A Travellerspoint blog

South Side Rumblings

Chicago, IL

sunny 77 °F

I made two trips to the south side for birds and herps in the last three days to take advantage of this unseasonably warm and nice weather — two days ago with Simon, Peter, and their mom in search of Short-eared Owls and anything that may fly over, and today in search primarily for herps..

We started off friday’s birding at Park 566 on the lakefront with a few AMERICAN TREE SPARROWS:
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Flyover HORNED LARK. We also had flyover AMERICAN PIPIT & SNOW BUNTING, but no hoped-for winter finches which are irrupting this season.
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HORNED GREBE in the harbor:
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And then, we started flushing SHORT-EARED OWLS left and right from the open grassland area!!! We had at least five of them.
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Even managed a shot of one in front of the Sears Tower!
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Flyby BUFFLEHEAD:
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BLACK SCOTER was a year bird for me and is quite uncommon here so it was awesome to see.
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Then, we all headed to another preserve to hopefully flip some EASTERN TIGER SALAMANDERS and...I found one hiding underneath a rock on THE! FIRST! FLIP! Epic. Only my second ever.
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Look at that handsome salamander smile:
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Simon also found a huge Chicago Garter Snake which was cool. Sorry about the orientation — couldn’t seem to fix this properly.
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Bird-of-the-day friday to the Short-eared Owls with runner-up to the Black Scoter. Both were really quality year birds for me.

Today I was back in search of herps. Started with a flyover COOPER’S HAWK:
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And I ended up flipping two EASTERN TIGER SALAMANDERS including the same exact individual from last time (put him back quickly so as not to disturb). What a cool creature — this salamander is very uncommon especially in the Chicago area and is really special because it is the largest, chunkiest terrestrial salamander in the state.
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So, good stuff recently! Fingers crossed for more winter finches — this winter’s “irruption” is turning out to be rather spectacular in Lake County, IL as while as Indiana but still has yet to really affect us down here in Cook County, IL.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1121 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:48 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Montrose: 3 targets

Chicago, IL

sunny 60 °F

On this tumultuous (but beautiful, weather-wise!) election day, Tian and I hit Montrose Point in search of three year bird targets: White-winged Scoter, Common Redpoll, and Snow Goose.

First we checked the harbor for the scoter but instead found a PIED-BILLED GREBE:
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PEREGRINE FALCON:
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AMERICAN TREE SPARROW:
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At one point, a calling HORNED LARK flew over:
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DUNLIN (left) was a nice year bird for me and the right bird, a SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, should be long gone by now but this particular individual has stayed at Montrose for a number of days...it has stayed long enough to become a concern for the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors which are trying to arrange a rescue for the bird in the coming days. Interesting.
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Another check of the harbor for the White-winged Scoter, and I found its less-common cousin, the SURF SCOTER! Cool bird.
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Unfortunately no White-winged. And we checked the lawn again for the Snow Goose but instead just got surrounded by a ton of CANADA GEESE! Lol!
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RED-BREASTED MERGANSER on the way out:
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Unfortunately, none of my target birds were seen today but the Dunlin was a year bird so that will be my bird-of-the-day, with Surf Scoter as my runner-up. Stay safe folks: we may be in for some interesting times ahead...interesting and dark times.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1121 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:00 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Broken camera, but many birds

Cook County, IL

all seasons in one day 52 °F

So, I led my last bird walk of the season on saturday at Miller Meadow, but I opened up my camera at the beginning of the walk and my LCD SCREEN HAD CRACKED! Damnit! (and my viewfinder has never worked properly) So, I still managed to lead a successful walk despite the unfortunate circumstance, and I got the camera shipped back to be repaired a few days later. Hopefully it will be back in a few days — thankfully covered by warranty.

So, since herping doesn’t require a big fancy camera, Tian and I were in the Palos region monday. It was really slow going due to cold temps and Tian bet we couldn’t even find five salamanders — soon I had one Blue-spotted, though. If we found five, she would treat the next time we eat out.
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I soon picked up three more Blue-spotted and one really beautiful Spotted Salamander which was Tian’s lifer (“wow, it is really fat!”) — cool since my lifer Spotted was also at this preserve, back in July, and I haven’t seen one there since then. Overall a beautiful creature and unfortunately very commonly poached by people selling them for pets. So my mouth is shut in terms of giving out the locations for these salamanders.
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One more Blue-spotted made a total of five — Tian’s treat next time! Hah!

Frustratingly enough, as soon as I got home from the salamanders, Ben Sanders let us birders know that he had found a mega-rare Little Gull at Saganashkee Slough just 10 minutes from where I was earlier that afternoon — UGH! Even though it would’ve been a lifer without camera, I would’ve wanted to see that bird, especially considering that it was the first chaseable one in Cook County in decades...

Well my luck somewhat turned around as Simon T reported it “present” when I woke up the next morning, so off I was, back to Palos in search of a lifer! Upon arriving to the Slough’s central parking lot, about twenty birders were lined up, scanning the slough for the world’s tiniest gull, apply named “Little.”

After an excruciating five minutes of suspense, Jeff Skrentny got on the bird and gave impeccable directions as to the bird’s every-single-movement over the opposite side of the slough. To the naked eye, it looked like a tiny white dot flying among the hundreds of other gulls out on and over the water, but with magnification you could make out its distinctive black M on the wings as well as the absolutely tiny size, even compared to the Bonaparte’s Gulls nearby. Great bird, and a long-awaited LIFE BIRD I’ve had major dips on previously in NY!

After the gull excitement, I drove half way back home to Miller Meadow Forest Preserve where I met Jill Anderson for some hawk watching. It was great to see her after a few years of not crossing paths due to our busy lives. It was also a great day for hawkwatching (Ben had a Golden Eagle, AT Sag Slough under an hour after I had left the slough, another UGH!). Anyway, Jill and I also had a fair share of raptors including two that gave us head-trips. This juvenile BALD EAGLE was dark enough in the shadows to confuse us into possibly being a Golden until we reviewed this photos at home — very blotchy under-wings, so yeah, just a Bald... (all raptor photos below courtesy of Jill!)
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Another was this bulky COOPER’S HAWK (likely a female) that had us on the edge of thinking Goshawk until reviewing her photos at home.
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43 raptors in total, a really sweet count for a two-hour watch! BALD EAGLE, AMERICAN KESTREL, RED-TAILED (many), COOPER’S, & SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS.

I was back at Miller today since there were fairly strong northerly winds. Even though they were northerlies, they were slightly out of the east though which tends to be less productive for hawk migration in this area than winds out of the west. So, raptors were few and far between, but I did have two consolation prizes: the first was a bunch of owl pellets I found and collected which were under a post where I have seen a Great Horned perch upon in the past. Super cool!

And secondly, this SNOW BUNTING I found on the way out which was my first this year and a great bird for this location! I managed a couple “digibins” — shooting with the iPhone through binoculars. First time I’ve had success with this method! And definitely one of my favorite birds.
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So despite the whole camera fiasco, I’ve still had some great birding this week. Stay tuned — this is vagrant season!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1121 Species (1 life bird: Little Gull)

Posted by skwclar 20:47 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Southern Illinois, day 2!

all seasons in one day 62 °F

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18—
Today my family and I visited the Little Grand Canyon in Pomona, IL before heading back to cold, rainy Chicago. The hike afforded many beautiful views, as expected, and therefore many photo ops.
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I did a fair amount of flipping and found two tiny LONG-TAILED SALAMANDERS, including one which was missing a tail either from being mishandled by a human, or narrowly escaping another predator. These amazing creatures can regenerate their tails in order to escape predators. Small but mighty! (and very pretty)
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Overall it was a great hike, but we were tired and ready to head on home, especially since there was rain in the forecast. The only noteworthy bird seen along the way was a group of a few possible Black Vultures, though I couldn’t make the ID for sure due to distance.

Good birding! Stay safe — covid cases are on the rise here in Illinois. Let’s pray this country can get its act together...

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1120 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:33 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Southern Illinois, day 2!

all seasons in one day 62 °F

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18—
Today my family and I visited the Little Grand Canyon in Pomona, IL before heading back to cold, rainy Chicago. The hike afforded many beautiful views, as expected, and therefore many photo ops.
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I did a fair amount of flipping and found two tiny LONG-TAILED SALAMANDERS, including one which was missing a tail either from being mishandled by a human, or narrowly escaping another predator. These amazing creatures can regenerate their tails in order to escape predators. Small but mighty! (and very pretty)
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Overall it was a great hike, but we were tired and ready to head on home, especially since there was rain in the forecast. The only noteworthy bird seen along the way was a group of a few possible Black Vultures, though I couldn’t make the ID for sure due to distance.

Good birding! Stay safe — covid cases are on the rise here in Illinois. Let’s pray this country can get its act together...

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1120 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:33 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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