A Travellerspoint blog

October 2014

Life Bird #703: Harris's Sparrow!

sunny 45 °F

I am very tired from a long day of children's choir, so this will be a short post. Today I woke up bright and early and found my life bird HARRIS'S SPARROW, a rare bird for the Chicago area, in the Lurie Garden of Millennium Park at around 7:30am. After finding it and taking the photos below, I walked right over to my choir performance in the Chicago Cultural Center.

HARRIS'S SPARROW, lifer 703:

Here it is again (right) with a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (left):

Good birding,

World Life List: 703 Species (1 life bird today: Harris's Sparrow)

  • **Please note that I am constantly editing and revising my life list to make it as true as possible, so my life list number may unexpectedly shift up or down

Posted by skwclar 18:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Fort Sheridan Preserve with the Illinois Young Birders' Club

semi-overcast 41 °F

This morning I participated in a walk led by the Illinois Young Birders' Club at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, a beautiful preserve on the Lake Michigan lakefront in Lake County, Illinois. The primary goal of this bird walk was originally to be watching migrating hawks, but blustery southeast winds meant that apart from a PEREGRINE FALCON and a few COOPER'S HAWKS (including the one pictured below), there was not much raptor movement today.

Overall, the chilly winds prevented many birds from showing themselves well, so it was a quieter-than-expected walk. Thankfully, the good socializing with the other young birders made up for the slight lack of avian activity. Below is one of the best finds of the day, not a bird, but a White-tailed Deer buck:

One interesting avian aspect of the walk was seeing the first large raft (raft is the collective noun for flock of ducks) of mostly diving ducks in Lake Michigan of the winter. Large rafts like the one below are a signature sign of the concluding movements of autumn migration and the progress in more winter-related avian activity. The raft below contains over 50 and possibly 100 REDHEAD, a few GREATER & LESSER SCAUP, and one RING-NECKED DUCK. The Greater Scaup and Ring-necked Duck were life birds for me.

NORTHERN SHOVELER ducks in flight:

GREEN-WINGED TEAL. Notice the colorful male in the back of the group.

Same raft as the first duck picture.

There were 8 species of sparrow found on the walk, the "best" (even though it is not rare) of which was this SAVANNAH SPARROW:

This LINCOLN'S SPARROW was also nice:

Overall it was a pleasant walk. A special thanks goes to the Berg family for driving me up there, birding with the group, and driving me back to my house in Oak Park.

Full species list for the day is below. Bird-of-the-day to the many REDHEADS which made up the majority of the diving ducks seen today. Runner-up to the PEREGRINE FALCON, which, even though it stooped (plummeted a large distance through the air at a high speed) right in front of the group, it didn't allow for photos.

Good birding,

World Life List: 704 Species (2 life birds today: Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup)

41 species (+1 other taxa) today:

Canada Goose 10
Northern Shoveler 19
Green-winged Teal 6
Redhead 100
Ring-necked Duck 1
Greater Scaup 2
Lesser Scaup 2
Double-crested Cormorant 4
Cooper's Hawk 2
Buteo sp. 1
Ring-billed Gull 20
Herring Gull 1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 6
Mourning Dove 2
Chimney Swift 50
Red-headed Woodpecker 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 5
European Starling 5
Palm Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 20
Field Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 5
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Eastern Meadowlark 1
American Goldfinch 11
House Sparrow X

Posted by skwclar 10:22 Archived in USA Tagged birds Comments (1)

Montrose Point--two life birds!

semi-overcast 37 °F

Today I woke up at 6am, rode two "L" trains to get to Uptown north of Chicago, and walked for forty minutes through an iffy neighborhood in order to bird at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, the premier place for birding during the migration season in Chicago. Boy was it worth the effort to get up there! The birds were fantastic...anyway, keep reading for the details!

Montrose Point is a point (duh!) that juts out into Lake Michigan on the Chicago lakefront, and birds migrating along the shores of the lake naturally stop at Montrose; thus it is a mecca for Chicagoland birders. I had two target birds (which would be lifers for me) for this morning--a beautiful shorebird called a Black-bellied Plover and a shy, rare sparrow called a Nelson's Sparrow, both of which have been seen at Montrose recently. Read on to see if I got them!

When I arrived at the point, it was a chilly 37 degrees, but it soon warmed up into the fifties and was very pleasant weather for the most part. I immediately headed to the beach on the tip of some other birders I had just talked with, and to my delight, I found three gorgeous BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS! Note that they have a white belly (?!) during the nonbreeding season, which is now.

Then, I birded a part of Montrose Point called the "Magic Hedge." It indeed was magical today and yielded some nice passerine surprises, the best of which was this late-in-season WOOD THRUSH:

This NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was the "best" of the wood warbler species I saw this morning. It was running and jumping along a path through the hedge in a frantic manner because it either had something attached to its bill or it had a bill deformity. You can kind of make out the bill imperfection in this crappy photo I took. Poor little bird.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this beautiful BROWN THRASHER. It's getting to be a bit late in the season for these guys, as well:

Sadly, I never found that ever-elusive Nelson's Sparrow, although I did methodically search the habitat it has recently been found in (dune grasses) at least three times throughout the three hours I was at Montrose. There were quite a few other sparrows around, the best of which was this SWAMP SPARROW:

This beautiful WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW posed very nicely:

A red FOX SPARROW (left) and a juvenile WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (right) also posed for a photo:

Suddenly, a birder came up to me and told me that there was, of all things, a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE in Montrose Harbor. I ran there, and with the help of other birders, I soon found the bird and captured the photo below. Greater White-fronted Geese are uncommon in Illinois and super rare on the lakefront, especially at Montrose. They are annually found in slightly greater numbers further inland. Life bird #702!!!

It was an absolutely fantastic day at Montrose Point, with 42 species seen in total. Bird-of-the-day goes to the life bird vagrant Greater White-fronted Goose, and runner-up goes to my other life bird today, Black-bellied Plover. What an awesome day of birding!

Good birding,

World Life List: 702 Species (2 life birds today: Black-bellied Plover & Greater White-fronted Goose)

42 avian species today:

Greater White-fronted Goose 1 Photos obtained
Canada Goose 50
Mallard 5
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot 1
Black-bellied Plover 3
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 5
Northern Flicker 2
Peregrine Falcon 1
Blue-headed Vireo 3
American Crow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Brown Creeper 2
Winter Wren 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 10
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1
Hermit Thrush 15
Wood Thrush 1
American Robin 50 Photos obtained
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 5
Northern Waterthrush 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 30
Yellow-rumped Warbler 15
Fox Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 5
Lincoln's Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 20
White-crowned Sparrow 10
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal 2
Common Grackle 5
House Finch 3
American Goldfinch 5
House Sparrow X

Posted by skwclar 17:11 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Last Oak Park Bird Walk of Autumn 2014

semi-overcast 38 °F

Today I led four birders on the last Oak Park Bird Walk of fall 2014. It was very successful (albeit frigid: 38 degrees!) and the best bird of the day were a pair of CAROLINA WRENS, which is a rare bird for this time of year in Oak Park. Here are some photos below, enjoy!

HERMIT THRUSH with berries:

Very obliging CAROLINA WREN that sat not even five feet away from the group:

Female BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER from last Sunday:

Good birding,

Posted by skwclar 07:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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