A Travellerspoint blog

July 2014

A Day at Rollins Savanna

semi-overcast 84 °F

Today I spent my last full day in Illinois before I leave for Idaho by birding Rollins Savanna, a beautiful forest preserve in the far northern suburbs of Chicago that has been attracting some nice southbound migrant shorebirds recently.

It was a long commute--2 hours and 45 minutes, to be exact, from Oak Park, which included a bike ride, an "L" ride, a LONG Metra ride, and a LONG walk to get to the preserve.

It was worth it, though! Rollins Savanna is always a reliably fantastic place for birding and as soon as I stepped inside of the preserve I was picking up new birds left and right.

The mudflats which have been attracting good shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers, phalaropes, etc.) to the preserve, however, are at the opposite end of the 2000-acre preserve and therefore I still had a long walk ahead of me, part of which was tramping through prairie vegetation taller than me--and I'm well over five feet tall!

Some nice birds seen along the way to the mudflats included:

This SEDGE WREN. This species is extremely hard to photograph as they typically lay hidden, skulking in dense prairie vegetation, however, this bird was obliging and, lucky for me, perched nicely for its photo:
95606FE72219AC6817E0086386C1110C.jpg

This transitional-plumaged BOBOLINK was also a pleasant grassland species seen. Note that in summer they are solid black on the bottom and in the winter they are a solid grayish color all over, so it was nice to see one of these in this funky plumage:
9560F1C72219AC6817DFC59A20EA8D39.jpg

It was a grueling walk through vegetation that was taller than me, in order to get to an optimal viewing spot for the shorebirds. Then, I FINALLY arrived at the mudflats. Oh, the glorious mudflats, how us birders love them so. Or more like we love the shorebirds they harbor in May, July, August, and September, and there were plenty of them around today.

There were ten shorebird species in total, probably about fifty individuals all around. I gained two lifers: SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, which was fairly common on the mudflat today, and this far-off WILSON'S PHALAROPE, which is a very uncommon bird, so it was nice to see and, albeit distantly, photograph:
956322AB2219AC6817F629BF98183BA1.jpg

Some of the other shorebirds included the ones pictured below, such as this nice PECTORAL SANDPIPER:
9561684A2219AC6817C3B439DF3A0976.jpg

And this tiny LEAST SANDPIPER (trust me, it is hard to tell from the photo, but this bird is barely any bigger than a goldfinch):
9561D7812219AC681782E252170989D8.jpg

This LESSER YELLOWLEGS was "buzzed" by multiple animals while it was feeding innocently. First, this NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW took issue with the bird:
956239BB2219AC6817CDF79436F905BF.jpg

Then, if you look closely, you will see that the yellowlegs, the bird on the left, is being buzzed by a dragonfly in this photo. The other bird in the photo is a SOLITARY SANDPIPER:
9562AD5B2219AC681718CDB1906DDB51.jpg

This GREATER YELLOWLEGS was also nearby, watching its "lesser" cousin get bullied by swallows and dragonflies:
95639C122219AC6817C0CF6DDE148B1C.jpg

On the way back from the mudflats, I found this elegant GREAT EGRET:
95641F0B2219AC681752224AC437D989.jpg

And this flashy pair of SANDHILL CRANES:
9564B2982219AC68179370FD72369186.jpg

Then it was another three-hour commute home to top off a fantastic birding excursion.

Stay tuned, because I will leave for my two-week journey to Idaho tomorrow!

Bird-of-the-day to my life bird WILSON'S PHALAROPE, which is quite a rare species. Runner-up to the nice SEDGE WREN who sat up for his photo (for once!).

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 678 species (2 life birds today: Wilson's Phalarope and Semipalmated Plover)

Full bird species list today:

63 species:

Canada Goose
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
KING RAIL (heard calling very clearly)
Sandhill Crane
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (life bird!)
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
PECTORAL SANDPIPER (FOS)
Semipalmated Sandpiper
WILSON'S PHALAROPE (life bird!)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Willow Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
SEDGE WREN (very cooperative & it let me take photographs of it)
MARSH WREN (definitely not as cooperative today)
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 18:40 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Skokie Lagoons

semi-overcast 70 °F

Today my dad took me up to Skokie Lagoons, a great forest preserve in northeastern Cook County. My target birds were PROTHONOTARY WARBLERS, a beautiful, tiny, yellow songbird that is known to nest at Skokie Lagoons. Prothonotaries are special because we are at the exact northern tip of their range so they are very local and patchy up in this part of the country, even though they are relatively common in swamps in the southern states. Read on to see if I found them!

CEDAR WAXWING:
268132402219AC6817E7225F157432A5.jpg

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE:
2681B1ED2219AC6817CD42F74F754CC6.jpg

This tiny female RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD was a feisty one, chasing every single other bird in its territory. At one point I watched it antagonize a Song Sparrow so harshly that it repeatedly dive-bombed the sparrow, occasionally actually making physical contact with the innocent sparrow!
26821EBA2219AC6817F3482440971F60.jpg

This BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER was also a victim of the little hummingbird's fury:
2682AFE32219AC6817FF59BF8873F305.jpg

This SPOTTED SANDPIPER foraged precariously on the edge of a man-made dam. Sadly, it and a fly-by KILLDEER were the only shorebirds seen; no migrants today, I guess.
26834C8F2219AC68179FD40901CB6444.jpg

Well, I did not find the Prothonotary Warblers after all. After all of their chicks are fledged, Prothonotaries tend to disperse and stray from their nesting areas until it is time to fly south, so most likely they were done with their nesting process for this year. Next year, I should come to Skokie Lagoons earlier in the season, because they were indeed found earlier in June and even the first few days of July.

I did find one consolation bird, though. I was not expecting to see 2 beautiful RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS towards the end of my walk in the forest preserve. They were known to nest here in the past, but they have been in a marked decline in the preserve during the past few years, therefore, I was delighted to see these gorgeous birds:
268408B12219AC68179B1BBA4D7069CB.jpg26849BC62219AC6817310908ADD96FA5.jpg

Full species list for the day is below my signature.

Bird-of-the-day to the RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS. No awards to the missing Prothonotaries!

Stay tuned, because my mom, my sister, and I will be traveling to Idaho on Friday, when I will start to post even more regularly because of the different birds found out west!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 676 Species (no life birds today)

45 species today:

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
CASPIAN TERN
Rock Pigeon (Feral)
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD
Belted Kingfisher
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 14:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Miller Meadows 7-25

overcast 70 °F

Today I birded a nearby forest preserve called Miller Meadows with my good friend Jill Anderson. There were a number of bird species present, but nothing rare. A few photos are below, enjoy.

SAVANNAH SPARROW. I suspect they nested here this year.
4D885AC62219AC681753A9CDCA37F9A5.jpg

EASTERN MEADOWLARK is one of the more common birds at this preserve:
4D88E3E72219AC6817AB784A9E872D90.jpg

WILLOW FLYCATCHER, there were a number of these here today:
4D8993142219AC68175C9F4ECE5E41EC.jpg

EASTERN KINGBIRDS, such as this one, were also present in fair numbers:
4D8A2FD82219AC68173FEAECC485C967.jpg

Thank you to Jill Anderson for driving me there and birding with me.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 676 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 08:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Oak Park Kids Bird Walk & Birding @ Montrose Point 7-19-14

semi-overcast 81 °F

Today I did two bird activities. First, I led a bird walk for a cute group of 7 kids ages 7-10, which was part of the Oak Park Bird Walk series. We walked for about forty five minutes and saw typical urban species such as cardinals, robins, etc. They were quite impressed by even those, though, and hopefully these "fledgling birders" will turn into real birders! Here are a few photos from the walk:

Female BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD. I explained how cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds' nests and how the young of the cowbirds kick the other chicks out, and all of the kids immediately scared that cowbird away. :-)
23399DFA2219AC68173711AA7443379F.jpg

Male DOWNY WOODPECKER, they were also impressed by this species:
233A66802219AC6817E7E015F607A4BC.jpg

Their favorite, however, was a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH that chose to perch on a wire just a few feet away, giving everyone fantastic looks:
233A08912219AC6817E1B69A7EA40EC9.jpg

To learn more about Oak Park Bird Walks, visit my Oak Park Bird Walks website:
https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/

Then, at eleven, my family and I piled into our car and we drove to Montrose Point on the Lake Michigan shoreline to meet my young birder friend, Isoo O'Brien, and his family, so that we could bird together and so that everyone else could have a nice picnic.

My target birds were a female Black-throated Blue Warbler that has been hanging around the point for the entire summer (they should be up in Canada during the summer), and a Willet, a species of (southbound) migrant shorebird, that was seen along the beach yesterday. Read on to see if I found them!

There were a few land birds around, such as this NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW:
233B3BF92219AC6817A6EF85C6717DFD.jpg

And this GRAY CATBIRD:
233BB7CC2219AC6817F231F7B737715D.jpg

I, sadly, did not find the Black-throated Blue Warbler the entire time I was there, but I did see a few shorebirds though...

SPOTTED SANDPIPER chick:
233ACBD52219AC68179D3BB532E398F1.jpg

SPOTTED SANDPIPER adult:
233C289A2219AC6817B4C436F7FB0015.jpg

The best bird of the day was a group of not one, not two, but six (!) WILLETS, one of my target birds for the day, and a species that I have not seen since I visited Panama last November! These shorebirds are great because they are a rare species and are only very patchy migrants in this part of the country.
2344444B2219AC68178B9775E6075C89.jpg

With the addition of two KILLDEER also on the beach, we had three shorebirds for the day, along with a plethora of other species!

Full species list below my signature.

Bird-of-the-day, of course, goes to the Willets. It was a fantastic day of birding!

Henry
World Life List: 676 Species (no life birds today)

27 species:

Mallard
Great Blue Heron
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
WILLET (6-FOY)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
American Crow
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
American Crow
Gray Catbird
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird (one repeatedly attacked me while I was watching the Willets)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Posted by skwclar 13:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Birding Illinois Beach State Park and other areas in NE IL

semi-overcast 80 °F

Today I birded Illinois Beach State Park, South Unit and other areas in northeast Illinois with Al Stokie and a friend of his.

At Illinois Beach State Park, we found quite a few birds including a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO we heard and saw as soon as we stepped out of the car (sadly, it flew away too quickly for any photos). Also, we found the only nesting colony of BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS in Illinois there (we are on the far eastern edge of their range):
F29774002219AC681790910931BA3CA6.jpg

May cool butterflies and plants were present, as well:
F297FAA42219AC6817C8DEB74460ECCD.jpgF29861D82219AC68171927B1B4E699AC.jpgF298EBE02219AC681761AA74508A9890.jpgF299513C2219AC68172541E5C7E66E82.jpg

After lunch, we birded other areas in northeast Illinois. I picked up my FOY SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER along the way:
F299C5812219AC681795A9449D70101D.jpg

As well as my FOY WILLOW FLYCATCHER:
F29ABCCC2219AC681748CB03A31B1025.jpg

The best bird of the day, however, was this amazing KING RAIL that we saw at an undisclosed location in northeast Illinois. King Rails are marsh birds about the size of chickens that live in weedy, reedy marshes, typically along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. A few, however, such as this guy we saw today, stray inland, so it was amazing to get these mouth-watering views (only two feet away!) of this phenomenal species:
F29A4CB82219AC6817A9BFEC3EE756AE.jpg

A big thank you to Al Stokie for driving me around and showing me all of these super cool birds.

The King Rail was a life bird for me, so it will be the bird of the day.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 676 Species (1 life bird today: King Rail)

Full bird species list for the day:

Canada Goose
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
American Kestrel
KING RAIL (saw 1 territorial bird at undisclosed location in northeast Illinois...LIFE BIRD!!!)
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
LEAST SANDPIPER (FOY)
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (FOY)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (heard 1 near parking lot in IBSP, then saw it flush briefly)
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
SEDGE WREN (many heard at two locations)
MARSH WREN (1 or 2 heard at one location)
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
DICKCISSEL (saw and heard a few singing)
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (many seen at typical location near mouth of Dead River)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 14:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 13) Page [1] 2 3 » Next