A Travellerspoint blog

June 2022


Jouandis, France

all seasons in one day 70 °F


A lot has happened since my last posting! I had my role debut of Il Conte Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro in Alexandria, Virginia which was a great success and a wonderful program. Here is the cast in costume:

After the last Figaro performance, I headed straight to Dulles Airport for an absolutely dreadful 24-hour, 2-layover journey to Jouandis, France. Lufthansa even lost my bag. Incredibly annoying.

Anyway, after a day of as much rest I could afford to get without a change of clothes, I was able to get out to take some photos and to look for birds on tuesday. Here at this vocal program, CLA France, we are lucky enough to stay at a Château in the middle of the beautifully pastoral countryside.

The food isn’t bad either (Michelin-star chef!) :)



And cows!

This beautiful pair of CIRL BUNTINGS was a fantastic life bird for me!

And another life bird, a WILLOW WARBLER, soon joined the male!

Who wasn’t particularly enthused:

BLACK REDSTART, reminiscent of my 2018 trip to Italy where these birds abounded:

Another awesome lifer was this EUROPEAN GREEN WOODPECKER!

And my final lifer that day was a fun one, a EURASIAN HOOPOE which I had been hoping to see for a long time due to this bird’s uniqueness! They have a nesting hole right by our pool!

Amazing to get so many lifers in one day, it had been quite a while!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1134 Species (4 life birds: Cirl Bunting, Willow Warbler, European Green Woodpecker, Eurasian Hoopoe)

Posted by skwclar 15:08 Archived in France Comments (3)

Last bird walks of the season

Oak Park, IL

sunny 77 °F

THURSDAY, MAY 26 — finally caught up on all of my May posting, just 6 days late!

After a day of cancelled bird walks due to wet weather, thursday brought two bird walks: a kiddie walk for a local Montessori school and an evening Oak Park Bird Walk. The school wasn’t in a great location for finding migrants but thankfully the kids were plenty excited over the common birds around like starlings:

Honestly maybe this is the first starling picture I’ve ever posted on here? Or at least the first in a very long time. Lol!

And robins:

The kids were super sweet, though, and very receptive to my bird presentation, too. After a quick dinner at home, it was time for my last Oak Park Bird Walk of the spring where the highlight was finding this BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER nest on my block! If you want to look for it, it is on the west side of Elmwood Ave about 30 feet up in a tree in the parkway, just a bit south of Iowa Ave. Listen for the Gnatcatchers’ nasal calls.

And here are the adult gnatcatchers:

We also enjoyed watching a TENNESSEE WARBLER:


Juvenile Eastern Cottontail:

And to end the walk, I was amazingly able to get everyone on a tiny female RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD sitting near the top of a tall tree. So cool!

Bird-of-the-day to the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and their nest with runner-up to the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This will be my last post from the Chicago area for a long time as up next for me is Washington DC. A brief highlight of my summer plans:
May 27-June 5: Washington, DC — performing the Count in Marriage of Figaro
June 6-June 23: Bergerac, France — French art song & opera festival
June 25-August 13: Chautauqua, NY — performing the Forester in The Cunning Little Vixen
August 13-August 22: Idaho!!!
August 22-Sept 1: Chicago
Sept 1 — back to NYC

In terms of birds, I expect no birding to happen in DC as the rehearsal schedule is extremely intense, and it will be similar in France though I may pick up a few lifers there as I have never been to the southwestern part of the country. In Chautauqua, I believe I will get out just about every sunday with some local birders who bird atlas in the area, and finally, Idaho is always all about birds! So stay tuned for more — if I can get my life list to just 1140 after France I will be happy.

Good birding,
World Life List: 1131 Species

Posted by skwclar 14:55 Archived in USA Comments (3)

More bird walks & Black Rail twitch!

overcast 66 °F

Today brought another day of Oak Park Bird Walks, with a morning walk led from the house. There were a couple warblers around including this male CHESTNUT-SIDED:

And a WILSON’S which is a fairly good one for the block:

Kris Hansen and I drove up to Illinois Beach State Park today in search of a widely-publicized pair of Black Rails, a would-be lifer for the both of us. We made the 90-minute drive up to North Point Marina for parking and soon entered the marshy habitat where the rails were reported. Having a reliable Black Rail location in Illinois is an extreme anomaly as usually their location is suppressed due to their rarity and endangered status. I suspect someone unknowingly leaked the location on a groupchat and that’s how word got out.

Either way, we started off the morning with a vivacious SEDGE WREN:

And a first-year male ORCHARD ORIOLE — note that they are yellow for the first year before transitioning to their cherry-colored plumage for older adults.

Then, the other birders and I spotted a tiny creature running through the marsh grasses in front of us. It was about sparrow-sized which was very promising as that is how tiny Black Rails are, but unfortunately it just turned out to be a cute little mouse:

After a few hours of searching, I unfortunately had to drop Kris off at the nearby Metra but I didn’t want to call it quits on the bird just yet. So I headed back, with only a quick stop on the way in some good habitat where I picked up a few birds including this Traill’s-type (Alder/Willow) Flycatcher:

And very soon after returning to the original rail location where Kris and I had been searching, I HEARD IT!!!! Effin’ BLACK RAIL!!! I could not believe it — the absolute holy grail of Illinois birding. “Kee kee deer!” is a sound that every midwestern birder dreams of hearing and I found it hard to believe one was singing from the marsh right in front of me. Absolutely epic.

Other rails were around as well including KING, SORA, and this VIRGINIA RAIL which gave great views as it crossed the path.

Unpictured here, I also saw its chick which briefly had me mistaken for Black Rail as young Virginias are also jet black, but fuzzier.

An Oak Park Bird Walk in the evening was extremely unproductive, as evidenced by the fact that I was only able to get a photo of a juvenile AMERICAN ROBIN:

So bird-of-the-day without doubt goes to the Black Rail, though I felt awful that I was not able to get Kris on the bird as she had to leave early. Runner-up to the cooperative Virginia Rail. Not everyday that you get four true rails in Illinois!

Great birding,
World Life List: 1131 Species (1 life bird today: Black Rail)

Posted by skwclar 02:40 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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