A Travellerspoint blog

More bird walks & Black Rail twitch!

overcast 66 °F

Today brought another day of Oak Park Bird Walks, with a morning walk led from the house. There were a couple warblers around including this male CHESTNUT-SIDED:

And a WILSON’S which is a fairly good one for the block:

Kris Hansen and I drove up to Illinois Beach State Park today in search of a widely-publicized pair of Black Rails, a would-be lifer for the both of us. We made the 90-minute drive up to North Point Marina for parking and soon entered the marshy habitat where the rails were reported. Having a reliable Black Rail location in Illinois is an extreme anomaly as usually their location is suppressed due to their rarity and endangered status. I suspect someone unknowingly leaked the location on a groupchat and that’s how word got out.

Either way, we started off the morning with a vivacious SEDGE WREN:

And a first-year male ORCHARD ORIOLE — note that they are yellow for the first year before transitioning to their cherry-colored plumage for older adults.

Then, the other birders and I spotted a tiny creature running through the marsh grasses in front of us. It was about sparrow-sized which was very promising as that is how tiny Black Rails are, but unfortunately it just turned out to be a cute little mouse:

After a few hours of searching, I unfortunately had to drop Kris off at the nearby Metra but I didn’t want to call it quits on the bird just yet. So I headed back, with only a quick stop on the way in some good habitat where I picked up a few birds including this Traill’s-type (Alder/Willow) Flycatcher:

And very soon after returning to the original rail location where Kris and I had been searching, I HEARD IT!!!! Effin’ BLACK RAIL!!! I could not believe it — the absolute holy grail of Illinois birding. “Kee kee deer!” is a sound that every midwestern birder dreams of hearing and I found it hard to believe one was singing from the marsh right in front of me. Absolutely epic.

Other rails were around as well including KING, SORA, and this VIRGINIA RAIL which gave great views as it crossed the path.

Unpictured here, I also saw its chick which briefly had me mistaken for Black Rail as young Virginias are also jet black, but fuzzier.

An Oak Park Bird Walk in the evening was extremely unproductive, as evidenced by the fact that I was only able to get a photo of a juvenile AMERICAN ROBIN:

So bird-of-the-day without doubt goes to the Black Rail, though I felt awful that I was not able to get Kris on the bird as she had to leave early. Runner-up to the cooperative Virginia Rail. Not everyday that you get four true rails in Illinois!

Great birding,
World Life List: 1131 Species (1 life bird today: Black Rail)

Posted by skwclar 02:40 Archived in USA

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Great to read/see about the rails. Wow, what an opportunity for pictures too.

by Mary Mc

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