A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

Audubon Photo Contest

semi-overcast 42 °F

I recently entered these ten photos into the youth division of the annual Audubon photo contest. Please tell me which ones are your favorites in the comments!

Also, my trip with my family to southeast Arizona, arguably the best birding location in the entire country, is almost definitely going to happen over this spring break! Yay!

May 2013: Male Cerulean Warbler, Yankee Springs National Recreation Area, Barry County, Michigan, USA:

June 2013: Male Indigo Bunting, Cap Sauers Holdings Forest Preserve, Cook County, Illinois, USA:

November 2013: Male Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Canopy Tower, Gamboa, Panama:

January 2014: Wandering Albatross, Kaikoura Bay, New Zealand:

February 2014: Male Scarlet Robin, Kangaroo Island, Australia:

March 2014: Black-crowned Night-Heron, Jurong Bird Park, Singapore:

June 2014: Male Cedar Waxwing, Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, Lake County, USA:

July 2014: Male Dickcissel, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA:

July 2014: Male Magnolia Warbler, Madeline Island, Wisconsin, USA:

December 2014: Northern Hawk-Owl, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, USA:

Good birding!

World Life List: 708 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 18:23 Archived in USA Comments (3)

2014 Summary: A Year With Birds

semi-overcast 31 °F

This post is a photo summary of 2014, showcasing my best avian photography ranging from New Zealand in January to the Sax-Zim Bog in December. Enjoy!


This native New Zealand Fantail was one of the first birds I saw when I entered the country in early January. It proved to be a cute and pleasingly common little bird throughout my family's adventures in New Zealand:

Another bird that was positively omnipresent in that country was the Tui, another awesome native bird of New Zealand:

The best bird I found in New Zealand was this Little Spotted Kiwi, and endangered species! It was awesome to see a kiwi in the wild (because every species is threatened or endangered), and it was even better to get a chance to photograph it! This might have been my absolute favorite bird I saw this past year.


Another definite avian highlight of New Zealand was going on the pelagic trip "Albatross Encounter" when four magnificent species of albatross (including the Wandering Albatross pictured below, which is the species with the largest wingspan in the world), as well as a plethora of other seabirds, came up within arm's length of the small boat I was on.

After over a month in New Zealand, it was on to Australia! Near Melbourne in a national park, there was a parking lot where we fed many, many wild parakeet species at a close range, including this majestic rare AUSTRALIAN KING-PARROT:

At one point, we visited Kangaroo Island near Adelaide off of the south coast of the country, where one of my best birds photographed was this gorgeous Scarlet Robin, which is very different from the American Robins of North America:


This comic bird, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, accompanied us on nearly all of our adventures throughout Australia:

After Australia, we flew to the island of Bali, Indonesia, where one of the better birds photographed was this Javan Munia:

As well as this White-breasted Waterhen:

Then, we flew to Singapore, where a highlight of our short two-night stay there was visiting the Singapore Bird Park, a zoo with only birds. I actually saw a few wild birds there, as well, including this Black-crowned Night-heron:


After a month at home in Chicago from mid-March to mid-April, we were on the road again; this time, to Europe. While taking a ferry on the Bosphorus River near Istanbul, Turkey, I photographed these endangered Yelkouan Shearwaters:

Then, we visited Italy and the Vatican City. On an island off the coast of Sorrento, I captured this photo of a Citril Finch, one of the only good birds seen in this country:


Within hours of flying to France, I spotted these two Red-legged Partridges foraging alongside a country road in a pastoral area outside of Paris:

An interesting sight in the Normandy region of France was this beautiful Yellowhammer perched on top of an old gun shelter used by the Nazis near the D Day beaches during World War II, a sign that although we live in a world of turmoil, we live in a world of beauty, also:

The best birding in all of Europe was at the London Wetlands Centre in England, where many awesome avian species were seen, including this flashy Common Redshank, one of the most beautiful shorebirds I have ever seen:

A big thanks for three awesome trips around the world, mom and dad (Panama in 2013, Oceania, & then Europe)!

Within five minutes of arriving at my house from Europe (we arrived home in the middle of spring migration), I found this beautiful male Canada Warbler in our back alley:

In late May, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Yankee Springs State Recreation Area in southwest Michigan to see the nesting Cerulean Warblers. Here is one beautiful adult male that came rather close for photos:


A highlight of the month of June was an entire weekend in northwestern Illinois with the Illinois and Iowa Young Birders Clubs, when I photographed this beautiful male Yellow-throated Warbler in Mississippi Palisades State Park:

This Curve-billed Thrasher was one of the rarest birds I saw this past year in Chicago. A big thanks to Cristen and Edward Vincent for driving me there and birding with me to find it!

I also visited the beautiful Morton Arboretum in June, when I captured this photo of a fantastic male Henslow's Sparrow, a threatened species:

I also obtained the best photo I have ever taken of a male Eastern Bluebird while at the arboretum:

In late June, I went birding at the serene Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve on the shore of Lake Michigan in Lake County, north of Chicago. I got my lifer Bobolink there, a cool species of blackbird, which is pictured below:

As well as a photo of TWO Red-headed Woodpeckers in the same frame!


In early July, I made a trip to my aunt and uncle's house in western Wisconsin. My uncle, who is a bird photographer, and I found many neat birds in just three days, including this singing Dickcissel:

Then, I birded Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior with my mom for a week. There were SO many warblers; I was in birding heaven! Here is a Black-throated Green Warbler:

Male Northern Parula:

Male Blackburnian Warbler:

Male Mourning Warbler:

Male Common Yellowthroat:

Male American Redstart:

Male Black-and-White Warbler:

Male Magnolia Warbler:

Nothing like a bunch of warbler photos to look at to make a birder cheer up in the middle of winter!

After coming back from Madeline Island, I gave a recital to showcase my trumpet, piano, and vocal talents, and then my family had a picnic with my friend Isoo's family at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. Isoo is a birder who is traveling around the world with HIS family currently! To follow his travels, visit his blog, Travel to Bird, here:

At the picnic, we saw many cool birds such as Willets and this Spotted Sandpiper:


On the first of August, my family and I left for our annual trip to Sun Valley, Idaho (my parents play in a summer symphony out there every year). I quickly found a roost of quirky Lewis's Woodpeckers, like the one shown below, near my condo.

One day, Kathleen Cameron, a local birder, gave us a birding tour of the surrounding mountains in search of Great Gray Owls and other goodies. We didn't find the Great Gray Owls (still my nemesis bird...grr), but we did find this uncommon juvenile Williamson's Sapsucker:

And these two bugling Sandhill Cranes:

One day, I photographed this brilliant male Western Tanager:

Another day, my dad, my sister, and I hiked up to the magnificent Goat Lake in the craggy Sawtooth Mountain Range near Stanley, Idaho. I found a Townsend's Solitaire at the lake:

One day I found this Dusky Grouse, a life bird, near our condo in Sun Valley:

Yet another day, Kathleen Cameron, Poo Wright-Pulliam, and I drove around central Idaho, doing my first Big Day ever (trying to see the most number of birds in a single day). We ended up with a whopping 104 species, including this pretty Western Kingbird:

And this regal Pileated Woodpecker:


Then, it was time to leave Idaho and start my freshman year of high school back in Illinois. After nearly two months of crappy photos of very few birds, I found these two life bird Black-bellied Plovers at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary on a crisp October morning:

The best bird of the morning, however, was this vagrant Greater White-fronted Goose which allowed for this photo at a close range:

Then, school finals and various musical performances largely took priority over birding for another few months until I left for Minnesota and Wisconsin on December 28.


My uncle and I birded the Sax-Zim Bog, a world-class birding destination, and we found many life birds, including this Northern Shrike:

Male Evening Grosbeak:

Gray Jay:

My favorite bird of the second part of this past year, however, was this Northern Hawk Owl which posed for this photo only five feet away from us in the town of Eau Claire, Wisconsin! What a way to end the year!

Bird-of-the-month awards (not all of these birds are pictured above):

January: Little Spotted Kiwi
February: Australian King-Parrot
March: White-breasted Waterhen
April: Yelkouan Shearwater
May: Cerulean Warbler
June: Curve-billed Thrasher
July: King Rail
August: Marbled Godwit
September: Red Knot
October: Greater White-fronted Goose
November: Pine Siskin
December: Northern Hawk Owl

Bird-of-the-year is the Little Spotted Kiwi I saw in the wild near Wellington, New Zealand. What a treat!

I hope you enjoyed this! Good birding, and happy new year!

World Life List: 708 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 16:42 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 5: SNOWstorm!

all seasons in one day 21 °F

Today my aunt, uncle, and I hopped into the car from their house near La Crosse, Wisconsin, at around 9 in the morning for a day of birding.

On the highway, I spotted this beautiful dark-morph ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK which was a lifer for me just two days ago, so we stopped on the shoulder so I could capture this photograph:

Soon thereafter, I spotted another ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK a short ways down the highway; this time, it was a light-morph individual:

Our first planned stop was at the Peten Well Dam, which had created an area of open water below it. Due to all other bodies of water in the area being iced over in the cold, this area attracts many fish-eating BALD EAGLES in the winter. Here are a few of my photographs of them:

There were also a few diving ducks around, namely COMMOM MERGANSERS and COMMON GOLDENEYE. Here is a shot of two mergansers:

Then, we drove to Subway for lunch. When we came back out to the car, we spotted a large rodent foraging in the parking lot. On closer inspection, it was a muskrat, which rarely venture out of the water except for in winter when it is frozen over:

After that, we drove to the Buena Vista Grasslands, our main birding destination for the day. Here is a photo of my aunt and me posing in front of the entrance sign:

We were there to find two target birds: Greater Prairie-Chickens and Snowy Owls. We started cruising down the many dirt roads that criss-cross this preserve, which is owned partially by public organizations and partially by private farmers and land owners.

Suddenly, I spotted a SNOWY OWL, our first of the day, very, very, far out in a field:

After quite a bit of searching unsuccessfully for elusive prairie-chickens, I spotted a second SNOWY OWL, only a little bit closer to the road than the first one. Note the dark markings on this individual, which make it a female and/or a juvenile bird:

A few minutes later, I spotted this pretty NORTHERN SHRIKE perched on a wire alongside the road:

We then went through another period of searching for prairie-chickens and other birds without productive results. At one point, a beautiful male NORTHERN HARRIER flew over, but it passed over too quickly for any photos. We spotted mixed flocks of AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS, COMMON REDPOLLS, and PINE SISKINS, but they also flew away too quickly for photos.

Suddenly, I spotted a THIRD Snowy Owl, and this time it was perched on top of a post right next to the road!

It was the most beautiful Snowy Owl we had ever seen. This bird, as you can see from the photos, possessed very few black markings, making it an adult male specimen. It was a really, really stunning bird.

We followed it around the preserve as it flew around from perch to perch, hunting for rodents. It was so extremely white that it looked like a ghost gliding effortlessly over the grassland. Here are some more photos of this truly spectacular owl:

"SNOW" is the birding acronym for Snowy Owl (taken from the SN in Snowy and the OW in Owl), and we saw three Snowy Owls today, so now you know why the title of this post is "SNOWstorm" (although we did pass through a snow shower while driving today, as well).

Bird-of-the-day goes to, of course, the phenomenal photogenic male SNOWY OWL which perched so nicely for pictures. Runners-up to the many BALD EAGLES seen, as well as the NORTHERN SHRIKE. I may post again tomorrow if I see any interesting birds, but if I don't, please stay tuned for possible posts in the near future. In the long run, I have trips lined up for New York City/Washington DC with my choir, the Voice of Chicago, in late June, Costa Rica (!!!) with my school biology group in early July, and my annual journey with my family to Idaho in August.

What a fantastic end to this trip and beginning of the year 2015! May this year bring you happiness, prosperity, and abundant birds. Happy birding!

World Life List: 708 Species (no life birds today)

16 avian species today:

Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
American Crow
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
House Sparrow
Pine Siskin

Posted by skwclar 16:54 Archived in USA Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 4 of 4) Page [1]