A Travellerspoint blog

Birding and herping the suburbs

rain 63 °F

My second day back in Chicago, and I was of course off to bird and herp the wonderful preserves that abound in our metropolitan area. At the first location, my goal species were Black (which would be a lifer) and King Rails, both elusive marsh birds that had been found at this preserve recently. This SWAMP SPARROW teed up for me:

And I flipped a good number of orange-striped Plains Gartersnakes:

I heard a KING RAIL multiple times but this furtive marsh bird never came out in the open. Unsurprisingly, I missed the Black Rail as that species is incredibly hard to come by due to both a low-density population and its reclusive habits. It is by far the annual breeding bird in Illinois that is most difficult to see.

Next stop was my reliable preserve for Kirtland’s Snake as I wanted to get them for the year. I had a few birds on the walk into the spot including SWAINSON’S THRUSH:

TURKEY VULTURES lording over a squirrel carcass:


Soon, I got to the flipping site where there are about 100 boards conveniently laid out in prime Kirtland’s habitat, wet prairie. On this gray, 65-degree morning, Chicago Gartersnakes abounded under the cover and I found 20 in total including these:

Wasn’t surprised to see crayfish out after the recent rains.

Another commonly-flipped species here is the DeKay’s Brownsnake:

After flipping about 25 common snakes, I found a smaller, grayer snake, and sure enough, it had the telltale pink belly of a Kirtland’s Snake! Incredible! This small, fossorial species is completely harmless (as are all Chicago-area snakes) and they reside in crayfish borrows found in wet prairies widely-scattered through the region, though you are very unlikely to find one unless you know exactly which locations to search. Close-up of the pink scales:

Next, I headed to the Indiana Dunes to guide Kim Habel for a few hours at Cowles Bog. There was decent warbler activity but it was all high in the canopy making ID pretty tough — here is a female MAGNOLIA WARBLER:

Then Kim spotted this bird silhouetted against the cloud.

It was an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, a life bird for her! Absolutely amazing!

We soon got rained out and had to call it quits but it was great to see Kim, and a few birds, too!

Have to end with a shout-out to Tian who just graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with her bachelor’s in music composition. She will be attending Rice University in Houston in the fall.

More to come!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1130 Species

Posted by skwclar 23:09 Archived in USA

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Great finds! And congratulations to Tian!!!

by Poo

Great photos of the Olive sided flycatcher; thanks! Also, congratulations to Tian! WOW! wonderful achievement.

by Mary McCutchan

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