A Travellerspoint blog

March 2016

Morton Arboretum

overcast 54 °F

Yesterday (Tuesday, March 29), my family and I made a trip out to the Morton Arboretum in nearby DuPage County. First, we headed to the Lake Marmo and Hemlock/Spruce Hill area on the west side where the birding was pretty good.


Hemlock/Spruce Hill was quite productive with an almost deafening chorus of BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES, 20+ PINE SISKINS, DARK-EYED JUNCOS, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, and a FOX SPARROW. At one point, an unseen GREAT HORNED OWL even hooted!

The Pine Siskins stayed in the treetops for the most part, so this is the best photo I could manage. It was still cool to see so many because the Morton Arboretum is, most years, the only place in Illinois where this species nests (same goes for the aforementioned Red-breasted Nuthatches).

Here is my eBird checklist for the west side:

18 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 2
Mallard 2
duck sp. 3
Killdeer 1
Great Horned Owl 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 1
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 Heard at Hemlock/Spruce Hill
Brown Creeper 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
American Robin 5
Fox Sparrow 1 Heard at Hemlock/Spruce Hill
Dark-eyed Junco 10
White-throated Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Pine Siskin 20 Conservative count, many in the treetops at Hemlock/Spruce Hill

Then, we drove to the east side. At one point, I spotted this late-in-the-season female COMMON GOLDENEYE in a pond near the road:

My target bird for the east side was Pileated Woodpecker; however, Arboretum staff were doing a controlled burn right alongside the trail where the Pileateds have been seen so it made for a largely smoky and unpleasant experience with the Pileated Woodpeckers not seen, of course. I did; however, meet another nice birder named Bonnie.

Here is my eBird checklist for the east side:

12 species

Wood Duck 4
Mallard 1
Common Goldeneye 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Tree Swallow 5
Black-capped Chickadee 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Eastern Bluebird 1
American Robin 5

It was a good trip and the Arboretum is always beautiful, no matter what the season. I find birding the most productive there in the spring and summer; however, it can host quality species year-round. Bird-of-the-day goes to the many Pine Siskins and runner-up to the hooting but unseen Great Horned Owl, my first owl of 2016.

Don't forget to sign up for Oak Park Bird Walks this spring! Email me at: trumpetswan (@) comcast.net to reserve a space!
For more information, visit: https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/home

Good birding!

World Life List: 886 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 09:37 Archived in USA Tagged me lakes people trees animals birds Comments (0)

Waterfowl Trip!

overcast 51 °F

Hello birding friends,

Two days ago (Monday, March 28), a friend of mine, Suzanne, led a field trip with the main target birds being waterfowl in the Glenview area. It was a fantastic trip as we birded five locations and saw a good amount of waterfowl!

Our first location was Skokie Lagoons Forest Preserve. Here is a male NORTHERN SHOVELER:


Male MALLARD (left) with a pair of HOODED MERGANSERS (right):

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET who was fairly obliging and came only a few feet away from the group:

The next location was very productive for waterfowl. Here is a female BELTED KINGFISHER:


Pair of GREEN-WINGED TEAL in the center:


Next, we headed to Techny Basin Conservation Area near Glenview. It was a bit quieter, but we had a few pleasant sightings including this male NORTHERN CARDINAL singing away:



Our fourth location was Air Station Prairie where I didn't manage to get any photos but we did flush at least 6, and probably more, WILSON'S SNIPE.

The last stop of the day was Lake Glenview where we had some nice amounts of waterfowl and other water birds, including this PIED-BILLED GREBE. "Pied" is a word meaning "black-and-white," as evidence by its namesake black-and-white bill:

From left to right, here is an AMERICAN COOT, some species of duck (maybe a Scaup?), and a male AMERICAN WIGEON:



Beautiful male AMERICAN WIGEON in the evening light:

RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS with a basic-plumage HORNED GREBE in the center:

RING-NECKED DUCKS, one of my favorite duck species:


Male RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, the most common waterfowl species at Lake Glenview on Monday:

It was a fantastic outing! Thanks to Suzanne for leading the trip!

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Ring-necked Ducks, one of my favorite waterfowl species. Runner-up to the also beautiful American Wigeon. Since last of year my birding attention was largely directed towards songbirds and owls, it is nice to switch it up this year and to watch other types of birds like waterfowl, as well.

Don't forget to sign up for Oak Park Bird Walks this spring! Email me at: trumpetswan (@) comcast.net to reserve a space!
For more information, visit: https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/home

Good birding!

World Life List: 886 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 09:24 Archived in USA Tagged me lakes people animals birds Comments (0)

Easter Birding

all seasons in one day 63 °F

Today, after watching my sister's annual Easter egg hunt around the house in the morning, and later singing at my church, I decided to get a quick birding bike ride in to Taylor Park and back before the rain arrived.

Pretty soon I found an adult, probably male, COOPER'S HAWK by first hearing its cackling call and then spotting it over some house's roof:

Then, It flew across the alley to its NEST! Two adult hawks were in attendance, so it will be interesting to see if this nest is hopefully successful and fledges young birds. This nest is right along the main route for Oak Park Bird Walks, so hopefully my walkers this spring will get to witness this wonderful spectacle!

MOURNING DOVE, a common prey item for the Cooper's Hawk. Thankfully, none of the hawks spotted this guy today:

I did a double take when I heard a high-pitched "see see see" call, and sure enough, a group of tiny GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS was flitting in the small tree behind me! These are typically the first songbird migrants to arrive in the spring in Oak Park, and along with the early flower bloom this year, they are also a week or two ahead of schedule. Not a bad thing though, as they were certainly a pleasant reminder of the songbird migration which will be flooding Oak Park for the next two months:

Once I arrived at Taylor Park, I found two male MALLARDS on the other side of Ridgeland Avenue (a busy road), which were trying to return to the wetland on the other side of the street. Showing extraordinary avian intelligence, they demonstrated their sagacious reasoning abilities in not trying to fly over the road, but ocasionally making a few feeble attempts to waddle into traffic between waves of cars (detect the sarcasm?). I was ready to stop traffic if they got too far out into the road; however, they finally decided to just fly to the wetland instead - phew!

Pretty soon, I noticed a fairly large group of blackbirds on the lawn near the wetland, which included this occasionally-singing RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD:

As well as BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS and EUROPEAN STARLINGS, my eyes popped out of my head when I spied this male RUSTY BLACKBIRD near the fence around the wetland. Rusty Blackbird is a threatened and declining species, and it is always a treat for a birder to get to see one as they are becoming harder and harder to find each year. It is also especially neat that it turned up so close to home (just 4 blocks away from my house).

A female also showed up in non-breeding plumage, I believe:

It was a great Easter Sunday! Bird-of-the-day to the Rusty Blackbirds, and runner-up to my FOY (first-of-the-year) Golden-crowned Kinglets and the nesting pair of Cooper's Hawks.

Make sure to sign up (by emailing me) for Oak Park Bird Walks this spring, with additional walks at Thatcher Woods, Miller Meadow, and Columbus Park this season! For more information, visit: https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/home
Email me at: trumpetswan (@) comcast.net to make a reservation.

Good birding, and Happy Easter!

World Life List: 887 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 19:51 Archived in USA Tagged me people animals birds Comments (0)

Spring Break!

overcast 47 °F

Hello birding friends,

To celebrate a nice break from this hectic semester, this afternoon I covered nearby Miller Meadows and Thatcher Woods Forest Preserves in the afternoon with my friends Jill Anderson and Dan Anzia. We had two target birds for the day: Rusty Blackbird, which could be found at both locations this time of year, and Blue-winged Teal, which we were hoping to find at Miller Meadows. I will lead Oak Park Bird Walks at these locations this spring, please see the bottom of this post for information on attending these walks.

Miller Meadow was a bit slow, with the highlight being an impressive 44 (!) WILSON'S SNIPES which all flushed from the weedy vegetation as we trudged through before I could obtain any photos.


This was my first EASTERN PHOEBE of the year:

RED-TAILED HAWK, which sadly wasn't our hoped-for Red-shouldered Hawk:

Next, we made a quick stop at Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve. This is a female RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER:

Although we found a flock of blackbirds in the soccer field, they all turned out to be EUROPEAN STARLINGS (not really a blackbird anyway), COMMON GRACKLES, and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS, which are pictured here:


Although we missed both of our target birds, it was fantastic to finally get out birding today and see my friends Jill Anderson and Dan Anzia. Bird-of-the-day to the impressive number of flushed Wilson's Snipes, even though I did not manage to photograph them. Runner-up to my first-of-the-year Eastern Phoebe, one of my first songbird migrants of the year (I had my first-of-the-year Yellow-rumped Warbler about a week ago, my first warbler of the year!).

For more information on Oak Park Bird Walks held at Miller Meadow, Thatcher Woods, and other locations this spring, please visit https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/

Email me at trumpetswan (@) comcast.net to reserve spaces on these walks.

Good birding!

World Life List: 887 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 16:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

You Win Some, You Lose Some

all seasons in one day 52 °F

As I mentioned in my last post, last Tuesday I went downtown to Northerly Island near Museum Campus in search of an uncommon Red-throated Loon sighted in Lake Michigan at that location. It turned out to be a complete, utter failure as I ran all the way from the Roosevelt Green Line station, and by the time I arrived at Northerly Island, I was running late for my rehearsal and had to immediately turn around without even time to look for the bird! Breathless and irritated, I dipped on the Loon on Tuesday.

Then, on Friday, birder Matthew Cvetas notified me that a Red-throated Loon had been seen in Lake Michigan east of the Shedd Aquarium. So, before attending the opera in the evening, I took the train and the bus to the Aquarium and started an intense lake watch for this Loon.

Shedd Aquarium and the Skyline:

Please note that most of the birds I photographed during the lake watch were seen from very, very far away and my 60X zoom camera only managed grainy photos of many of these birds.




Suddenly, I spotted a loon about two miles (!) out in the lake! Due to the distance, I could not, at the time, make a positive identification of the species from these photos (it could have been also a Common Loon (as opposed to a Red-throated), which has been seen in the area, as well).

It flapped its wings once:

Then, today, birder Matthews Cvetas came through again and emailed me that he was 100% sure the bird in the photos above was, indeed, my target RED-THROATED LOON! He made this identification through these characteristics of the bird: smooth round head, bill held upright, plain white face, and dark nape set off from white neck with no hint of a necklace.
(note that the Red-throated Loon does not retain its namesake red throat in its basic winter plumage)

You could not even imagine how relieved I was to receive this email! Thanks to Matthew again for tipping me off about the bird and giving me the positive ID.

Yesterday, after choir rehearsal, I received word from birder Eric Gyllenhaal that a very early migrant Rusty Blackbird had been seen at Taylor Park, only five blocks from my house, earlier in the day. I rode my bike directly to the park and searched for a good 30-45 minutes in the area where it had been seen.

Male MALLARD as part of a pair that returns to the Taylor Park wetlands every spring. Hopefully it will be a wet enough spring for them to nest this year!



Alas, I failed to find the Rusty Blackbird, so you win some you lose some, I suppose, as illustrated by my birding adventures this weekend.

Bird-of-the-weekend to the RED-THROATED LOON near the Shedd Aquarium, life bird #888 for me. Runners-up to the HORNED GREBES also seen in that area.

Good birding!

World Life List: 888 Species (1 life bird this weekend: Red-throated Loon)

Posted by skwclar 11:47 Archived in USA Tagged me buildings animals birds sky Comments (1)

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