Today, I didn’t have any camp events until afternoon so my mom and dad took me birding at two nearby natural areas that are known to have a wonderful diversity of breeding bird species: Hill Higher State Forest & Watts Wildlife Management Area.
When we arrived at the State Forest around 7am, I immediately noticed a proliferation of OVENBIRDS, including this individual, singing throughout the vast woodland areas. I probably heard upwards of three dozen of these guys piping away this morning.
Then, I heard a thicker “churry churry churry” song and I knew the only thing it could be was MOURING WARBLER! This was my first warbler species of the day that doesn’t typically breed in the Chicago area; the nearest places to Chicago where this species breeds are western Michigan & central Wisconsin. It was great to see a difference in the breeding bird species here at a higher elevation in western New York.
Then, the sore-throated robin song alerted me to the presence of this male SCARLET TANAGER, an appropriately crimson nod to Independence Day.
The female MOURNING WARBLER also gave a brief appearance! Very nice to see this which means they must be breeding in this preserve.
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, male. Again, the closest typical breeding locations for this bird to Chicago are in central Wisconsin, so it was wonderful to see this bird on its breeding ground instead of just passing through.
One of the most stunning birds of the day made itself evident through its wheezy, high-pitched song from a large stand of conifer trees: male BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER! A bird strongly tied to northern conifer forests, I was really hoping to find this species today so it was a great relief to see this tangerine-throated beauty pose for photos.
And a typical winter bird in Chicago, the DARK-EYED JUNCO, also appeared to be on summer territory in this patch of conifer forest. Very cool!
VEERY thrushes such as this one were numerous throughout the day:
I believe this to be an ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, though I was only allowed a quick glance before it flew away. I did hear others calling throughout the morning and they are known to breed in the area.
Male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT:
A family favorite was CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, which allowed for great looks multiple times this morning. Although it is a scarce breeder in northern Illinois, these guys are also much more common further north in the summertime.
At Watts Wildlife Management Area, there were more openlands so a slightly different mix of bird species. EASTERN KINGBIRD:
American Bullfrog, one of many:
My favorite sighting there was a family of CANADA WARBLERS. Here is the brilliantly-colored male posing oh so nicely:
A recently-fledged bird was also present, and would occasionally be fed by the male. Too cool! Another migrant through Chicago that was wonderful to see on its breeding ground.
Male YELLOW WARBLER:
On the way out, I spotted this SAVANNAH SPARROW along the road:
And finally right before we got back to my parent’s cabin they’re renting for the week, I had my dad stop the car when I heard a HOODED WARBLER! Hooded Warbler, indeed — score! One of my favorite birds.
When we got back to the house, my dad spotted a big American Groundhog and I was able to snap a picture before it scurried underneath the neighbor’s house.
An immature BALD EAGLE also flew over:
What a great morning of birding! Songbirds have to be my favorite group of birds and warblers are especially eye-candy. Bird-of-the-day to the Blackburnian & Canada Warblers with runners-up to the Mourning & Hooded Warblers! Great species to choose from.
World Life List: 971 Species