A Travellerspoint blog

May 2014

Michigan Trip Over the Weekend

semi-overcast 80 °F

Hello all,

This is the report on the small trip my mom and I just took to Michigan from Sunday to today. My dad couldn't come because of work and since we were planning to get back around early afternoon on Tuesday, Pearl would miss her school if she came with us, so it was only my mom and I who went to Michigan.

We left on Sunday after church, so we were probably on the road by about 8:45am. I managed to fit in a bit of birding early on Sunday and I captured a decent photo of this MOURNING WARBLER, which was lucky because they usually tend to skulk in very dense bushes:
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I also saw but did not photograph a CANADA WARBLER, which was another nice find.

Then, my mom and I started on our three-hour-long drive to Michigan. It went by very quickly because the traffic was extremely agreeable, even on the Dan Ryan, which is usually a mess!

I saw many birds on the drive there including a few GREAT EGRETS, many hunting RED-TAILED HAWKS and TURKEY VULTURES, as well as my life bird REDHEAD! I saw the Redhead (which is a species of duck) swimming along with a few MUTE SWANS in Wolf Lake, which we always pass by on the way to Michigan.

We were at the campground that my mom owns in southwest Michigan by about 1:00pm or so. It turned out to be a beautiful, pleasant afternoon with a good number of bird species seen, including my surprise FOY (first-of-year) BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (not photographed), four species of flycatchers, four species of swallows, and five species of woodpeckers, as well as the birds pictured below:

BALTIMORE ORIOLES were abundant, but most of them hide up in the canopy of the taller trees. This male bird, however, posed nicely for a photo in a nearby bush:
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When I was helping clean the outside of the cottage we own, I happened upon a bird nest that had been there last year. I assumed that it was vacant, but when I checked in the nest just to make sure there was nobody inside, I came face to face with three squealing baby birds of some sort. Later, I checked on the nest and thankfully, a female AMERICAN ROBIN had returned:
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GREAT BLUE HERONS are my mom's favorite bird at the campground. This one was relatively tame and allowed for this photo:
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The star of the afternoon, however, was an absolutely stunning (FOY) RED-HEADED WOODPECKER that I photographed in a tree literally right above the cabin we own on the campground. This species is federally threatened due to habitat loss and an accompanying massive decline in this bird's population in recent decades, so it was very pleasant to see this fellow:
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Here is the species list for Sunday, May 25. A very respectable total of 57 avian species were heard or seen by me. Bird-of-the-day to my life bird REDHEAD and runners-up to the BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO and the RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, which were both FOYs for me.

Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Bluebird
Indigo Bunting
Northern Cardinal
Gray Catbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Sandhill Crane
American Crow
BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (FOY)
Great Egret (FOY)
Northern Flicker
Great Crested Flycatcher (FOY)
American Goldfinch
Canada Goose
Common Grackle
Ring-billed Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron (FOY)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Blue Jay
Killdeer
Eastern Kingbird
Belted Kingfisher (FOY)
Mallard
White-breasted Nuthatch
Baltimore Oriole
Eastern Phoebe
Rock Pigeon
REDHEAD (life bird!)
American Robin
Chipping Sparrow
House Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow (FOY)
Tree Swallow
Mute Swan (FOY)
Chimney Swift
Caspian Tern (FOY)
Tufted Titmouse (FOY)
Red-eyed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Turkey Vulture
CANADA WARBLER
Magnolia Warbler
MOURNING WARBLER
Tennessee Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Cedar Waxwing
Eastern Wood-pewee
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (FOY)
House Wren
Common Yellowthroat

Yesterday, Monday May 26, Memorial Day, my mom and I woke up around 5:30am so that she could drive me to the nearby Yankee Springs State Recreation Area. YSSRA is my "secret spot" to find nesting endangered Cerulean Warblers, as well as other vulnerable nesting forest species such as Acadian Flycatchers, Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, and Hooded Warblers. I was also hoping that I could snag some migrant bird species since it is still the tail end of migration. YSSRA is a beautiful preserve, with the recreation area being over 1,000 acres of mainly wooded habitat and with the adjoining, huge Barry State Game Area, the total acreage of connected forest is probably somewhere around 3,000 beautiful acres.

I birded the Chief Noonday Trail at Yankee Springs National Recreation Area from 6:00am-8:45am and saw some absolutely amazing birds, including five species of flycatchers and eight species of warblers, including 2 stunning, sky-blue, endangered CERULEAN WARBLERS!

It was Memorial Day, after all (all of the photos below were taken at Yankee Springs)!

Red: SCARLET TANAGER (male)
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White: EASTERN KINGBIRD
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Blue: CERULEAN WARBLER (male)
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I also saw a rare ACADIAN FLYCATCHER feeling a bit left out:
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It was a great outing with a stupendous array of rare forest birds.

Then, my mom and I headed into the tiny town of Otsego (my mom's hometown) to watch the Memorial Day Parade. It was quite a spectacle for just a small village:

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When we arrived back at the campground shortly before lunch, there were a number of good birds waiting for me:

This strange GREEN HERON was perched towards the top of a dead tree:
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My mom and I both had fantastic views of this GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER:
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After a Subway-sandwich pig-out at the picnic table in front of our cottage, I went birding on our property, and as well as seeing the birds photographed below, I saw and heard the two rarest species of woodpeckers at the campground: PILEATED and RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS.

Male INDIGO BUNTING:
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I searched for and found this WOOD THRUSH belting out his absolutely magnificent, ethereal, and almost haunting song in the middle of the woods on our property:
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Then, I found this surprisingly friendly GRAY CATBIRD by following its classic "meow" call to the bird itself:
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Cute EASTERN PHOEBES are common at the campground:
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It is always nice to see a beautiful TREE SWALLOW perched like this one:
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This MALLARD was the only duck species seen on the lake bordering our campground on Monday:
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Finally, to round off the evening was a nice CEDAR WAXWING:
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I positively identified 60 avian species yesterday (which is my best one-day total so far this year). The bird-of-the-day yesterday and the bird-of-the-weekend goes to the CERULEAN WARBLER, which is always a huge treat to see, and runners-up for yesterday's award goes to ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, SCARLET TANAGER, and WOOD THRUSH. Full species list for yesterday is below:

Red-winged Blackbird
Indigo Bunting
Northern Cardinal
Gray Catbird
Black-capped Chickadee
Brown-headed Cowbird
Sandhill Crane (FOY)
American Crow
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (FOY)
Great Crested Flycatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (FOY)
American Goldfinch
Canada Goose
Common Grackle
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-tailed Hawk
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Blue Jay
Mallard
White-breasted Nuthatch
Baltimore Oriole
Ovenbird
Eastern Phoebe
Rock Pigeon
American Redstart
American Robin
Chipping Sparrow
House Sparrow
Song Sparrow
European Starling
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Chimney Swift
SCARLET TANAGER
WOOD THRUSH (FOY)
Tufted Titmouse
VEERY
Red-eyed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Turkey Vulture
BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (FOY)
CERULEAN WARBLER (FOY)
Chestnut-sided Warbler
PINE WARBLER (FOY)
Yellow Warbler
Cedar Waxwing
Eastern Wood-pewee
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
PILEATED WOODPECKER (FOY)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
House Wren
Common Yellowthroat

Today my mom and I spent a quiet morning of sleeping in and cleaning up at our cottage. Before we left I had a few nice birds including fly-over GREEN HERONS and a flock of TREE SWALLOWS with a random CLIFF SWALLOW mixed in. The drive from our cottage in southwest Michigan to Chicago took less than three hours and it was uneventful with the only good birds seen along the way being a few MUTE SWANS at Wolf Lake. Full species list for today is below.

Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal
American Crow
Great Egret
Great Crested Flycatcher
American Goldfinch
Canada Goose
Common Grackle
Ring-billed Gull
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Eastern Kingbird
Rock Pigeon
American Robin
Chipping Sparrow
House Sparrow
European Starling
Barn Swallow
CLIFF SWALLOW
Tree Swallow
Mute Swan
Chimney Swift
Tufted Titmouse
Warbling Vireo
Turkey Vulture
Yellow Warbler
Cedar Waxwing
Eastern Wood-pewee
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Common Yellowthroat

It was a very nice weekend of relaxation and fantastic birding. Bird-of-the-trip and bird-of-the-month so far to the Cerulean Warbler at Yankee Springs State Recreation Area.

Good birding and stay tuned,

Henry
World Life List: 667 Species (1 life bird this weekend: Redhead)

Posted by skwclar 19:33 Archived in USA Comments (0)

A Week of Fantastic Birding

all seasons in one day 65 °F

Hello all,

This week was devoted to birding the migration madness coming through my neighborhood, as well as leading Oak Park Bird Walks. I have seen SO many birds this week. Here are some of the more interesting statistics for this week:

3 life birds:

Least Flycatcher
Connecticut Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler

9 species I have never seen before this week in my neighborhood:

Canada Warbler
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Bay-breasted Warbler
Eastern Phoebe
Least Flycatcher
Golden-winged Warbler
Great Blue Heron
Double-crested Cormorant
Connecticut Warbler

Finally, I have identified 22 warbler species in total this week, just from looking around my neighborhood!

Ovenbird
Golden-winged Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Connecticut Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler

Here are some of the best/most interesting photos from this week (all pictures were taken in my neighborhood):

A beautiful CANADA WARBLER seen less than five minutes after I arrived home from my Europe trip. Surely it was a good omen for what turned out to be an ultra-productive week.
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I found this stunning male BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER simply by looking up into one of my trees in the backyard:
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I was overjoyed when I captured this image of two rare BAY-BREASTED WARBLERS in the same photo!
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One life bird I gained this week was this diminutive LEAST FLYCATCHER:
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A backyard OVENBIRD was also a pleasant surprise:
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I saw a few SCARLET TANAGERS in my neighborhood this week, including this beautiful yet stubborn male bird who stayed at the top of a giant ash tree, limiting me to this pixelated image of him:
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The star of the week, however, was my life-bird GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER, because it was a new bird for me and it happens to be a federally threatened species that just showed up in my backyard one day! I only managed a very blurry shot of him:
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Pretty little COMMON YELLOWTHROATS were, well, common throughout the week:
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As were subtly beautiful RED-EYED VIREOS, such as this one:
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The best bird I found today on the neighborhood bird walk I led was an extremely--EXTREMELY--rare CONNECTICUT WARBLER. I managed to capture a video of it singing, and I was lucky because these birds tend to not show themselves very easily. This one, however, was relatively out in the open!

It has been a fabulous week, and it will continue to be, because tomorrow my mom and I will start our weekend trip to the campground she owns in Michigan. One stop I am hoping to fit in is to Yankee Springs State Recreation Area, where hopefully I will find the endangered Cerulean Warbler! I don't have wifi there, so I will post when I arrive back home on Tuesday.

Good birding and stay tuned!

Henry
World Life List: 666 Species (3 life birds since I have arrived home from Europe)

Posted by skwclar 10:49 Archived in USA Comments (0)

WARBLERS!

overcast 70 °F

Today was an amazing day with regards to birding.

I woke up early due to jet-lag, so I immediately started birding at 5:30am! Within the next half an hour, without even leaving my yard, I found that BAY-BREASTED WARBLERS and a CAROLINA WREN would be my best species before I had to go inside around 6:00am.

I managed to get a photo of two rare BAY-BREASTED WARBLERS in the same frame!
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Around six I retreated back into the house and came back out for the Oak Park Bird Walk I would be leading soon after 7:00am. Before my sole participant for the day, Susan Laws, arrived, I found this stunning male BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER:
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As well as this CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. This species would prove to be relatively common throughout the morning.
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Suddenly, I heard a buzzy song that I immediately recognized as a CERULEAN WARBLER (federally threatened species), and soon I had mediocre visuals of the bird, as well. I sadly did not obtain any identifiable photos due to the fact that it was backlit and in the canopy of a tall elm tree.

Then, Susan Laws arrived, and she came just in time to hear the Cerulean belt out a few final choruses of its song before it decided to be silent/fly away. I also managed to get her visuals of the BLACKBURNIAN and CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLERS pictured above.

We then had a very productive bird walk, which greatly helped the number of avian species for the day go up.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH:
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RED-EYED VIREO:
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COOPER'S HAWK:
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Near the end of the walk, I heard a "starburst-like song" that I assumed was a Canada Warbler. Then, I got visuals on the hefty warbler that was singing the song from a nearby bush, and confirmed its identity with its diagnostic white eye-ring. It was a mega rare CONNECTICUT WARBLER, which is on par with the Cerulean! Life bird #664! Sadly, the bird flew off just as my camera was focusing on it! Pesky little thing...

That was the last great bird for the morning, and what a fantastic end to an extremely exciting morning of birding and specifically warbler watching!

Here is the schedule for upcoming Oak Park Bird Walks if you are interested:

Thursday, May 22: 7:00AM
Saturday, May 24: 7:00AM
Monday, May 26: 7:00AM
Thursday, May 29: 7:00AM
Saturday, May 31: 7:00AM
Sunday, June 1: 7:00AM

Email me at the following email address for me details such as the meeting location:
hwga380@comcast.net

It was an absolutely fabulous day, and the great warblers were one of the best presents imaginable, since today is my birthday! Bird-of-the-day will be shared by the CERULEAN and CONNECTICUT WARBLERS. Runners-up to the BAY-BREASTED and BLACKBURNIAN WARBLERS.

Here is the full species list for this morning from 5:30am-8:50am:

36 species

(FOY means first-of-the-year)

Cooper's Hawk 2
Ring-billed Gull 3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 4
Mourning Dove 2
FOY Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1 Seen clearly. Juvenile, blotchy bird about the size of Hairy Woodpecker with slight yellow wash on belly.
Downy Woodpecker 1
FOY BLUE-HEADED VIREO 1
FOY Red-eyed Vireo 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
FOY CAROLINA WREN 1 Seen before the walk.
FOY VEERY 1
GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH 2
FOY Swainson's Thrush 5
American Robin 20
European Starling 2
Tennessee Warbler 3
FOY Nashville Warbler 2
FOY CONNECTICUT WARBLER 1 LIFE BIRD!
FOY Common Yellowthroat 1
FOY American Redstart 4
FOY CERULEAN WARBLER 1 FEDERALLY THREATENED SPECIES
Magnolia Warbler 5
FOY Bay-breasted Warbler 2
FOY BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER 1
FOY Yellow Warbler 2
FOY Chestnut-sided Warbler 7
FOY Blackpoll Warbler 2
Chipping Sparrow 2
FOY SCARLET TANAGERS 2 Both were females, one male was seen by Adrian Marquez later this afternoon
Northern Cardinal 10
Common Grackle 1
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 10

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List (664 Species, 1 life bird today: Connecticut Warbler)

Posted by skwclar 20:22 Archived in USA Comments (0)

An Amazing Year in Review

Hello all, and welcome back to the last post dedicated to my Europe 2014 trip! ?

First of all, I need to give a summary of my last full day in England, which I neglected to post due to the extremely poor wifi connection at our inn.

The day was dedicated towards touring the absolutely gorgeous English countryside south of the city of Bath with my family and Uncle John.

Our first stop was Stonehenge, which required a drive, a bus ride, and finally a moderate walk in order to get there, but the pay off was definitely worth it, however, because it was truly one of the most unique historical sites we visited on this trip.
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EURASIAN JACKDAWS, EUROPEAN STARLINGS, and ROOKS, such as this one, enjoyed perching on the stones...even to the extant that if someone looked upon it from above, they would probably rename it Bird Poop Henge.
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Here is an interesting comparison photo that I took of England's two most common corvids: ROOK (left), and EURASIAN JACKDAW (right):
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Here is a close-up of a ROOK. Check out that funky bill:
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COMMON BLACKBIRDS where ubiquitous, as usual, throughout the day:
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Then, we visited the bustling English town of Salisbury, in order to tour our final famous cathedral of the trip...the aptly named Salisbury Cathedral. It was another magnificent building of towers, flying buttresses, and resplendent artwork. Did you know that the main bell tower leans two and a half feet?! You surely wouldn't know it:
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Oh, yeah, it was scaffolding around the world, part one hundred (!):
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The inside was gorgeous as well:
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Some birds seen on the way back to the car were this EURASIAN MOORHEN:
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And this EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH:
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Then, after an hour car-ride back to the inn, we toured the Lacock Abbey, which was only a short walk from our inn. Scenes from various Harry Potter movies were filmed there, and the staff had birds of prey on display on premises, so I found this stop particularly interesting.

Here is a photo of my mom and Pearl posing in a cloister within the abbey:
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Then, we spent a quiet evening in town and got up bright and early today in order to eat breakfast at the pub below our inn. After breakfast, I went birding and had a few nice finds, such as this COAL TIT:
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Singing EURASIAN WREN:
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Beautiful EUROPEAN ROBIN:
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Later, we packed up the car, stuffed all five people including Uncle John into our cramped "Vauxhall," and we started on our journey back to London. By the way, I have concluded that London is my all-time favorite city!

We made a stop along the way at another interesting circular stone formation. It is even older than Stonehenge at about 6,000 years old (compared to a "mere" 4,000). I found this stone formation more enjoyable because you were allowed to walk amongst the rocks, whereas in Stonehenge there is a designated walking trail that forms a very large circle around those rocks. This stone formation was also located on a sheep farm, which made for a totally authentic experience (sheep droppings and all).

After approximately forty minutes, Uncle John treated Pearl and me (and himself) to ice cream since it is my birthday tomorrow!

Then, we piled into our "Vauxhall" and drove the rest of the journey to London's Heathrow International Airport. After dropping the car off at the airport, just before we checked in with United Airlines, we had to say goodbye to Uncle John, who will stay in London for two more days before heading off to his home, Seattle. It has been a great leg of our journey with him, and we definitely had many more laughs than we would have had without him.

Security went very, very expediently, until...

My satchel and Pearl's backpack were put on the "special" security counter after going through regular security.

We had to wait an entire half an hour before the two items were screened, because other backpacks and carry-ons were un-democratically leap-frogging ours in the "special security line."

Then, I found one of those stands that asks you how your experience in security was...and I availed myself of that thing. I tapped every rhythm imaginable from "Shave and a Hair Cut" to "Beethoven's First Piano Sonata" onto the "very dissatisfied" button. Many passer-bys found my inventive anger ventilation humorous, while the airport officials looked upon me with acute disliking (as only the English can).

Finally, the bags were examined, and the reason for my bag being put in the "special lane" was that I had carried my "jumbo-sized" calculator in the satchel. Boy, that irritating mathematical instrument causes me many problems...within school and out! ?

Anyway, we raced to our gate (which of course was the furthest one away from the security check-point) and just barely had time to grab a bite to eat for the plane before boarding.

Then, we boarded our United Airlines B767-300, and after a surprisingly short wait, the plane pulled out of the gate quite a few minutes early!

After a short taxi, we were in the air, and overall our United Airlines experience, just like our experience on this airline coming home from Beijing, was enjoyable, smooth, and best of all, early!

After literally racing through the security, customs, immigration, and baggage at O'Hare (I swear all of that took us less than five minutes!), our favorite taxi driver, Edward, picked us up, and...now we're home!

I immediately quenched my thirst for warblers and went birding around the neighborhood. Suddenly, I stopped in my tracks with sheer astonishment that my first warbler after the trip was a rare, beautiful, obliging CANADA WARBLER (check out that wonderfully contrasting black necklace against the yellow belly):
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The other noteworthy bird of the walk was this GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH:
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Here is the wrap-up of the Europe trip as a whole:

I neglected to include my birding summary for England, so here it is:

ENGLAND
19 life birds
Best birds: Eared Grebe, Little Ringed Plover
Best birding: London Wetlands with my Dad (I found both of the above species there)

So, as I expected, England was my favorite and most productive country with regards to birding on this trip. Save the best for last!

I definitely found this trip very enjoyable, informative, and interesting.

I now have a greater appreciation and understanding of the world because of all of the sightseeing, birding, and best of all, spending cherished time with family, on all of these wonderful trips this year.

For anyone who is interested, here is my summary of our three main trips this past winter:

Panama
November-December 2013
This was the best trip with regards to birding.

New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore
January-March 2014
This was the best trip with regards to nature as a whole and overall diversity of locations visited.

Turkey, Italy, France, and England
April-May 2014
This was the best trip with regards to historical sightseeing.

Now, I will list the things that I have most been looking forward to about arriving back home:

Family. Especially my Grandma.
Friends from band and Chicago Children's Choir.
My own bed.
America.
SLEEP, GLORIOUS SLEEP!
WARBLER MIGRATION!!! I REPEAT...WARBLER MIGRATION!
It is my birthday tomorrow, May 19! I will be turning 14 years old.

With regards to future posts on this blog, yes, they will happen! I am planning many special birding trips for this summer and I plan for birding to be a life-long hobby, so I will keep this blog up as long as I can. Please, please, keep following the blog if you're even remotely interested in my wacky avian-related musings and meanderings.

This has been a life-changing and unforgettable year that I will remember for my entire life.

As always, stay tuned, and...you guessed it...happy birding!!

Henry
World Life List: 663 SPECIES!

Posted by skwclar 18:31 Comments (0)

Day 25: Cotswolds to Lacock

semi-overcast 73 °F

Sorry, but this will be another relatively short post, and without pictures because of yet ANOTHER untimely camera malfunction. Today my family, Uncle John, and I basically drove from a small town in the Cotswolds to another beautiful rural English town called Lacock. Pronounced "LAE-cock."

It was a beautiful day of 73 degrees and partly sunny skies. Apparently, the northern suburbs of Chicago had SNOW a few days ago, which would be the first time in at least ten years when snow has been recorded in May, and one of the few times on record!

On the other hand, Chicago is going through its peak bird migration. I am having a common birding symptom called "Warbler Withdrawal," which happens when a birder misses the bulk or all of warbler migration (me).

Tomorrow will be our last full day on this trip. It will be devoted to touring around the area, including seeing Stonehenge from afar. Tonight and tomorrow night will be spent here in this beautiful village, and then we drive the London airport on Sunday and fly home to Chicago!

I have mixed feelings about returning home. It will be concluding our travels for this winter, which I am unhappy about, however, I miss many of my friends back in Chicago, and also I miss the WARBLERS, so thankfully I will be back for the tail end of warbler migration!

Because I neglected to give birding summaries for Turkey, Italy, and France, here they are (I will do my England birding summary tomorrow):

TURKEY
24 life birds
Best bird: Yelkouan Shearwater (globally threatened species)

ITALY
7 life birds
Best bird: Citril Finch

FRANCE
15 life birds
Best bird: European Robin

ENGLAND
TBD

Good birding and stay tuned,

Henry
World Life List: 664 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 14:13 Archived in England Comments (1)

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