A Travellerspoint blog

December 2018

Birding with Isoo!

Chicago, IL

sunny 32 °F

Today my friend Isoo and I went birding around Chicago in hopes of finding the Iceland Gull I found recently at Harborside Golf Course, as well as a Glaucous Gull which has recently been seen at Montrose.

Unfortunately, the golf course was closed so we had to improvise and bird another area of Calumet where the gulls are known to hang out. We found quite a large flock of gulls roosting on ice near Big Marsh — common ones though such as RING-BILLED and HERRING.
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Looking back at my photos, we have found that we indeed found an ICELAND GULL! The subspecies is questionable, but it is definitely an immature Iceland — see the immature gull sitting on the lower left. Very cool!
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Then, we headed over to Wolf Lake and I spotted a RED-TAILED HAWK:
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AMERICAN TREE SPARROW:
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These TRUMPETER SWANS were my favorite bird seen in the Calumet area:
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Then, after a quick and unsuccessful stop at Steelworkers’ Park, we headed to Jackson Park to find whatever waterfowl might be hanging around.

Female COMMON GOLDENEYE:
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GREATER SCAUPS with a male REDHEAD:
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RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS:
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REDHEAD with more scaup:
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Then, Isoo shouted “Henry, I see a f*cking Western Grebe!!!” I slammed on the brakes, and lo and behold, there was our bird of the day!!! This is a vagrant species that is seldom ever seen in Illinois — dope! We were absolutely psyched.
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We finished at Montrose Point where we searched for Glaucous Gull but couldn’t find it. A wonderful consolation prize was this immature PIPING PLOVER which has been hanging around for months now — it was the latest record for this species in IL when my uncle and I saw it in November, AND when I saw it today! The same bird!
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Bird-of-the-day to the Western Grebe with runner-up to the Iceland Gull.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 958 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:52 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Northerly Island, LP Zoo, & Lake Calumet!

Chicago, IL

semi-overcast 33 °F

Today, I started off the day with Kim Habel and we were off to Northerly Island in search of anything we could find there, particularly Snow Bunting. Unfortunately, it was very quiet there with no buntings or anything else noteworthy so we drove to the Lincoln Park Zoo instead to look for a Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon which have both recently appeared with the zoo specimens of the duck pond (these two birds have been confirmed by park officials to be wild, though!). Both of these ducks are rare enough during winter that they were flagged by ebird!

A lioness posed nicely for us.
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Soon, I spotted the male GREEN-WINGED TEAL, our first target:
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A WINTER WREN flitted through, which was a very nice find for early winter:
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And then our second target for this leg of the journey showed up, a beautiful male AMERICAN WIGEON which is uncommon for this time of year here in Chicago.
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Then, Kim drove back to Oak Park and I was off to Lake Calumet in search of waterfowl and gulls. A big thanks to Kim for a great morning of birding!

After getting off of the metra electric, I walked to Lake Calumet and was not disappointed — there were many, many birds. This BALD EAGLE posed nicely:
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Then, I spotted a large raft of “Aythya” ducks which are diving ducks that essentially all look very similar. Featured in this photo is one of my favorite ducks, the CANVASBACK (red head & white back), with LESSER SCAUP and a RING-NECKED DUCK (lower right).
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This male GREATER SCAUP was also a cool find — with his more common LESSER SCAUP relatives.
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Then, a very large flock of geese came flying in, trumpeting all the while. I scanned for more uncommon ones, and I was lucky in finding this CACKLING GOOSE (tiny goose, center bird) among the more common CANADAS.
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Female HOODED MERGANSER — I got all three merganser species at Lake Calumet today.
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REDHEADS (the final Aythya species to be mentioned in this post) flying with a few LESSER SCAUP:
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Scanning through the more common RING-BILLED & HERRING GULLS, this LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was a cool find for the area:
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MUTE SWANS flying by:
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Then, a completely white-winged gull flew in, eliminating all of the more common species which have black wing tips. What could it be???
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ICELAND GULL, a bird I’ve only seen once before! Nice! Bird of the day!
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Runners-up to the Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Cackling Goose, & Lesser Black-backed Gull. A nice variety to choose from today!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 958 Species

Posted by skwclar 15:16 Archived in USA Comments (1)

A Wild Goose Chase!

Chicago, IL

sunny 35 °F

Today, now that I am back in Illinois, I birded on the southeast side of Chicago with my friend Kim Habel in search of a bird called a Snow Goose which is a casual species here in Chicago, showing up with large goose flocks every once in a while. We were specifically headed to a place called Calumet Park.

Before I show photos from today though, I have some from the other day when I was walking around in Millennium Park with my family.

A late HERMIT THRUSH was nice.
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As was this COMMON GOLDENEYE in Monroe Harbor.
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And best of all, a PEREGRINE FALCON put on a beautiful show soaring far overhead. Too cool!
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Upon arriving, many geese were there including these common CANADAS:
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Then, we scanned the flocks that were swimming in Lake Michigan and soon, two orange-legged geese flew in: GREATER WHITE-FRONTED, very cool and uncommon — I have only ever seen this bird one time before today’s sighting.
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Here they are associating with the larger and more common Canadas:
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There was other waterfowl around as well, including this female BUFFLEHEAD:
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RED-BREASTED MERGANSER:
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Then, we tried scanning the large goose flock gathered on the baseball diamonds one more time. Sure enough, Kim spotted this glisteningly white gem, our hoped-for SNOW GOOSE. What a great bird — another goose species, though common in some parts of the country, that I have only ever seen once before!
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Then, to our absolute delight, I picked out a fourth (!) species of goose for the day, a CACKLING GOOSE which is a Canada Goose-lookalike with a much stouter neck and a stubbier bill. Overall, a cuter-looking bird, and rarer than the Canadas!
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It was truly a wild, albeit successful, goose chase! Birds-of-the-day to our two “bonus” geese species, the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED & CACKLING GEESE, with runner-up to the always-spectacular SNOW GOOSE:

Good birding and stay tuned!
Henry
World Life List: 959 Species

Posted by skwclar 15:53 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Plumb Beach

Brooklyn, NYC

overcast 50 °F

This morning since all of my finals are over and I’m not flying home until the evening, I went birding in Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, NYC. I was hoping to possibly find my life bird Red-necked Grebe, which I have consistently missed this fall and has become somewhat of a nemesis bird.

A lot of the time was spent scanning the bay and picking through distant waterfowl, such as these BUFFLEHEADS:
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COMMON LOON:
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BLACK SCOTERS:
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LONG-TAILED DUCK, cool to see even though it was incredibly far off:
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Then, I birded the marsh where during the migration months sparrows abound — I tried my luck to see if there were any lingering birds. This is an AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:
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And my surprise of the day came when this LAPLAND LONGSPUR flew up from right in front of me and landed behind some weeds far down the trail. I only managed one crappy photo of it — it was just one of those days — before I lost sight of the bird.
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Back to the beach where I had SANDERLING:
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RED-THROATED LOON, cool!
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MUTE SWANS:
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HORNED GREBE:
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SURF & BLACK SCOTERS:
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TREE SWALLOWS:
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Alas, I never found the Red-necked Grebe, but it was still a fairly good day of sea-scanning with contenders for bird-of-the-day being the Long-tailed Duck, Lapland Longspur, and Red-throated Loon. Stay tuned, tonight I fly back home to Chicago for the holiday and I should be out birding on monday!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 958 Species

Posted by skwclar 11:33 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Central Park after School

NYC

overcast 38 °F

Today after my finals I birded Central Park in hopes of finding a male Evening Grosbeak that was reported here early this afternoon — this is an irruptive finch species that has become considerably rare in most of the Lower 48 as of late, but this year is an “irruption” year for them as they are already being seen throughout the northeast.

Upon arriving at the spot where the grosbeak was seen, I found this FIELD SPARROW which was very cool since it is extremely late for this species to be passing through:
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Immature COOPER’S HAWK:
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This graceful male BUFFLEHEAD dazzled viewers in the Loch. It proved to be a photographic challenge since every ten seconds or so it would dive under water and then resurface a few yards away — a guessing game unless you watch for the tiny air bubbles in the water which can tell you where a diving duck is, when the water is calm that is.
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Unfortunately despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find the grosbeak. Win some, lose some!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 958 Species

Posted by skwclar 13:44 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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