A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: skwclar

More spring bird walks!

Cook County, IL

overcast 50 °F

Still catching up on posting here...bird walks have been continuing and the migrants have just been picking up speed! This was among my final (probably) DARK-EYED JUNCOS until I go to western New York next month...seen a couple weeks ago on a neighborhood bird walk.
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AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:
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BROAD-WINGED HAWKS have become very reliable in the neighborhood recently — hopefully building a nest somewhere nearby!
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WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW at an enjoyable walk at Columbus Park:
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And a LINCOLN’S:
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Warblers abounded at Columbus Park, as well. Here is a YELLOW:
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NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH:
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PALM:
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PIED-BILLED GREBE in the lagoon was nice, too:
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SPOTTED SANDPIPER:
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SONG SPARROW:
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The bird-of-the-day was this incredible BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER which gave us amazing views near the end of the walk:
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It was a great start-to-May walk! Much more to come, I am still behind in posting!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1125 Species

Posted by skwclar 04:31 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Another Ruff Chase a year later!

semi-overcast 62 °F

Last thursday I set out on a mid-afternoon excursion to find a rare bird: a Ruff! I have only seen this bird one time before, and that was almost exactly one year ago right across the Wisconsin border, one of my first big chases after the pandemic hit. Thursday’s chase was much closer-to-home, in fact it was only a thirty minute drive away to Salt Creek Marsh in DuPage County! So, I showed up mid-afternoon and immediately joined three other birders in scanning the other shorebirds for the rare European visitor. PECTORAL SANDPIPERS were all over the place:
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As were LESSER YELLOWLEGS:
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As well as GREATER YELLOWLEGS — note the difference in bill length & thickness which is used to differentiate the two yellowlegs species. I find that if I’m doubting my ID, it’s a Lesser, and if it’s a Greater, I definitely know because of that long bill.
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Two Greater (foreground) with a Lesser (back):
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Then, I laid my eyes on a noticeably different shorebird — a chunkier yellowlegs-looking bird but with orange legs and an overall rusty plumage — it was indeed the female RUFF! Interestingly enough, the female of this species is called a REEVE. So, I called the one remaining birder over and we enjoyed views of this rarity.
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Soon, it flew in, allowing for some wonderfully close-up views. To date, both of my Ruff sightings have been of impressively obliging individuals.
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We were able to observe its feeding behavior which I documented in a short video here:
https://youtu.be/GcVStIQYulA

Another Pectoral Sandpiper:
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And the Reeve just kept serving up some amazing looks.
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Here it is (back bird) pictured with a Greater Yellowlegs for comparison:
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After the successful twitch, I headed to a nearby forest preserve for more birding and herping. There were a few migrants including RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET:
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A bit of flipping yielded a total of 7 Eastern Tiger Salamanders, my highest-ever day count of this species.
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ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER was nice:
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So it was a great day to be out! Bird-of-the-day obviously goes to the Ruff/Reeve!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1125 Species

Posted by skwclar 22:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Migration continues in earnest

Chicago, IL

all seasons in one day 81 °F

The last few days of migration here in Chicago have seen a significant uptick in avian activity, but I am truthfully so behind in uploading photos that I am only just now posting photos from bird walks and adventures a couple weeks ago. Before I go any further, here are links to two recent concerts with Tian and my family — the reason why I have been so behind in posting! Hope you enjoy some of the beautiful music we have been working on this year.
https://youtu.be/ZIpxxUMID8M
https://youtu.be/lqCOJ6LZ67M

A walk a couple weeks ago yielded a few surprises including a lone PINE SISKIN:
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And WARBLERS, yay!! Here is an ORANGE-CROWNED:
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And a PINE:
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MOURNING DOVE:
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NORTHERN CARDINAL:
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A bit of herping with Simon, Peter, and Oliver yielded two lifer snakes a couple weekends ago: this stunning Smooth Greensnake, a prairie species!
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And a huge Queensnake:
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The Oak Park Bird Walks keep getting birdier and birdier as we progress toward the peak of migration. Here is a BROAD-WINGED HAWK from last week’s walk:
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Flyover GREEN HERON which was a new Oak Park species for me just earlier this spring:
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RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET:
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NORTHERN FLICKER:
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I was overjoyed to find this BLUE-HEADED VIREO when out birding by myself one afternoon in the neighborhood:
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As well as a plethora of warblers! YELLOW-RUMPED:
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BLACK-AND-WHITE, my first of the year:
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Another FOY, the male BLACK-THROATED GREEN:
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And a nice vibrant NASHVILLE:
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I was lucky to snap this shot of an ORANGE-CROWNED which is actually a fairly dull-looking bird; however, I loved the setting of this bird among the flowers.
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Good birding! Much much more to come!
Henry
World Life List: 1125 Species

Posted by skwclar 04:49 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Catching up with the early migrants!

Cook County, IL

all seasons in one day 70 °F

So I have been a bit behind in posting due to being very busy with multiple musical projects, but I have been able to squeeze in a bit of birding — particularly in leading bird walks. My first walk of the season was with the Chicago Ornithological Society at Miller Meadow and I led the walk with Larry Krutulis who is a great birder and a very friendly guy overall. We enjoyed a couple nice looks at EASTERN BLUEBIRDS:
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EASTERN MEADOWLARK:
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AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:
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A few days later Tian and I headed to the Palos area for some herping as well as chasing the AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS which were easily visible on the slough right before Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center.
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I also did a little bit of birding with Isoo at Gillson Park. AMERICAN TREE SPARROW:
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GREATER SCAUP flying by:
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My first Oak Park Bird Walk of the season I led at Thatcher Woods in search of RUSTY BLACKBIRDS, which we did manage to find! Here are two female blackbirds — a Rusty on the right and the more common Red-winged on the left. Thatcher Woods is, in my opinion, one of the most reliable places to find Rusty Blackbirds in the early spring.
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WILSON’S SNIPE were also great to see!
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As was this female BELTED KINGFISHER:
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And a COOPER’S HAWK with a meal:
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Two BLUE-WINGED TEAL:
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More walks since then in my neighborhood have yielded classic early-season passerine migrants such as BROWN CREEPER:
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And YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
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A visit to Big Marsh on sunday yielded GREATER YELLOWLEGS:
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CASPIAN TERNS with BONAPARTE’S (left) and RING-BILLED GULL (right):
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MUTE SWAN:
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BROWN THRASHER:
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Good stuff and can’t wait for the migrants to keep on building — this is always an exciting time of year to be a birder!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1125 Species

Posted by skwclar 03:34 Archived in USA Comments (2)

S. IL Day 4: Wildcat again, then back to Snake Rd!

Southern IL

semi-overcast 72 °F

TUESDAY, MARCH 30:

Simon, Peter, Oliver and I started off the day herping Wildcat Bluff today before heading to Snake Road and eventually heading home. We started off the day with a nice Little Brown Skink:
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And Midwestern Wormsnake:
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And an even tinier Northern Slimy Salamander than yesterday’s!
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Simon had a crazy flip on the hillside with both a Ring-necked Snake:
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And a Marbled Salamander!!!
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The best flip of the morning was done once again by Simon, my second red Eastern Milknsnake of the trip and his lifer of the Red subspecies! Super cool!!!!
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Yet another Wormsnake:
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Common Five-lined Skink:
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The view from Wildcat Bluff is one-of-a-kind in Illinois, looking out high over a vast swamp:
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And one last flip from Wildcat Bluff yielded an Eastern Fence Lizard which I was super happy to be able to have actually caught since they are incredibly fast:
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At Snake Road unfortunately we missed our target snake for the day, but we did manage to find a good number of Salamanders including a nice Spotted:
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And Zigzag:
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This Long-tailed was the Tolzmann’s 19th salamander species for the year — very cool!
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Simon spotted this large, dark snake in a rock crevice — it is either a Black Ratsnake (more likely) or a Black Racer — a little too hard to ID with just this angle through the rocks, and handling of snakes is prohibited at Snake Road.
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So, with that, Oliver, Ben and I headed back to Chicago after a wonderful four days of herping southern Illinois. I ended the trip with 41 herp species including ten lifers, and this trip tied Simon, Peter and I for most salamander species ever observed in Illinois in one calendar year!
1. Long-tailed Salamander
2. Spotted Salamander
3. Eastern Red-backed Salamander
4. Central Newt
5. Southern Two-lined Salamander
6. Cave Salamander
7. Tiger Salamander
8. Marbled Salamander
9. Northern Slimy Salamander
10. Mole Salamander
11. Northern Dusky Salamander
12. Spotted Dusky Salamander
13. Northern Zigzag Salamander
14. Four-toed Salamander LIFER
15. Western Lesser Siren LIFER
16. Green Frog
17. American Bullfrog
18. American Toad
19. Spring Peeper
20. Green Treefrog
21. Southern Leopard Frog
22. Blanchard’s Chricket Frog
23. Boreal Chorus Frog
24. Western Chorus Frog LIFER
25. Midland Watersnake
26. Plain-bellied Watersnake
27. Mississippi Green Watersnake LIFER
28. Gray Ratsnake
29. Shawnee Kingsnake LIFER
30. Black Racer LIFER
31. Northern Cottonmouth
32. Dekay’s Brownsnake
33. Midwestern Wormsnake LIFER
34. Ring-necked Snake LIFER
35. Eastern Red Milksnake LIFER
36. Red-eared Slider
37. Spiny Softshell Turtle
38. Eastern Box Turtle
39. Five-lined Skink
40. Brown Skink
41. Fence Lizard LIFER

Stay tuned for more, and especially as we near May, much more birding!!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1125 Species

Posted by skwclar 05:10 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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