A Travellerspoint blog

March 2014

The Continuing Search for Rusty Blackbirds...

semi-overcast 66 °F

Taking advantage of the extremely mild near 70-degree temperatures today, I continued my ongoing quest for those evasive Rusty Blackbirds at Thatcher Woods. Despite scanning through a flock of 35+ COMMON GRACKLES, I did not find a single other blackbird species, what a bummer.

Some of you must be wandering why I am looking for, of all things, a blackbird?! Well, Rusty Blackbirds are a federally threatened species due to habitat loss. They spend their summers mainly in Canada in boggy, swampy sections of boreal forest and nearby swamp margins, and they winter in the southeastern states in mangrove swamps and flooded deciduous forests. These blackbirds pass through Illinois during March and April, and also in October, and last year I saw probably one hundred of them at Thatcher Woods during late March, and Thatcher is where I have been searching for them recently.

A nice consolation prize for the missing blackbirds was, of all things, a fly-over BONAPARTE'S GULL, a life bird for me, although sadly I didn't manage to photograph it. I did manage to photograph this GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, however, for documentation purposes:

I also saw a nice BROWN CREEPER:

While crouching down behind a tree to scan through the flock of grackles, this tame White-tailed Deer came only 20 feet away from me!

Bird-of-the-day to the life bird BONAPARTE'S GULL and runner-up to the relatively photogenic (for a kinglet) GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET.

Good birding,

World Life List: 642 Species (1 life bird today: Bonaparte's Gull)

Finally, here is the eBird list for today:

Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve (Cook Co.), Cook, US-IL
Mar 31, 2014 3:45 PM - 5:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
24 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 4
Mallard 6
duck sp. 6
Turkey Vulture 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 3
Mourning Dove 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 4
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Brown Creeper 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 30
Cedar Waxwing 4
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 3
Common Grackle 35
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 3

Do you eBird?

Posted by skwclar 16:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

A Good Day of Birding

semi-overcast 59 °F

Hi all,

Today was a pretty good day of birding in my neighborhood.

I went on two separate birding bike rides, taking advantage of the relatively warm temps (59 degrees) today, compared to days in the 30s and 40s like I have grown used to since we arrived back from our trip.

My first bike ride was just after lunch. I took my sister to multiple playgrounds and we saw a few good birds including funny little WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES.

The second bike ride, later this afternoon, I took to the nearby Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve. I saw a few good FOY (first of the year) birds there, including TURKEY VULTURES and YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS.

I looked for Rusty Blackbirds and saw a flock of 11 COMMON GRACKLES and a few candidates for Rusties, but this one was the closest I got to an actual Rusty B. Do you think this is a Common Grackle or a Rusty Blackbird? I need to know because Rusty Blackbirds are a federally threatened species. ***UPDATE***: I have finally identified this bird as a negative identification between a male Rusty or a male Brewer's Blackbird. Brewer's Blackbirds are as rare in Illinois as Rusties, so it is a great find whatever the species:

I saw many mammals including EASTERN GRAY SQUIRRELS, EASTERN FOX SQUIRRELS, EASTERN CHIPMUNKS, EASTERN COTTONTAIL, RACCOONS, some species of vole, and a gigantic herd of (30+) WHITE-TAILED DEER, including the ones pictured in this photo:

Here are some other bird photos:



Stay tuned for a post on an owling trip I will take Tuesday!

Good birding,

World Life List: 641 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Life Bird #641!

overcast 40 °F

Today I got an email from my local birding buddy, Jill Anderson, about Wilson's Snipe that were at a local forest preserve.

Later this afternoon, she and her husband Dan picked me up and we drove to Miller Meadow Forest Preserve.

Sure enough, waiting right in a puddle next to the parking lot when we arrived were four life bird WILSON'S SNIPE! Life bird #641! It was great to see a new bird so soon after arriving home from the big trip.


Thanks again to Dan and Jill Anderson.

Good birding,

World Life List: 641 Species

Posted by skwclar 15:48 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Guest Post: Costa Rica with Dave and Katie Jahangir!

I would like to tell you a bit about my family. My dad has eleven siblings, which means that I have nearly thirty cousins, ranging from kindergarten-age to mid-thirties, with me somwhere in between at 13 years old.

About a year and a half ago, one of my cousins, Dave, was married to a lovely woman named Katie. A year ago they went on their honeymoon to Costa Rica and enjoyed it there so much that they returned for a nine-night trip earlier this month.

Now they're back and Dave and Katie have allowed me to make a guest post about their Costa Rican trip earlier this month. I did a Q&A via email just earlier today with Dave.

How many nights did you stay in Costa Rica and where did you stay?
"[We stayed] 9 nights in Costa Rica[.] We stayed at a hotel/motel in Alajuela [in the middle of the country near the capital San Jose], Trogon lodge (eco lodge) -- where we saw trogons and quetzals, and finally at a private villa near Playa Uvita [on the Pacific Coast]."

What was your favorite part of the trip?
"Best part of the trip was body boarding at Playa Uvita. Katie told me that she wished she could body board all day, every day for the rest of her life. Pretty strong endorsement."

When I was visiting Panama last November and December, my target bird was the Resplendent Quetzal, which I sadly never got to see. Dave and Katie, however, had better luck on the trip they just took to Costa Rica. Resplendent Quetzals have a patchy range from far southern Mexico to western Panama, and Costa Rica is one of the best countries to find them. I had Dave describe his experience with seeing these remarkable birds in the wild, and I also included the fabulous picture he took of one below the description.
"Our tour/vacation guide Wilson was disappointed we didn't get to see the fully grown male quetzal at Trogon lodge, so he called his friend at Mirador de Quetzales. He said it's only 15 min out of the way, and we can stop there for a nice trout lunch. We got their around 10[:]30 AM and we started on our trek through the cloud forest. The Mirador is a family affair. Father, son and two grand-kids, along with two dogs guiding us. We split up, Katie and I went with the son. We walked up and down the mountainside checking all the usual spots without any luck. Then we happened across a beautiful Costa Rican Pygmy Owl [this bird is as rare as the quetzal!], which was very cool, but our guides were not satisfied despite my appetite telling me otherwise. We continued on looking for the elusive namesake bird of the hotel. We eventually met back up with grandpa, grand-kids and dogs. The little girl, who was 5 at most, pointed to the tree a ways down the mountain. Sure enough there was adult male Resplendent Quetzal, beautiful streaming tail and all. He was a magnificent or should I say resplendent animal. We set up the scope, and snapped many photos. Then a second male quetzal flew into the tree with its streaming plume [of brilliantly green tail feathers] flowing, almost supernatural in appearance. It was apparent to me at this point why Aztecs and Mayans regarded this bird as divine. We watched the birds fly about the tree and eat avocados until they flew off into the forest. I would say it was worth delaying lunch, which may not sound like much, but believe me, that means a lot to me."


A big thank you to Dave and Katie for sharing their wonderful trip with me and letting me create this guest post about it.

Good birding,

Posted by skwclar 20:33 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Backyard Birds

all seasons in one day 29 °F

Hi all and welcome back!

I would just like to make a short post mentioning a few good birds I positively identified in my backyard today.

I positively identified (by voice) a very early migrant GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET that was singing its heart out, but for the life of me, I could not see it! These birds typically arrive in noticeable numbers during the end of the first or the beginning of the second week in April, so this was a very interesting find for my backyard.

Sadly, a COOPER'S HAWK soon came by and scared all of the birds away, decimating my chances of seeing the GC Kinglet. Only this daring BROWN CREEPER (always a nice sighting for my backyard) remained:

It was a relatively interesting day of birding in the backyard.


Posted by skwclar 20:31 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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