A Travellerspoint blog

August 2015

A Week of Autumn Migration

overcast 81 °F

This "autumn" or "fall" migration we speak of is really quite an enigmatic term - southbound bird migration in the latter half of the year actually occurs in Illiois from early JULY all the way to late NOVEMBER! (for us Illinoisans, we all know that July is a month of excessive heat & humidity while the end of November tends to be chilly and...well...yucky overall). Birds are not compelled to migrate in such intense, short-lived bursts as in spring because they do not have the biological drive to get to their breeding ground, find a mate, and rear offspring. Shorebirds tend to migrate in July with songbirds in the middle and raptors, waterfowl, and winter species towards November. To learn more about the science of bird migration, please visit my other bird blog called "Arrivals and Influxes" which is dedicated to giving nightly forecasts for birders during both migration seasons.

Being the middle of autumn migration, songbirds are starting to move through Oak Park. Last Tuesay and Wednesday I squeezed in a bit of birding and found some nice migrants, including 8 species of warblers - tiny, brightly-colored passerines (songbirds) that come through Oak Park in spring and fall. You will notice in this post that the warbler photos are mainly cropped and far-away because these birds tend to feed high in the oak and elm trees in my neighborhood.

This rare YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER was a HUGE surprise and the best bird of the week!

Nonbreeding-plumaged female BLACKPOLL WARBLER:

Beautiful and uncommon male CANADA WARBLER with a flashy black "necklace;" a species whose plumage does not change between summer and winter as opposed to the previous two warblers:


Today (Sunday, August 30) I led my first Oak Park Bird Walk of this season! It was a HUGE success with a group of 11 lively birders in attendance including blog subscriber Judy F! 19 species were positively identified in total, and although that is a rather low overall species count, some nice migrants were found including SWAINSON'S THRUSH, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, and five species of warblers. To learn more about Oak Park Bird Walks, visit the bird walk website: https://sites.google.com/site/opbirdwalks/

And contact me to be added to the email list for Oak Park Bird Walks: [email protected]

A portion of the walk was spent studying various mixed species flocks of warblers, videos, and chickadees which included this TENNESSEE WARBLER, one of a few seen this morning:

This female HAIRY WOODPECKER was a surprise and nicely juxtaposed five smaller Downy Woodpeckers also seen on the walk:

Female BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER not being cooperative for photos very high up in a tree:

BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER being barely any more cooperative:

CEDAR WAXWING, one of two flocks totaling about 25 birds seen on the walk:

RED-EYED VIREO, an Oak Park breeding bird species that should be gone pretty soon:

Very cute juvenile Eastern Cottontail with dew in the surrounding grass:

At one point, this flock of 13 CANADA GEESE flew over:

My personal best spotting feat of the morning was finding this very far-away ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK from all the way across a field in Taylor Park:

Transitional-plumaged male AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:

Bird-of-the-week goes to the very uncommon YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER I photographed last Tuesday. Bird-of-the-day for the Oak Park Bird Walk today probably goes to the nice female HAIRY WOODPECKER, an uncommon species for Oak Park. The full avian species list for the bird walk is included below.

It was a very fun bird walk (the first of 8 this fall!) to conclude a great week of finding migrant songbirds! I should be finding more and more until the peak of songbird migration which is in about mid-September here in northeast Illinois. Since I am very busy during the school week, I will probably be restricted to only weekend posting this fall. I will; however, be posting nightly until early November on my other bird blog "Arrivals and Influxes:"

Good birding!

World Life List: 865 Species (no life birds recently)

eBird list for the Oak Park Bird Walk today:

Aug 30, 2015 8:00 AM - 10:06 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
19 species

Canada Goose 13
Mourning Dove 6
Chimney Swift 7
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Swainson's Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 1
Cedar Waxwing 25
Tennessee Warbler 3
American Redstart 8
Magnolia Warbler 1
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Northern Cardinal 4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 24

Posted by skwclar 19:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Kankakee Area with the Illinois Young Birders

85 °F

Today my dad and I went on a field trip with the Illinois Young Birders Club to the Kankakee region of eastern Illinois in search of migrant shorebirds and other avian goodies. It was a gorgeous day with sunny skies and moderately hot temperatures at 85 degrees with copious humidity.

After waking up at 5:45am and meeting with the group at a gas station in the small town of Momence at 7:15am, our first birding stop was a farmer's retention ponds where a rare shorebird for Illinois, the Black-necked Stilt, has nested this summer. Upon arriving, we pretty much immediately found this beautiful BLACK-NECKED STILT and eventually found at least two other individuals of this species, as well:

We also found another uncommon shorebird, this migrant SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER of which I captured an image in flight:

BLUE-WINGED TEAL in the water with a CANADA GOOSE in the background:

We also had a heard-only SORA (a type of rail) doing its "whinnying" call at this location.

Then, we continued our outing at a beautiful preserve called the Sweet Fern Savanna. After a bit of searching for the trail itself, we birded the preserve which turned out to be quite beautiful:

The small, red plant in the center of this photo is an Illinois state-threatened insectivorous plant that Dr. Marianne Hahn, the owner of the preserve, pointed out to the group:


Dr. Hahn also told us to watch for the Regal Fritillary Butterfly, a state-endangered and federally-threatened species that depends on rich savanna areas such as the ones at Sweet Fern Savanna. We found multiple of this species:

At one point, the group flushed a pair of GREAT HORNED OWLS which sadly flew away too quickly for photos. So my "owl streak" continues!

Black Swallowtail:

Another butterfly species:

We also saw Viceroy, Monarch, and other species of butterflies on the many wildflowers abounding at the preserve.

Here is my life bird BROAD-WINGED HAWK, identification credit Matthew Cvetas!

Tennessee Warbler - identification courtesy of Illinois Young Biders Club co-leader Josh Engel:

Towards the end of our stay at the Sweet Fern Savanna, someone with very keen eyes in our group spotted this tiny green-phase Gray Tree Frog:

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD was another unphotographed interesting bird species at Sweet Fern because it is the far northern reach of their range. My dad and I had to leave the field trip early to get back to Oak Park for another engagement; however, we left satisfied because it was a very productive and enjoyable field trip.

The best bird-of-the-day for me was my life bird heard-only NORTHERN BOBWHITE (a type of uncommon quail) at the end of the trip! Runner-up goes to my other life bird, the BROAD-WINGED HAWK. A great way to wrap up a fantastic excursion with the Illinois Young Birders Club. Special thanks goes to Matthew Cvetas, Josh Engel, and Dr. Marianne Hahn for coordinating this field trip and to Dad for driving me.

A COMMON NIGHTHAWK flying over my house this evening made for a nice total of 51 bird species today. Also, later tonight, I will post the first "migration forecast" of autumn 2015 on my scientific birding blog, Arrivals and Influxes:


Because of the busy state of this school year for me, I may not post until August 30 which is the first Oak Park Bird Walk of this fall. Until then, good birding!

World Life List: 865 Species (2 life birds today: Broad-winged Hawk and Northern Bobwhite)

52 species + 2 provisional in total for me today:

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo Sp.
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Pectoral Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Commom Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Eastern Wood-Pewee
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Tennessee Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparow
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Passerine Sp.

Posted by skwclar 19:18 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes trees birds sky Comments (1)

Back to Chicago & Summer Recap Post

semi-overcast 87 °F

Today I flew home from Sun Valley, Idaho to Chicago because I will start school again tomorrow (ugh). Here are a few photos from my travels:

Takeoff from Sun Valley - my last view of the Wood River Valley, Idaho:

Rocky Mountain National Park seen during my plane's descent into my layover in Denver:

Longs Peak, one of the highest mountains in the lower 48:

There is an interesting twist to the plot now - I am posting this from my layover in Denver International Airport and my flight to Chicago was canceled due to weather in Chicago, so I am on the "standby" lists for the next Chicago flights! Hopefully I get on soon...(!)

Anyway, here is my summer recap - a nice way to spend the time on this layover. Blog posts for all of these events can be found using the sidebar navigation on the right.

May 31: 1st day of summer for me
June 2: Awesome daytrip in Chicago, finding Conecticut and Hooded Warblers
June 11: Meeting Suzanne Coleman and finding a Prothonotary Warbler
June 19: I get a tour of the Field Museum's expansive bird skin collection
June 21: Oak Park Kids Bird Walks & I leave for my tour with my choir to NYC and Washington DC
July 4: Independence Day in southwest Michigan, finding Hooded Warbler & Red-shouldered Hawk
July 11: Meeting a new birding friend Jonathan and birding with him in Chicago area
July 14: I leave for my LIFE-CHANGING trip to Costa Rica on which I found 168 birds, including 100 lifers
July 19: I find my 1st nemesis bird, the Resplendent Quetzal, in Costa Rica
July 27: I leave for my trip to Sun Valley, Idaho
August 9: I meet birder Ryan Anderson and we each find a life bird
August 14: I find my 2nd nemesis bird, the Great Gray Owl, with birders Kathleen C, Poo WP, and Maria A
August 17: Today, my final day of summer

It was a GREAT summer!

My favorite trip was my trip to Costa Rica with a group from my high school from July 14 to July 23.

Bird-of-the-summer goes to my life bird RESPLENDENT QUETZAL found in Monteverde, Costa Rica which used to be my #1 "nemesis bird," a species that evaded me in the past. Runner-up goes to my life bird GREAT GRAY OWL found in Stanley, Idaho, which was my #2 "nemesis bird" until just three days ago!

Stay tuned, because I will post again this Saturday after I go on a day trip with the Illinois Young Birders Club in search of shorebirds. After that, posts on this blog will be much less frequent because like any school year, this one is already looking to be very busy with challenging courses at school and many, many musical events.

This fall; however, I will be posting daily on my other bird blog called "Arrivals and Influxes" which is a blog devoted to predicting bird migration for each morning to let birders know when they should get out and what they should expect to see.


Good birding, and thank you for following my avian adventures this summer!

Happy birding,

World Life List: 854 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 10:39 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 20: Last Full Day in Idaho

sunny 85 °F

This post is about yesterday, Sunday, August 16, my final full day in Idaho.

During the afternoon, my mom, my sister, and I made a quick visit to the pretty Sawtooth Botanical Garden:

I spotted a few cool water bugs in their water feature like this one:

My mom found this well-camouflaged grasshopper:

Then, from 4:30pm to 9:00pm, I had one last birding trip in the Wood River Valley area with birder Poo Wright-Pulliam. Our main target bird was the federally threatened Greater Sage-Grouse, the largest grouse in North America.


Immature SAGE THRASHER, an uncommon species this late in the summer:

Female AMERICAN KESTREL battling the wind:

A cool herd of Pronghorn (NOT antelope; they live in Africa!):



MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER, a beautiful and uncommon species:

Distant BALD EAGLE nest with an immature bird perched on it:


Although we never found the Greater Sage-Grouse, we did make a stop towards the end of our outing at a location in the Starweather community of the central Wood River Valley where we found two species of owls, a fitting end to a trip in which I have identified a total of eight species of owls!

We heard three GREAT HORNED OWLS calling and also saw one WESTERN SCREECH OWL of which I only managed a poor photo because it was starting to get dark. The owl is the dark blob in the center:

All in all, it was a great last excursion! Thanks so much to Poo Wright-Pulliam for driving again and taking me to these awesome birds!

Bird-of-the-day goes to the uncommon juvenile SAGE THRASHER. Runner-up to the poorly-photographed WESTERN SCREECH-OWL which was a life bird for me only a day before this! The full avian species list for the day is found below.

Stay tuned for a summer recap post today because I will be starting my first day of my sophomore year of high school tomorrow, Tuesday, August 18.

Good birding,

World Life List: 864 Species (no life birds today)

47 species yesterday:

Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Swainson's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Spotted Sandpiper
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Lewis' Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Willow Flycatcher
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Western Tanager
Chipping Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch

Posted by skwclar 08:25 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 19: Western Screech-Owl!

sunny 85 °F

Yesterday afternoon, Saturday, August 15, local birder Ryan Anderson and I birded some of the "underbirded" locations here in the Wood River Valley of central Idaho.

We arrived at our first stop, the riparian deciduous woodlands near the River Run Lodge in the town of Ketchum, at around 12:15pm and we soon found some nice pockets of birds.





The next stop was the Sawtooth Botanical Garden near the small community of Gimlet. It is a beautiful little park:

They have a Buddhist Prayer Wheel at the Botanical Garden which is very interesting because it is one of only three or four of these in the entire country! In Buddhism, it is believed that bringing a thought to the wheel and spinning it will wash away the bad karma associated with that thought and bring about the good karma associated with the thought. Also interesting is that the Dalai Lama visited the Wood River Valley less than ten years ago, I think.

Other than BLACK-CHINNED and RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS, there were few birds except for a juvenile CHIPPING SPARROW with a deformed or chipped bill.

Next, we drove down to the Starweather Community and birded by car and by foot. This is a female LAZULI BUNTING:

At one location with good habitat, we played the Western Screech-Owl call and because it was hot and mid-day, we did not expect to hear anything in response. To our amazement; however, we heard my life bird (!) WESTERN SCREECH-OWL sing its characteristic "bouncing ball" song back to us from barely ten feet behind us. After a few seconds, we layed eyes on my insanely cute lifer Western Screech-Owl, which is about the same size as a robin:

Ryan and I high-fived each other because this was actually the first one he had ever seen in the Wood River Valley.

There was actually a second owl sitting right over the other one! You can kind of make out both in this photo:

What a darling little owl!

This Screech Owl marks the eighth owl I have identified this trip. Here is the list of owls I have had this year in Idaho by order of appearance/identification:

1. Great Horned Owl
2. Long-eared Owl
3. Northern Pygmy-Owl
4. Barn Owl
5. Short-eared Owl
6. Great Gray Owl
7. Boreal Owl
8. Western Screech-Owl

It was a great afternoon of birding. Thanks so much to Ryan for driving me and helping me find a life bird!

Bird-of-the-day yesterday goes to my life bird Western Screech-Owl. Runner-up to the Hammond's Flycatcher. The full avian species list for the afternoon is attached below.

Stay tuned because today, which is my last full day in Idaho, I will be birding with birder Poo Wright-Pulliam in the late afternoon and evening - I am very excited!

Good birding,

World Life List: 864 Species (1 life bird yesterday: Western Screech-Owl)

36 species:

Turkey Vulture
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Lewis' Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Western Wood-Pewee
Hammond's Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Violet-green Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
American Dipper (along Warm Springs Creek)
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Western Tanager
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lazuli Bunting
Brewer's Blackbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
Cassin's Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch

Posted by skwclar 23:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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