A Travellerspoint blog

June 2019

Family Reunion!

Lake Geneva, WI

semi-overcast 70 °F

The Griffin family reunion brought us up to Lake Geneva, WI for a great day of hanging with family! I did, however, see some birds along the way so read on-
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The highlight of a day was taking a boat tour around Lake Geneva.
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Some of the houses were disgustingly huge (yes, single-family summer houses):
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The high point of the boat ride for me was at the end when I got great views of a BLACK TERN flying around, hunting the waters of Lake Geneva! Too cool! By far the best looks I have ever gotten of this species.
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Later, from my aunt’s deck I spotted a number of birds including this male BALTIMORE ORIOLE:
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Some BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, very nice to see:
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TURKEY VULTURE:
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AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:
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And a male RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD:
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It was a wonderful day with family, and birds! Bird-of-the-day to the Black Tern with runner-up to the Broad-winged Hawks.

Stay tuned, tomorrow I am flying out to Chautauqua, NY for seven weeks of music camp!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:20 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Rockford’s Mississippi Kites

Winnebago County, IL

rain 63 °F

Yesterday, I made the long pilgrimage of a drive up to Rockford, IL in order to search for a bird that has eluded me over the years: Mississippi Kite! This grayish hawk’s breeding range extends into the far southern tip of Illinois, but interestingly enough, one or two tend to spend their summers along the Rock River in Rockford — clear on the other, northern end of the state! This would be a life bird for me so I was really hoping to get this “species tick.”

I arrived around 1:30pm at the appointed place, Rock Terrace Drive, along which they have been spotted as recently as the day before I went. Birds were around, and I spotted a few WOOD DUCKS on the other side of the Rock River:
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A duckling was around as well:
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Quite a few GREAT BLUE HERONS made their presence known throughout my stay.
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CEDAR WAXWING:
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GRAY CATBIRD:
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With a tasty snack of berries!
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MOURNING DOVE:
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I found BARN, as well as these more uncommon CLIFF SWALLOWS nesting under the Auburn St Bridge:
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My heart started racing when a raptor flew overhead, but alas, it turned out to be a TURKEY VULTURE:
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And then again and again I got excited, and then immediately crestfallen as this & a few other RED-TAILED HAWKS soared over the area throughout the afternoon:
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After over three hours of hawkwatching the area, I gave up. These kites used to nest at a nearby elementary school in the area, but the last few summers they haven’t been documented nesting & have been much more elusive. Elusive; they proved to be for me once again! Well, there’s always next time I guess.

I will pick my bird-of-the-day to be the Cliff Swallows with runner-up to the cute Wood Duckling. Turned out to be a rather quiet day. Stay tuned — on saturday I am going up to Wisconsin for a family reunion where I will hope to squeeze in some birding, and then on sunday I am flying out to Chautauqua in western NY state for summer music camp! I will be there until August 10 and will be very busy but I do hope to fit in some birding. After that, Sun Valley, Idaho!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 21:19 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Kids’ Thatcher Woods Bird Walk

Thatcher Woods, IL

sunny 78 °F

Today, I led a kids’ bird walk for Dominican University’s summer program through Thatcher Woods! I have been leading this for a number of years and it is always a delight to teach kids about birds.

This CHIMNEY SWIFT flew over:
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Female RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER:
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At one point we spotted a House Sparrow nest:
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BLUE JAY with brilliant colors. Oddly enough, I have seldom obtained good photos of this bird in the past.
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EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE:
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CHIPPING SPARROW:
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Female BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD:
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At some points, we had some raptors fly over such as a COOPER’S and this RED-TAILED HAWK:
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As well as a few TURKEY VULTURES:
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The highlight of the walk was seeing some nesting BARN SWALLOWS at a very close range around the picnic pavilion at the Thatcher Woods play meadow. This will be my bird-of-the-day. The sheer diversity of birds in nature, even during a “slow” season for birders such as June, was inspiring to the kids.
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Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:53 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Morton Arboretum

Lisle, IL

overcast 65 °F

Today, my Dad and I birded the Morton Arboretum in search of four target birds which have all been seen there recently: Yellow-throated & Cerulean Warblers, Summer Tanager, & Blue Grosbeak. I have seen all of these birds in the past at the Arboretum, except for the Cerulean.

As you can see, we quickly found the male YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER who appears to be on territory around Parking Lot 2. Super cool!
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Male EASTERN BLUEBIRD from alongside the road:
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Flyover GREAT EGRET:
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Then, it was off to the Big Rock parking lot where the Summer Tanager has been seen recently. I immediately found this singing YELLOW-THROATED VIREO upon arriving in the lot:
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His colors are more vibrant in this pic:
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Then, I heard a warbling, robin-like song from about one-hundred feet down the road, and sure enough, soon a beautiful, cotton-candy pink-red male SUMMER TANAGER popped into view. Super cool! We are at the northernmost extend of their breeding range here.
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Then, all the way to the other end of the color spectrum with this vibrant male INDIGO BUNTING:
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A male RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD took nectar from some some flowers nearby:
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My camera even caught his gorgeous namesake gorget at one point!
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Then, we hiked down the trail where the Cerulean has been seen and found this female AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:
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And sure enough, at the exact spot where it has been reported, this lovely sky-blue male CERULEAN WARBLER was piping away! A rare, rare bird for summer in the Chicagoland area and a GREAT find! This has got to be one of my luckiest years in terms of seeing this species — so cool!
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Three target birds down, one to go! It was off to the Blue Grosbeak spot on the west side of the Arboretum...

We found a first-year male ORCHARD ORIOLE here:
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The wildflower show in Schulenberg Prairie was absolutely spectacular.
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We missed the Grosbeak, but three out of four target birds is pretty darn good, particularly for June! Bird-of-the-day to the Cerulean Warbler with runners-up to the Summer Tanager & Yellow-throated Warbler. GREAT birds! Thanks Dad for birding with me.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:45 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Chicago’s Resident Piping Plovers

Montrose Point, IL

semi-overcast 83 °F

Today, prior to attending my sister’s Chicago Children’s Choir concert at the Copernicus Center, I visited Montrose Point to see the pair of rare Piping Plovers that have decided to nest at the beach there, despite it being one of the busiest beaches in Chicago!

Thankfully, their nest site is well-protected. A perimeter rope with appropriate signage keeps beachgoers out.
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And an enclosure which allows birds to move to and fro, but keeps out predators such as the many Ring-billed Gulls in the area. The male, as I learned from the plover monitors on duty there, was dutifully incubating his eggs:
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I was hoping he would come out from the enclosure for better photos. Meanwhile, some CASPIAN TERNS entertained me:
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As well as a SPOTTED SANDPIPER, one of the nesting pairs in the dunes:
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BARN SWALLOWS:
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Finally, I spotted one of the resident PIPING PLOVER foraging along “Lake Montrose” which is a large puddle that has formed on the beach due to the incredibly wet season so far:
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You can separate the Piping from this common KILLDEER because the Killdeer has two breast bands as opposed to one:
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A storm appeared to be rolling in, so I was soon on the move.
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TREE SWALLOW adult and young:
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Some BANK SWALLOWS flew by:
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Their nest holes were conspicuous on the edge of the sanctuary butting up against the volleyball beach area. Too cool!
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PURPLE MARTIN, the largest swallow species at Montrose:
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CHIMNEY SWIFT — easily confused to be a swallow, but can be separated by even more of a “twittery” (if that’s a word) flight than swallows and relatively long, thin wings hence their name “flying cigar.”
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A great day! So cool that Piping Plovers are nesting within Chicago city limits, therefore, they will of course be my bird-of-the-day.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 21:29 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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