping trip in southern Illinois to find my lifer Greater Prairie-Chickens and to get a bunch of salamanders (hopefully twelve species!) and other herps for the year! This summer, I plan to finally leave Chicago June 17 for a month of study at the Chautauqua Voice Conservatory, followed by a month out in Sun Valley, Idaho with my family! So stay tuned — things are finally looking like life may return to normal. Please continue to double mask, social distance, and wash your hands frequently so we can do our part to avoid harmful Covid mutations prolonging this pandemic.

Good birding,
World Life List: 1125 Species

Posted by skwclar 04:45 Archived in USA

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Super! Thanks for sharing all the great pictures.

by Mary Stevens

AS usual, enjoyed your pics and account of your finds. I'm surprised the common grackle is in decline-Wow.We saw quite the community of Great-tailed Grackles near Rocky Point, Mexico. They made a home in the landscaping of the resort we were in 4 years ago. So odd!

by Mary Mc

Trailside was my Garten snake catching place in my 9 to - 12 age. I know that a Virginia Moe was a founder, I cant ever forget that out of respect for a person who cares, also that name is catchy. Thanks for sharing.

by stephen fluett

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