A Travellerspoint blog

May 2020

Miller Meadow Bird Walk & Deer Grove Herping

Cook County, IL

sunny 69 °F

Today I led the annual Oak Park Bird Walk in Miller Meadow Forest Preserve for a wonderful group of eight birders. We saw a good number of birds including many WARBLING VIREOS:

TREE SWALLOWS have, as usual, taken over the “Kestrel” nest box.

Surprisingly, there were still a few migrant warblers around including BLACKPOLL:

And a super-obliging BLACK-THROATED BLUE who sang for us — amazing, especially this late in the season!

One interesting sighting was an escaped pet cockatiel called a BUDGERIGAR (not technically countable).

The highlight of the walk was probably hearing & seeing either 5 or 6 YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS, a known breeder here, but today the place was CRAWLING with them!

Check out that tail!

Next stop: Deer Grove Forest Preserve in search of breeding birds and Tiger & Spotted Salamanders. I quickly found a beautiful singing male SCARLET TANAGER:

And right alongside the entrance road, incredibly, was a family of SANDHILL CRANES! Soooo cool!

This shows how close they were:

The baby truly looks like a fuzzy dinosaur!

And of probably eighty logs flipped, I found two Blue-spotted Salamanders. Not my target species, but still super cool to see. Another cool amphibian around was the Leopard Frog.

And on the way out, I was treated to my favorite warbler, a (hopefully breeding) pair of HOODED, which will be my bird-of-the-day. Runner-up to all the Yellow-billed Cuckoos at Miller Meadow.

Good birding!
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 21:29 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Where the buffalo roam...

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, IL

semi-overcast 74 °F

Today, my family, Tian, and I drove to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in search of birds, and Illinois’ one herd of American Bison. Target breeding birds for Midewin include Ring-necked Pheasant, Bell’s Vireo, all the grassland sparrows, Northern Mockingbird, Western Meadowlark, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Loggerhead Shrike, among others.

We started at the trailhead off of River Road which, I believe since it was the earliest part of our morning trip, held the greatest number of birds of any of our stops. A female BALTIMORE ORIOLE was there to greet us:

But soon the smaller ORCHARD ORIOLES proved themselves to be more common than the Balts:




And my best bird, by far, was a singing YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT that I tracked down with my dad. A great breeding bird for the area and just a beautiful species in general.

A nice surprise on the way back to the car included a WILD TURKEY that we flushed and it proceeded to trot down the trail, away from us. Very cool!

A heard-only target bird on that trail was BELL’S VIREO.

Next stop: Explosives Road. Upon crossing the train tracks, we pulled off to the side of the road and I immediately picked up a good heard-only species, GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, and an exceptional heard-only: WESTERN MEADOWLARK, my first for Illinois! Its song is significantly more convoluted and melodic than the Eastern’s and, to a discerning ear, distinctly different.

We were afforded great views of DICKCISSELS alongside the road:

This HOUSE WREN was missing its tail:

And we got a beautiful look at this male INDIGO BUNTING.


At the third stop, Iron Bridge Trailhead, it was nice to see a BOBOLINK:

Then, we saw ‘em! At first — just six!

And soon, we counted a total of over thirty-seven American Bison in Illinois’ only (heavily-monitored) wild herd of these beasts.

So cool! Plus, we were treated to another classic staple of the prairie, EASTERN MEADOWLARK, on the way out.

Tian and the family posing for a quick photo.

My last stop at the Hoff Rd Trailhead was quiet apart from two calling YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS and this single CHIPPING SPARROW:

Later today, I led a bird walk through the neighborhood where we were surprised to find a wonderful lingering migrant species: SCARLET TANAGER! In fact, it was our only (definitive) migrant passerine of the walk.

This RED-EYED VIREO was present but it’s probably a resident as they breed in Oak Park annually in medium numbers.

Another nice find was about fourteen CEDAR WAXWINGS.

Probably the best avian observation on the bird walk was a heard-only observation of a SORA whinnying from the tiny fen in Taylor Park! So cool to get this rail in my “local patch” — my first ever!

And we spotted the female COOPER’S HAWK barely peeking her head up above the nest! Hopefully, she has success!

Bird-of-the-day to the Yellow-breasted Chat & Wild Turkey at Midewin, with runner-up to the Scarlet Tanager & Sora in Oak Park. Stay tuned — tomorrow I lead an Oak Park Bird Walk at Miller Meadow Forest Preserve!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 21:06 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Monitoring the Hawk Nests

Oak Park/River Forest, IL

all seasons in one day 80 °F

This evening, I set out to monitor two Cooper’s and one Red-shouldered Hawk nest in Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois.

I couldn’t find the first Cooper’s Hawk nest which was supposed to be around the corner of Chicago & Euclid in Oak Park, but I did find the adult male bird with recently-caught avian prey:

A female AMERICAN KESTREL was also in the area, cool! Maybe she is nesting around the area, too...

Next, it was off to the RED-SHOULDERED HAWK nest at the corner of Iowa & Clinton in River Forest where I found not, one or two, but THREE nestlings! Super cool for this uncommon hawk species for the local area. The nestlings had grown quite a bit since my last observation of this nest, and multiple of them were flapping their wings, indicating an upcoming fledging! Please, please, stay in the area for my June 1 big day! :)

One of the younger siblings:

What an alien! Unfortunately, I didn’t see the adult birds while I visited, but I am sure they were in the area — possibly off hunting for the young ones.

And the last stop was back in Oak Park at another COOPER’S HAWK nest at 830 Fair Oaks Ave where one of the adult birds was sitting on the nest — you can see the tail protruding over the edge.

Amazing! Bird-of-the-day to the Red-shouldered Hawks with runners-up to the American Kestrel & Cooper’s Hawks. Stay tuned: tomorrow I will head to Deer Grove Forest Preserve to check for breeding birds, late migrants, and salamanders (hopefully some Tiger and Spotted!)

Good birding,
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 18:02 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Scouting the Palos Preserves

Cook County, IL

sunny 86 °F

Next monday, Jake Cvetas and I will take on Eddie K and Isoo in our first-ever “Cook County big day — competition.” From sunrise (5:18am) to sunset (8:20pm), both teams will compete to find the most birds in Cook in one day in June. We decided to break into teams of two this year in order to further limit of chances of being possible carriers of Coronavirus.

So, in preparation for the upcoming competition, this morning, Tian and I covered the Palos area preserves today to “scout out” which areas would be the most important for Jake and I to cover on Monday.

We started at Spears Woods in the Palos district along LaGrange Road. Bird-wise it was extremely quiet so I turned to herping to see if I could find any of my slimy friends hiding under logs.

And that, I did! I even found two large, grayish Mole Salamanders!

As well as a few of the more-common Blue-spotted:

Super duper cool. Any time spent with these elusive creatures is a real blessing. The next stop, Pulaski Woods, delivered a few quality birds including VEERY, WOOD THRUSH, TUFTED TITMOUSE, and ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, but none of them were cooperative for photos.

So next, Tian and I continued on to McClaughry Springs Woods where, for the first time ever, I actually found the LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH that is known to breed along the stream there! I even heard it before leaving the car, and it afforded some nice looks. Look at that clear, white throat! This characteristic separates it from the Northern Waterthrush.

Otherwise, very quiet and I failed to find my other target the Summer Tanager. So, I was about to leave as I was chatting with another birder when a long-tailed bird flew across the parking area into a nearby stand of trees and I shouted, “cuckoo!” So, immediately, the two of us hurried over and I quickly got trained my camera on my third BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO of the spring! So cool — this is the greatest number of Black-billeds I have ever seen in a single year. I attribute this to luck, birding even more, and increased observation skills throughout the years.

A quick drive through Palos Park did not yield my hoped-for Carolina Wren, but I did spot a flyover YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, making it a two-cuckoo day!

Next stop: Cap Sauer Holding in search of Summer Tanager and any other quality breeding bird species in the area. EASTERN BLUEBIRDS were out in numbers.

And the OSPREY was on her nest over nearby Bergman Slough:

And her mate!

Also in the raptor department was a flyover BALD EAGLE:

And I was stoked to get a flyover BROAD-WINGED HAWK, a great breeding bird for Cook and good news for the coming big day.

This female ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK posed nicely at Cap Sauer.

And I tracked down one of two singing BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS in the area, very cool!

I finally did in fact find the hoped-for SUMMER TANAGER but it was a quick glimpse of a singing male and he quickly flew away. Darn! Still, a great bird for Cook.


And her nest:

Our last stop of the day was McGinnis Slough in search of the breeding Trumpeter Swans there. Tian and I sat down on the grass for a while and enjoyed a refreshing coke (“happy water” as she calls it) since the heat of the day was getting to us and we needed a pick-me-up.


And after a quick call to Isoo to tip me off to spotting the Trumpeter Swans, one adult swan swam into view on the opposite side of the slough. VERY awesome — this is usually a super hard bird for Cook and super cool that they are nesting at this one location this year. Hopefully this spells good news for this species in the county!

So, despite some quiet patches, it was indeed a very productive morning and as always, so special to spend time with dear Tian. Bird-of-the-day to the Louisiana Waterthrush with runners-up to the Trumpeter Swan, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Broad-winged Hawk. A nice assortment of uncommon breeding birds from which to choose, and a great sign for the coming big day!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:39 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Oak Park Bird Walk & Warbler Twitch

sunny 86 °F

This morning I led a bird walk for seven wonderful participants. We started off with a good showing of flycatchers, as expected for late May, headed by EASTERN WOOD-PEWEES:

And an even more noteworthy flycatcher sighting, the YELLOW-BELLIED!

As well as ten warbler species, another highlight of the walk was finding a late RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, cool!

Later in the afternoon, I saw a report from my friends Simon & Peter Tolzmann who reported not one, but two Connecticut Warblers from Graceland Cemetery! Since I hadn’t photographed this bird yet this spring, I wanted to go try to track this elusive bird down so I could not only see, but photograph, every expected warbler this spring. Upon arriving with Tian, I saw a good number of warblers and several other songbirds like INDIGO BUNTING:

Then, after a LOOOT of searching underneath the evergreen bushes where the bird had been sighted earlier, I spotted a chunky, ground-walking warbler with a white eye ring and BINGO: I had it, CONNECTICUT WARBLER!! Luckily, I was able to get one shot of this hard-to-photograph warbler species. Awesome!!!

And afterward, somebody near me shouted “cuckoo!” and I immediately got on an amazingly obliging BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO!!

And so I sneaked around the hedge row where the cuckoo was sitting and got into a better position for photography! :)

And incredibly, the cuckoo, branch-by-branch, flew closer and closer to me! AMAZING!

Bird-of-the-day to the Connecticut Warbler with runner-up to the Black-billed Cuckoo! Another GREAT day!!! My updated warbler list for the day is included below.

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1115 Species

Final Spring 2020 warbler list: COMPLETE

1. Ovenbird: Washington Park, May 1
2. Worm-eating Warbler BONUS RARITY: North Pond, April 28
3. Louisiana Waterthrush: DuPage County, April 4
4. Northern Waterhthrush: North Pond, April 28
5. Golden-winged Warbler: Thatcher Woods, May 11
6. Blue-winged Warbler: Washington Park, May 1
7. Black-and-White Warbler: North Pond, April 28
8. Prothonotary Warbler: Mihiel Woods East, May 9
9. Tennessee Warbler: Jackson Park, May 2
10. Orange-crowned Warbler: Oak Park alley, April 24
11. Nashville Warbler: Hegewisch Marsh, April 27
12. Connecticut Warbler: Graceland Cemetery, May 24
13. Mourning Warbler: Plum Creek Forest Preserve, May 18
14. Kentucky Warbler: Mihiel Woods East, May 9
15. Common Yellowthroat: North Pond, April 28
16. Hooded Warbler: LaBagh Woods, May 14
17. American Redstart: Jackson Park, May 2
18. Cape May Warbler: Jackson Park, May 10
19. Cerulean Warbler: Lyman Woods, May 3
20. Northern Parula: GAR Woods, May 3
21. Magnolia Warbler: North Pond, May 2
22. Bay-breasted Warbler: 515 N Elmwood Ave, May 14
23. Blackburnian Warbler: North Pond, May 2
24. Yellow Warbler: Jackson Park, May 2
25. Chestnut-sided Warbler: Jackson Park, May 10
26. Blackpoll Warbler: Jackson Park, May 10
27. Black-throated Blue Warbler: LaBagh Woods, May 10
28. Palm Warbler: Big Marsh, April 27
29. Pine Warbler: Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, April 18
30. Yellow-rumped Warbler: Thatcher Woods, April 4
31. Yellow-throated Warbler: North Pond, May 2
32. Prairie Warbler BONUS RARITY: Grant Park, May 18
33. Townsend’s Warbler BONUS RARITY: Deer Grove Forest Preserve, April 17
34. Black-throated Green Warbler: Gillson Park, April 28
35. Canada Warbler: Plum Creek Forest Preserve, May 18
36. Wilson’s Warbler: GAR Woods, May 11
Bonus: Brewster’s Warbler (Golden-winged X Blue-winged: LaBagh Woods, May 10

Posted by skwclar 19:12 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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