A Travellerspoint blog

April 2016

Oak Park Bird Walk & Blackburnian Warbler!

semi-overcast 77 °F

Today was an awesome day of spring migration! I managed to photograph many migrant birds which can be found very close to home in Oak Park. I LOVE migration because anything can show up anywhere!

Just before leading an Oak Park Bird Walk from my house, I spied this ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER which unfortunately didn't stick around for the walk:

Six birders showed up for the walk, and we had beautiful partly sunny skies with temperatures into the 60's.

This abnormally early-in-the-season SWAINSON'S THRUSH gave everyone stellar views:

A stunning male YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER was nice, even though it was viewed from quite a distance:

The COOPER'S HAWKS were attending the local nest:

A flyover flock of 11 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS was a great addition to the day list!

And this male AMERICAN GOLDFINCH at Taylor Park was absolutely gorgeous in the morning light:

I will never tire of seeing NORTHERN CARDINALS, such as this one posed in a lovely flowering tree:

And a FIELD SPARROW was a great surprise toward the end of the walk, blissfully out of habitat as it was in my neighbor's backyard (as opposed to a grassland).

It was an enjoyable walk! Thanks to all of the birders (and birds) for coming out.

28 species on the walk:

Mallard 2
Double-crested Cormorant 11
Cooper's Hawk 2
Ring-billed Gull 1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 1
Mourning Dove 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Swainson's Thrush 1
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 40
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4
Chipping Sparrow 3
Field Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Northern Cardinal 8
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 6
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 4
House Sparrow 20

I birded a bit around the neighborhood throughout the afternoon, as well. This NASHVILLE WARBLER was nice, even though it didn't afford great views:



WHITE-THROATED SPARROW with a male EASTERN TOWHEE in the background - a cool pairing of native Emberizidae (sparrows).

Here is a better shot of the beautiful towhee:

DARK-EYED JUNCO, a classic winter bird. Funnily enough, just ten minutes before I snapped this photo, I saw my first CHIMNEY SWIFTS of the year which is an archetypical summer bird in Illinois. Another one of the joys of migration!

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (left) and my first PALM WARBLER of the year (right)!

In the evening around 6:00pm I saw on IBET, the yahoo birding forum for Illinois, that my birding friend Chuck had seen a very early migrant Blackburnian Warbler just seven blocks from my house! As this is an extremely early-in-the-season sighting for this bird, and the bird itself is beautiful with a fiery orange throat, I raced over there on my bike and almost immediately found it!

The bird was extremely back lit so this was the best photo I could manage, but it is still a breathtaking find since I usually wouldn't expect to see these in Oak Park until May 4/5 (compared to April 24!). And how about that throat?!?! What...a...bird!!!

A fantastic day all around! This is still "early" in spring migration and I am very excited because tonight could prove to be the biggest movement in migrating birds over Illinois yet this spring. (most bird species migrate during the nighttime)

Bird-of-the-day to the Blackburnian Warbler! It was an awesome day!

Good birding,

World Life List: 884 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 19:11 Archived in USA Tagged me people trees animals birds Comments (2)

Watching Woodcocks!

sunny 56 °F

Today, as well as leading the Thatcher Woods bird walk in the morning (see previous post), I attended the Illinois Young Birders' Club field trip to look for American Woodcocks at Air Station Prairie in the evening.

The Metra dropped me off earlier than I was planning to have dinner with the other young birders, so in the meantime I birded the nearby Lake Glenview.

My first sighting was not of a bird, but another flying object - a drone!

I climbed to the top of a small hill and was afforded a great view of the lake with fantastic scanning opportunities for birds.

I quickly found these RUDDY DUCKS, one of my favorite duck species!


Then, after a tasty and fun dinner with the other young birders at D'Agostino's, the group headed over to the nearby Air Station Prairie where our main target bird would be the American Woodcock. This is a stout species of shorebird (although they live in grasslands & savannas, not aquatic habitats) with a very long bill and an erratic, comical courtship flight that takes place at dusk in the months of March and April.

It was not quite dark enough for the Woodcocks yet, so we birded in the meantime. The two biggest unphotographed highlights were SORA and VIRGINIA RAIL, both in the rail family, which called from the marsh just seconds apart from each other.


WILSON'S SNIPE abounded and we spotted a group of them presumably migrating northward at one point:

Bad photo of a SWAMP SPARROW:

The post-sunset sky was breathtaking:

A flyover AMERICAN BITTERN was a totally unexpected, awesome surprise. Trust me, the dark blob in this photo is indeed a bittern!

And eventually, we heard the unmistakable "Peent!" call of the American Woodcock and saw several males erratically flying, dipping, and diving in the sky over us, trying to attract a mate.

Since Woodcocks tend to land in exactly the same spot from which they take off, we tracked down one bird and even got to see it (from a distance) on the ground. Here is the best photo I could manage under the illumination of a flashlight:

It was an awesome outing, and I had a blast with all of my friends in the young birders' club! Today will mark the first day I have ever attended two young birder outings in a single day! Bird-of-the-day goes to the AMERICAN WOODCOCK with runner-up to the AMERICAN BITTERN. Although both were poorly photographed, they sure were fantastic birds.

Stay tuned for the recap of tomorrow's Oak Park Bird Walk! Spring migration rocks!

Good birding,

World Life List: 884 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 20:16 Archived in USA Tagged me lakes people trees animals birds sky Comments (0)

A Week of Migration & 2nd ILYB Thatcher Woods Walk!

all seasons in one day 56 °F

This week has proved to be an intense week, with everything from an AP psychology final exam to this spring's first real wave of migrants coming through Oak Park. This post also includes a recap of today's young birder walk I led at Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve.

Here is a male EASTERN TOWHEE, a nice migrant species to see in the neighborhood:

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, one of the early migrant warblers to come through in April:

Male RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. See the ruby crown?

VERY early SWAINSON'S THRUSH - usually I don't see this species until the first week of May:

HERMIT THRUSH, the much more expected species of thrush to come through in April:

Female YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, the most common warbler in April:

Here is a male:


Male NASHVILLE WARBLER, another species that usually doesn't arrive until at least the first week of May:


A pretty Fox Squirrel, less common than the ubiquitous Gray Squirrels usually seen in Oak Park:

Here is the rump of a DARK-EYED JUNCO, a bird typical of winter so hopefully this is the last time I see it this year!



Today (Saturday, April 23), I led a joint Illinois' Young Birders Club - Oak Park Kids Bird Walk at Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve. A nice group of people, including about six families, showed up for this very successful walk.

We found a few woodpeckers, including this female RED-BELLIED:


At least 6 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS were the highlight of the walk. Here is a female:

This SOLITARY SANDPIPER was a nice surprise, my first sandpiper of the year:



Bird-of-the-day to the Rusty Blackbirds, and runner up to the Solitary Sandpipers. The full list of species from the walk this morning is attached below.

For more information about Oak Park Bird Walks, visit: https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/home

I'm so happy spring migration is here!

Good birding,

World Life List: 884 Species (no recent life birds)

31 species (+1 other taxa):

Canada Goose 2
Wood Duck 6
Mallard 3
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
hawk sp. 1 Heard strange call, could not identify.
Solitary Sandpiper 3
Ring-billed Gull 2
Mourning Dove 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 2
Black-capped Chickadee 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
American Robin 25
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Rusty Blackbird 6
Common Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 4
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 1

Posted by skwclar 10:36 Archived in USA Tagged me children trees animals birds sky Comments (2)

Thatcher Woods Bird Walk!

sunny 73 °F

On this beautiful April day, Sunday the 17th, I led the first of three Oak Park Kids - Illinois Young Birders' Bird Walks held at Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve this spring. The others will meet at the parking lot west of the Trailside Museum in Thatcher Woods on April 23 @ 9am and May 1 @ 8am.

A bit of scouting before the trip yielded a singing but unphotographed PURPLE FINCH as well as this White-tailed Deer:

It turned out to be a nice group of about 5 families, and Josh Engel, Illinois Young Birders' Club field trip leader and Field Museum ornithologist, led the walk with me. We saw three BLUE-WINGED TEAL, a nice uncommon sighting for Thatcher Woods:

Can you spot the BROWN CREEPER?

After seeing chickadees attending to a stump, we checked it out and they were creating a nesting cavity! Here is the stump into which they were nesting:

Some sharp-eyed members in the group spotted this small Garter Snake, my FOY (first of the year) snake sighting of any kind.


Far-off male WOOD DUCK:

Beautiful butterfly:

Toward the end of the walk, Kris Gallagher spotted a pair of RUSTY BLACKBIRDS foraging in the swamp ahead of the group! This is an awesome sighting because this is a threatened species, so thanks Kris!

In total, 37 species were identified on the walk - see the list attached below. Bird-of-the-day to the foraging RUSTY BLACKBIRDS and runner-up to the BLUE-WINGED TEAL, an uncommon species for Thatcher.

To sign up for these walks, as well as other bird walks this spring, email me at: trumpetswan (@) comcast.net
To find out more about Oak Park Bird Walks, visit: https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/home
To find out more about the Illinois Young Birders' Club, visit: http://illinoisyoungbirders.org

Good birding!

World Life List: 884 Species (no recent life birds)

37 species (+1 other taxa) today:

Canada Goose 3
Wood Duck 6
Mallard 8
Blue-winged Teal 3
Turkey Vulture 2
hawk sp. 1
Killdeer 1
Ring-billed Gull 3
Mourning Dove 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Blue Jay 4
Black-capped Chickadee 7
White-breasted Nuthatch 4
Brown Creeper 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 12
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 12
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 25
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 1
White-throated Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 5
Northern Cardinal 14
Red-winged Blackbird 8
Rusty Blackbird 2 Wooded swamp north of Chicago Ave overflow parking lot.
Common Grackle 4
Brown-headed Cowbird 12
House Finch 1
Purple Finch 1 Heard singing.
American Goldfinch 3
House Sparrow 7

Posted by skwclar 15:24 Archived in USA Tagged me lakes people trees animals birds sky Comments (0)

Week Recap & 1st Oak Park Bird Walk of Spring!

sunny 61 °F

This week has been a busy one for me...preparing for a piano exam, studying for the AP psych test...I have to say I can't wait until summer's here when I don't have to worry about school!

On Thursday while waiting for my sister to get out of her piano lesson, I found and hurriedly photographed this BROAD-WINGED HAWK, the rarest I hawk I have ever seen in the Oak Park/River Forest area! Please excuse the terrible photo quality, the light was harsh and I didn't have much time to take photos before it soared away. Note the white band on the tail that is a major identifying field mark of this species.

Today (Saturday, April 16), I led the first bird walk of the year and I have to say it was the most enjoyable and productive first-of-the-season bird walk I have ever had! Six birders were in attendance and we had a blast.

At one point, I was showing everyone my photos of the Pine Warbler (see last week's post), and then just 30 seconds later, an uncommon PINE WARBLER popped into few just a few feet away from the group! What a coincidence, and it is always a marvelous bird to see!

Suddenly, a DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT flew over too quickly to photograph but was an awesome find for Oak Park nevertheless!

Then, I showed the group the local COOPER'S HAWK nest. One adult hawk was in attendance:

My FOY (first-of-the-season) HERMIT THRUSH:


Although an invasive species, this EUROPEAN STARLING's iridescence was strangely beautiful:

Male MALLARD at the Taylor Park wetland:


Female MOURNING DOVE on her nest:

Male CHIPPING SPARROW, singing away just a few feet above our heads!

It was a fantastic first walk of the season! Thanks to everyone for coming out, both the birds and the birders! Bird-of-the-day to the male PINE WARBLER and runner-up to the even more uncommon but unphotographed DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT. The full species list for the walk is attached below.

I still have spaces left in many Oak Park Bird Walks this spring! The next one is TOMORROW (Sunday, April 17) at 9:00am starting from the Trailside Museum in River Forest, with a focus on young birders. To visit the bird walk website, click here: https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/
To make a reservation(s), email me at: trumpetswan (@) comcast.net

Good birding,

World Life List: 884 Species (no recent life birds)

29 species (+1 other taxa) today:

Mallard 3 At Taylor Park fen.
Double-crested Cormorant 1 Flyover, huge surprise.
Cooper's Hawk 1 Probably 2, but only seen one-at-a-time.
Ring-billed Gull 3
Mourning Dove 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 2 Up to 4 birds, but only seen one-at-a-time.
American Crow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Brown Creeper 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 9
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 25
European Starling 2
Pine Warbler 1 In pines along Augusta between Elmwood and Fair Oaks.
Chipping Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 3
White-throated Sparrow 2
Eastern Towhee 1 At Taylor Park.
Northern Cardinal 9
Red-winged Blackbird 3
Common Grackle 6
Brown-headed Cowbird 8
blackbird sp. 17
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 6
House Sparrow 24

Posted by skwclar 07:51 Archived in USA Tagged me people trees animals birds Comments (0)

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