A Travellerspoint blog

June 2016

Last bird walk of the season!

sunny 85 °F

Today I led the final bird walk of "spring," at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve in Maywood, Illinois. It actually turned out to be the most productive walk at Miller this spring in terms of # of species, 39 in total, and the number of birders who showed up was actually the highest of the entire season.

Photographically, I didn't have a spectacular morning; however, a birder who attended the walk obtained even better photos than I did - view his Flickr photo stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sid-p

And here are some of my photos. These are DICKCISSELS:


The wildflowers were also quite pretty:

Birds-of-the-day to the Dickcissel and Eastern Meadowlark. It was a very pleasant walk overall.

I am happy to announce that, through Oak Park Bird Walks this season, I have raised a record $943.00 for La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica to conserve important lowland rainforest habitat (which migrant birds from North America use in the winter) in the country and to support tropical ecology research that promotes the conservation and knowledge of tropical wildlife.

Off to Cuba on Monday! I'm so excited!

Good birding,

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

39 species today:

Canada Goose 2
Mallard 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
Warbling Vireo 2
Blue Jay 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Tree Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Robin 7
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 4
Common Yellowthroat 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Chipping Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Dickcissel 6
Bobolink 2
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Eastern Meadowlark 3
Common Grackle 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 3
Baltimore Oriole 5
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 10

Posted by skwclar 08:49 Archived in USA Tagged me children trees animals birds sky dickcissel eastern_meadowlark miller_meadows Comments (2)

Junior Naturalists' Bird Walk

sunny 80 °F

First of all, this Monday, June 27 I will be leaving with my choir, the Voice of Chicago, for a week-long tour to HAVANA, CUBA! This will be one of the best experiences of 2016, and it is a groundbreaking tour because we are the first youth choir from the USA to visit the country. We will be performing with renowned Cuban artists, opera singers, and choirs from all over the world as well as engaging in other diverse cultural activities. I will not be able to post during the trip because I have decided not to bring my iPad; however, I will probably make several posts about it after I return home on July 3. I do not expect to do any birding, if at all, on this tour because the choir keeps us extremely busy; however, it will be a stellar travel and cultural experience for me and for everyone.

Today I led a bird walk, for the second year in a row, for the Junior Naturalists' summer camp at Dominican Univeristy in River Forest. My sister, Pearl, participated this year and she, as well as the group overall, enjoyed the outing.

We walked into Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve and almost immediately found hands-down our best bird of the day, a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO! It flew over the group twice, giving everyone great views.


White-tailed Deer, fawn:


Owl or hawk feather:


One of two male SCARLET TANAGERS we saw, an excellent surprise!

Bird-of-the-day to the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, with runners-up to the Scarlet Tanagers. A very productive walk for mid-June!

Excited for CUBA on Monday!!!

Good birding,

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

Posted by skwclar 20:16 Archived in USA Tagged me people children trees animals birds sky red-tailed_hawk wood_thrush eastern_phoebe yellow-billed_cuckoo scarlet_tanager Comments (0)

Illinois Beach State Park!

sunny 93 °F

Today I birded with birding friend Al Stokie in northern Lake County, Illinois. Although it felt quite hot at times (it topped out at 93 degrees today!), we had a productive day of birding.

After an hour-and-a-half commute on the Metra, Al picked me up in Waukegan and we headed to the south unit of Illinois Beach State Park in search of shorebirds and assorted uncommon nesting birds.

On the beach, we didn't do well in the shorebird department; however, we did find a pair of juvenile HORNED LARKS, a fairly exciting find!

Nearby, we found a few very uncommon plant species including this Hoary Paintbrush (a relative of the more widespread Indian Paintbrush):

Although we failed to find one of our target birds, the Lark Sparrow, there were some neat birds around as well, including this GRASSHOPPER SPARROW:

Then, we birded the campground nearby and found this very uncommon YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. This is the only place where this species nests in Lake County and one of the few places in northeast Illinois as it is typically a more southern bird:

Then, we drove to the Sand Pond area in the north unit of the state park in hopes of a Yellow-breasted Chat. That bird was not to be found today, despite the fact that we searched for a very long time for it. We had some nice birds to make up for it, though, including this male EASTERN BLUEBIRD:

And the female:




A very vociferous BROWN THRASHER:

And our best species at Sand Pond was two male BLUE GROSBEAKS, another species that is typically much more common further south in Illinois. Illinois Beach State Park is quite possibly the furthest north breeding location for this species in the state:

A Leopard Frog was also nice:

We ended the day by viewing (with Al's scope from very far away) a PIPING PLOVER sitting on its nest near Waukegan. Since it is in a restricted location with lots of security, Al told me I couldn't take any photos, and they wouldn't have turned out very well anyway because the nest was quite far away.

It was a fantastic day! Bird-of-the-day goes to the two cooperative Blue Grosbeaks, and runners-up to the Yellow-throated Warbler and Piping Plover. The full list for today, a good total of 69 species, is attached below.

Good birding,

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

69 species today:

Canada Goose
Hooded Merganser
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Horned Lark
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 21:32 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes beaches people children trees animals birds sky Comments (1)

Orland Grassland

sunny 69 °F

Yesterday I birded Orland Grasslands South near Orland Park in southern Cook County, Illinois. I decided to go because the preserve hosts many quality breeding birds, and it was forecast to be a pleasantly cool day in the upper 60's - perfect weather for birding in a grassland area, and an anomaly for June weather which is usually in at least the lower 80's.

It turned out to be a gorgeous day with very good birding. I happened to meet quite a few bird photographers, including someone from Chicago and a few photographers from the west coast with whom I birded extensively.

Right when I arrived at the preserve, I found a pair of Killdeer doing their "broken-wing display" on the trail ahead...obviously there was a nest nearby, but I didn't try to find it because I didn't want to disturb them any further.

Then, the photographers and I found a good number of grassland species including the most cooperative HENSLOW'S SPARROWS I have ever seen:

As well as a singing male EASTERN MEADOWLARK:

It was great meeting everyone!

On the way out, I found a few good things including this EASTERN KINGBIRD:



And, like last post, I'll end this post with a photo of a deer...this time, it was a beautiful young fawn!

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Henslow's Sparrow, which luckily was two photographers' #1 target bird of their trip! Runner-up to the Eastern Meadowlark. Honorable mention to the adorable fawn deer, although that isn't a bird!

The full list from yesterday is included below.

Good birding,

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

30 species (+1 other taxa):

Wood Duck 4
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Killdeer 2 Broken-wing display by both parents of an assumed nest nearby.
Mourning Dove 8
Chimney Swift 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Kingbird 2
flycatcher sp. (Tyrannidae sp.) 1
Blue Jay 1
Tree Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 1
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 2
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 4
Common Yellowthroat 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Henslow's Sparrow 2 Conservative count, probably 3 or 4 simply in the small patch of grassland I covered.
Field Sparrow 4 Conservative count.
Song Sparrow 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Common Grackle 10
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
House Sparrow 2

Posted by skwclar 17:51 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes people children trees animals birds sky trains Comments (0)

3 days of summer birding!

all seasons in one day 80 °F

This post is for three awesome days of birding in my first week of summer: Thursday, June 2 - Saturday, June 4.


A pair of rare Hudsonian Godwits, a large species of shorebird, had been reported at a random puddle in a farmer's field near the town of Grayslake, about an hour north of Chicago. Since this species would be a life bird for me, I made the long commute up to the Grayslake area. Thanks to my aunt Betsy for helping out with picking me up at the Metra stop!

On the Metra ride up there, I spotted a male INDIGO BUNTING along the railroad tracks while we were waiting due to a delay. The weird turquoise appearance of the photo was due to my taking this photo through the Metra's window.

When I arrived at the puddle, there were plenty of birds around, including this rather uncommon GREEN-WINGED TEAL:

The godwits; alas, were nowhere to be found.

Bird-of-the-day for Thursday goes to the Green-winged Teal, with runner-up to the Indigo Bunting.


Jonathan, my birding friend from Indiana, came by with his dad at 8:00am to pick me up for an exciting day of birding. Our first planned stop was Grant Street Marsh in northwest Indiana in hopes of Least Bittern & Yellow-headed Blackbird; however, we made an unplanned stop along the highway to view some beautiful MUTE SWANS on Wolf Lake, including a family with cygnets:

A CASPIAN TERN also flew by:

Grant Street Marsh was rather quiet as we failed to find the bitterns (very unlikely) and didn't try hard for the blackbirds.

Although we had originally planned to spend most of the day at Indiana Dunes State Park, Jonathan's father, Ed, graciously allowed for us to change our plans and head south to two preserves called Kankakee Sands and Willow Slough, which are both large, beautiful preserves that are right next to each other.

As soon as we rolled down the window at Kankakee Sands, we were serenaded by many grassland birds including a few very cooperative GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS:

And many, many DICKCISSELS:

At our first stop, we hoped to find Western Meadowlark and Lark Sparrow, and although we failed to find these birds, there were some others around including HENSLOW'S SPARROWS, an unseen calling YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, and this male YELLOW WARBLER:

Once we were on the road again, I heard a strange noise from the woods so we stopped (thanks to Ed, Jonathan's dad and the person who drove the entire day, for enduring many "STOP!"s by both Jonathan and me!).

"Bob-a-white!" The noise was a singing NORTHERN BOBWHITE far in the woods, the first time I have ever heard that beautiful quail actually sing. Unfortunately, we never managed to see this species as they like to stay hidden far in the cover of dense bushes and shrubs.

"STOP!" A bit further along the road, I spotted this first-year male BLUE GROSBEAK, a nice find and our only one the entire day:

Then, a pair of birds flew up into a tree alongside the road and actually started mating! It was a pair of very, very uncommon LARK SPARROWS, with Indiana being one of the easternmost places in the world to see them. These were life birds for Jonathan.

Further along the road, we spotted a GREAT HORNED OWL flying away from us into the woods, and a beautiful RED-HEADED WOODPECKER also entertained us nicely:

After turning onto a gravel road, Jonathan and I heard a strange warbler's song over the din of the wheels of the car moving over the road, and we both simultaneously shouted, "Stop!"

Then it sang again, more clearly this time: "Churr-ee! Churr-ee! Churr-ee!"

Sure enough, it was my beautiful life bird KENTUCKY WARBLER, a species I have been wanting to see for years!

In that same area, we also had BROWN THRASHER, WILD TURKEY, and a calling but sadly unseen YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT.

Further along the road, we ran into a pocket of birds which included LEAST FLYCATCHER, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, and this female SUMMER TANAGER. We were racking up quite a day list!

Further along, a group of WILD TURKEYS strutted away from the road:

And we were treated to some of the best looks at a pair of YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS we had ever had:

One minute after we were talking about a place where we could possibly find Bell's Vireos, I heard a very warbly song alongside the road and the car stopped. Amazingly, it was a BELL'S VIREO! This was a life bird for Jonathan.

This BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON flew over, our only one of the day:

At Willow Slough, we parked near a dike in search of Marsh Wrens and Virginia Rails. Sure enough, we heard the MARSH WRENS fairly easily and spotted this Beaver swimming away from us:

Unfortunately, we never got a Virginia Rail.

Next, we headed to an intersection where Upland Sandpipers have been reported, which would be a life bird or both of us, as well as Western Meadowlarks, which would be a life bird for Jonathan.

On the way there, we found this PECTORAL SANDPIPER, thanks to Jonathan's dad for pointing it out:

Once we arrived at the rural intersection in the middle of nowhere where the sandpiper & meadowlark had been reported, Jonathan's camera unfortunately died.

Soon enough, an UPLAND SANDPIPER flew over, singing its telltale "wolf whistle!" It was a life bird for both of us! This is a very rare and declining species, so we were thrilled to find it.

It landed far away, here is a distant photo of it:

Then, we heard a pleasingly melodic song and after spotting this squat yellow bird on a nearby wire, Jonathan had his life bird WESTERN MEADOWLARK, a needle-in-a-haystack find among so many Eastern Meadowlarks we had on Friday! This was also a neat find for me because I have never seen one outside of Idaho, and they are quite uncommon east of the Mississippi River.

After dinner at a good restaurant in a little town called Brook, we went out birding again and spotted these PURPLE MARTINS:

Returning to the same intersection, we heard the Upland Sandpiper again and were once more treated to great looks at the Western Meadowlark. The sunset was phenomenal:

Then, we headed over to Willow Slough to see if we could find Whip-poor-Will, owls, and any nocturnal animals. We saw a family of raccoons in a dead snag:

And we soon came to a place where at least six or seven EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILLS were calling all around us. It was an ethereal experience, and we even spotted one bird's "eye-shine" (when illuminated by our flashlight) on the road ahead of us:

Cruising slowly down the roads of Willow Slough, we also observed two opossums, a mother Common Snapping Turtle laying eggs, at least forty Bullfrogs were calling at one spot, and we heard two calling BARRED OWLS. It was a very cool nocturnal birding session.

Thanks so much to Jonathan's dad, Ed, for extending our birding time and driving the entire day! We did at least eight hours of birding, and picked up nearly ninety species overall, and Jonathan found six life birds while I found two.

Bird-of-the-day for me will be a tie between my two life birds, the Kentucky Warbler and the Upland Sandpiper. Runners-up go to the mating Lark Sparrows and the super-cool Eastern Whip-poor-Wills at night. It was one of the best days of birding so far this year!


After returning home around midnight after owling, I woke up less than seven hours later to lead a morning bird walk at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve. It was a well-attended walk and we saw quite a few birds - overall, it was very enjoyable.

We started off the day with this commonly-heard but rarely-seen WARBLING VIREO:



Flyover GREAT EGRET, a nice find for Miller Meadows:







And a nice White-tailed Deer poked its head above the weeds toward the end of the walk:

It was a good morning of birding! Bird-of-the-day for Saturday goes to the male Bobolink, which displayed his lark-like song & flight pattern right over our heads. Runner-up to the flyover Great Egret, a nice surprise.

It was a fantastic three days of summer birding, only made better by beautiful weather! It is so nice that school is over, oh my gosh I was so busy this past year and now it is finally summer!

Good birding,

World Life List: 887 Species (2 life birds on Friday: Kentucky Warbler & Upland Sandpiper)

Posted by skwclar 15:15 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes people children trees animals birds sky night trains Comments (3)

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