A Travellerspoint blog

Indiana Birdathon 2020!

N. Indiana

all seasons in one day 73 °F

Today, since I couldn’t truly join forces big-day-style with my friend Jonathan due to social distancing requirements, I did a (majority) solitary big day in Indiana for my personal “Birdathon.” I did bird part of the morning with my friend Kim (from a distance) though, and we had a great time.

I arrived at Kemil Beach Road at exactly 3:37am and immediately heard dozens of EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILLS, my first bird of the day!! Next bird: a trilling EASTERN SCREECH-OWL, and soon I was picking up night-calling INDIGO BUNTING, TREE SWALLOW, and a “peenting” AMERICAN WOODCOCK.”

Then, I started cruising east on Beverly Road for the “dawn chorus” which did not disappoint, providing a solid foundation for a strong big day. I quickly picked up MARSH WREN, SWAMP SPARROW, and AMERICAN ROBIN. Beverly Rd at dawn:
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And my first of many SONG SPARROWS of the day:
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Then, along the wetlands, I picked up YELLOW WARBLER as well as the expected night-calling rail species: VIRGINIA & SORA! Great to tick those off for the day. Other new species soon picked up including COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, GRAY CATBIRD, EASTERN TOWHEE, NORTHERN CARDINAL, EASTERN KINGBIRD, CHIPPING SPARROW, SEDGE WREN, and TENNESSEE & CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLERS. A truly strong dawn chorus!

Next stop right at sunrise: Michigan City Beach for swallows, shorebirds, and gulls/terns.
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This HERRING GULL saved me from altogether missing the species today:
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Unfortunately, the only shorebird I picked up was a pair of SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, but I did fairly well with swallows: BARN, TREE, BANK, & N. ROUGH-WINGED. Other birds picked up here included HOUSE FINCH, AMERICAN CROW, WARBLING VIREO, and my only PALM WARBLER of the day.

After a rather successful stop in Michigan City, I high-tailed it back to Cowles Bog in the National Lakeshore to meet Kim and bird the bog trail there. Let me say, it was off to a rock-rollin’ start when I spotted this BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO. A lifer for Kim: amazing!!
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And amazingly, a YELLOW-BILLED was also seen just a bit down the path:
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EASTERN TOWHEE:
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There were plenty of warblers but they were, for the most part, moving fast through the canopy. BLACKBURNIAN, BAY-BREASTED, CANADA, ORANGE-CROWNED, BLACK-AND-WHITE, NASHVILLE, and this BLACK-THROATED GREEN were picked up among others.
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COMMON GALLINULE was a cool bird heard grunting in the marsh. Also seen was a female MOURNING and an extremely brief look at a female CONNECTICUT WARBLER, my last warbler I needed for this spring! Amazing — shame I didn’t get a photo of the Connecticut though...

After things started to cool down at the bog, we headed over to Indiana Dunes State Park (thanks Kim for paying my entrance fee!) and immediately headed over to the observation tower to see what the other birders had been seeing. Although they had two Connecticuts earlier, it was slower when we arrived, but we still picked up a couple new birds: PINE WARBLER, WHITE-CROWNED, & this FIELD SPARROW:
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Next: off to Wilson’s Shelter to search for PROTHONOTARY and Worm-eating Warblers. You can guess which one we found!
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Trail 8 was fairly birdy with a YELLOW-THROATED VIREO and this TUFTED TITMOUSE:
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CEDAR WAXWING:
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While we were hearing a SCARLET TANAGER sing to our right, I heard the “pitt-i-tuck!” of a male SUMMER TANAGER and this beauty soon swooped in, posing for photos! Amaaazing!
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Female ORCHARD ORIOLE:
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Trail 2 was also fairly birdy with EASTERN PHOEBE, YELLOW-RUMPED, and multiple CERULEAN WARBLERS heard as well as this ACADIAN FLYCATCHER:
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And an absolutely striking SCARLET TANAGER:
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It was super cool to watch yet another RED-SHOULDERED HAWK nest behind one of the picnic areas:
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Next stop: Great Marsh Trail where I bid adieu to Kim, but not before getting an awesome YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, a great addition for the day list!
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I think continued back to Kemil Beach Road in search of Blue-winged Warblers which are known to breed along the road. Unfortunately, I dipped on the warbler but got amazing looks at a female Summer Tanager. Very cool!!
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Did you know there are lizards in the dunes?
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One quick stop off the side of Kemil Beach Road on the way out got my only RED-HEADED WOODPECKER of the day, surprisingly.
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Next stop: the Heron Rookery Area for my only shot at grassland birds today. On the way there, I picked up a few things including BLACKPOLL WARBLER & this RED-EYED VIREO:
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Upon arrival, I soon started slowly racking up the expected grassland species such as EASTERN MEADOWLARK and this DICKCISSEL, my first of the year!
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And HORNED LARK, a great addition to the big day:
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I found all of the expected grassland sparrows: FIELD, HENSLOW’S, GRASSHOPPER, SAVANNAH, and even this VESPER — awesome!
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Next stop: back to the other side of Cowles Bog from this morning to check for a pair of Lesser Scaup which had been seen there the last few days. There was certainly an abundance of wildlife around including tadpoles:
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Painted Turtles:
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And yes, two sleepy diving ducks — the desired LESSER SCAUP!
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Next stop: Grant St Marsh in Gary, IN where I picked up RUDDY DUCK, a nice surprise:
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And DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS:
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And BALD EAGLE:
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A stop at Miller Woods was wholly unproductive, and after driving through an absolutely gale-force thunderstorm that reduced visibility to 0 at times, I arrived at Forsythe Park on Wolf Lake with the advent of better weather for the day. And I picked up bird #127 for the day, MUTE SWAN:
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  1. 128, AMERICAN COOT:
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Calm after the storm (over the casino, lol):
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ALDER FLYCATCHER was heard earlier at Cowles Bog but only identified by voice and visual at my next and last stop, Hammond Bird Sanctuary which proved quite productive!
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  1. 129 for the day — YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER! The empids certainly are moving through.
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As were EASTERN WOOD-PEWEES:
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Blackpoll Warbler:
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And a beautiful MAGNOLIA WARBLER.
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My last new species for the day was a female NORTHERN PARULA which went unphotographed, but made for a solid 130 species! WOW! The list is attached below. Bird-of-the-day to the Black-billed Cuckoo with runners-up to the Connecticut Warbler, Common Gallinule, Summer Tanager, and Lesser Scaup. What. A Day.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1115 Species

1. Canada Goose
2. Mute Swan
3. Wood Duck
4. Mallard
5. Lesser Scaup
6. Ruddy Duck
7. Mourning Dove
8. Rock Pigeon
9. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
10. Black-billed Cuckoo
11. Common Nighthawk
12. Eastern Whip-poor-will
13. Chimney Swift
14. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
15. Virginia Rail
16. Sora
17. Common Gallinule
18. American Coot
19. Sandhill Crane
20. Killdeer
21. Spotted Sandpiper
22. American Woodcock
23. Ring-billed Gull
24. Herring Gull
25. Caspian Tern
26. Double-crested Cormorant
27. Great Blue Heron
28. Great Egret
29. Green Heron
30. Turkey Vulture
31. Cooper’s Hawk
32. Bald Eagle
33. Red-shouldered Hawk
34. Red-tailed Hawk
35. Eastern Screech-Owl
36. Red-headed Woodpecker
37. Red-bellied Woodpecker
38. Downy Woodpecker
39. Hairy Woodpecker
40. Pileated Woodpecker
41. Northern Flicker
42. American Kestrel
43. Great Crested Flycatcher
44. Eastern Kingbird
45. Eastern Wood-Pewee
46. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
47. Acadian Flycatcher
48. Alder Flycatcher
49. Willow Flycatcher
50. Least Flycatcher
51. Eastern Phoebe
52. Yellow-throated Vireo
53. Warbling Vireo
54. Red-eyed Vireo
55. Blue Jay
56. American Crow
57. Horned Lark
58. Bank Swallow
59. Tree Swallow
60. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
61. Barn Swallow
62. Black-capped Chickadee
63. Tufted Titmoue
64. White-breasted Nuthatch
65. House Wren
66. Sedge Wren
67. Marsh Wren
68. Carolina Wren
69. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
70. Eastern Bluebird
71. Veery
72. Gray-cheeked Thrush
73. Swainson’s Thrush
74. Wood Thrush
75. American Robin
76. Gray Catbird
77. European Starling
78. Cedar Waxwing
79. House Sparrow
80. House Finch
81. American Goldfinch
82. Yellow-breasted Chat
83. Eastern Meadowlark
84. Baltimore Oriole
85. Orchard Oriole
86. Red-winged Blackbird
87. Brown-headed Cowbird
88. Common Grackle
89. Ovenbird
90. Northern Waterthrush
91. Black-and-White Warbler
92. Prothonotary Warbler
93. Tennessee Warbler
94. Orange-crowned Warbler
95. Nashville Warbler
96. Connecticut Warbler
97. Mourning Warbler
98. Common Yellowthroat
99. American Redstart
100. Northern Parula
101. Cerulean Warbler
102. Magnolia Warbler
103. Bay-breasted Warbler
104. Blackburnian Warbler
105. Yellow Warbler
106. Chestnut-sided Warbler
107. Blackpoll Warbler
108. Palm Warbler
109. Pine Warbler
110. Yellow-rumped Warbler
111. Black-throated Green Warbler
112. Canada Warbler
113. Wilson’s Warbler
114. Summer Tanager
115. Scarlet Tanager
116. Northern Cardinal
117. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
118. Indigo Bunting
119. Dickcissel
120. Grasshopper Sparrow
121. Chipping Sparrow
122. Field Sparrow
123. White-crowned Sparrow
124. White-throated Sparrow
125. Vesper Sparrow
126. Henslow’s Sparrow
127. Savannah Sparrow
128. Song Sparrow
129. Swamp Sparrow
130. Eastern Towhee

Posted by skwclar 21:32 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Thatcher Bird Walk

River Forest, IL

semi-overcast 61 °F

This morning I led an Oak Park Bird Walk at Thatcher Woods Forest Preserve for six wonderful birders. We started off with a female SCARLET TANAGER just off of Thatcher Ave:
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And a BALTIMORE ORIOLE:
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Inside the preserve, we came upon a nice pocket of warblers just south of the Trailside Museum including this beautiful CANADA:
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The flock also included vireos. Here is a WARBLING:
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And a RED-EYED:
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Unfortunately, no Worm-eating Warbler as we had hoped for (one had been seen here yesterday and the day before). So, I decided to take the remaining birders on a caravan to see if we could find a Red-shouldered Hawk nest on the 900 block of Clinton in River Forest, which would be quite noteworthy if found.

And find it we did — immediately! There were even two (maybe three) RED-SHOULDERED HAWK chicks on the nest:
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The adults were around too. This was the highlight of the walk for the remaining birders — to see a Red-shouldered in River Forest alone is a good sighting, but to find a nest is pretty amazing! Hope the chicks fledge successfully.
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Then, I saw a report of a Connecticut Warbler — the last species I need for this spring — up in Senior Citizen Memorial Park in Bucktown. So, I met my friends Simon & Peter there and we began searching. There were certainly warblers in this small pocket park, including a dashing CAPE MAY:
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Female BAY-BREASTED:
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And LEAST FLYCATCHERS:
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But unfortunately, no Connecticut. Another day, I guess!

Bird-of-the-day to the Red-shouldered Hawks with runner-up to the Canada Warbler. STAY TUNED: tomorrow I am covering northern Indiana in a “half big-day:” I hope to break 115 species!! And, I will be covering Cowles Bog and several other locations with my friend Kim Habel. Yay!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 18:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Ryerson, Skokie Lagoons, & Bird Walk!

overcast 58 °F

Today was yet another successful, full day of spring migration birding! I started at the break of dawn at Ryerson Conservation Area in Lake County because the last warbler I need for the spring, the Connecticut, was seen there by many yesterday (as well as a host of other birds).

I soon got the sense that migrants were sparse, but it was made up for by absolutely stunning views of this male PILEATED WOODPECKER — what a beast. He even drummed for me, bringing out the bass tones of the tree’s inner core resonating through the woods.
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And a close-up. That red mustache distinguishes him from the female.
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Other classic forest birds were around, as well, including SCARLET TANAGER:
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And GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER:
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Unfortunately, I saw virtually no migrant warblers and of course, no elusive Connecticut. So, I drove back down to Cook County — specifically to Skokie Lagoons, which has been quite productive as of late. And it did not disappoint! Warblers were everywhere, including a total of seven (!) NORTHERN PARULA:
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Female BLACK-THROATED BLUE:
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YELLOWS were everywhere:
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And the male BLACKBURNIAN is never to be outdone!!!
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BLACK-AND-WHITE:
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BLUE-WINGED:
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And this male CANADA served absolutely crippling looks. Incredible!
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Female Indigo Bunting? Let me know your thoughts.
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SWAINSON’S THRUSH:
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It was a super productive stop as Skokie Lagoons with 21 warbler species seen and heard — very cool!

An Oak Park Bird Walk today with a lovely birder named Anne, and my girlfriend Tian, was also nice with some warblers seen like this CHESTNUT-SIDED:
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Female YELLOW:
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BLACK-THROATED GREEN:
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And NASHVILLE:
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It’s a warbler bonanza out there! Bird-of-the-day to the Canada Warbler with runner-up to the Pileated Woodpecker. Great stuff! Now I just need that darned Connecticut! :)

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 20:52 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Columbus Park Bird Walk

Chicago, IL

overcast 59 °F

Today, I led an Oak Park Bird Walk at Columbus Park for a nice showing of enthusiastic birders! We started the walk around the lagoon at 7am where a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON was roosting:
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As well as a GREEN:
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And there were many warblers in the wooded sanctuary area, with the obvious highlight being a nice (but characteristically shy) male MOURNING WARBLER:
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There were also PALM:
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ORANGE-CROWNED:
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And spotting the resident WOOD DUCK family was nice.
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A huge highlight of the walk was seeing and hearing two SORA rails in the tiny little marsh just east of the wooded sanctuary. So cool that they might be possibly breeding in such a tiny area! True to their nature, they were extremely skidding and avoided decent photos.
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MAGNOLIA WARBLERS abounded today.
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Thrushes were also present, including SWAINSON’S:
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And GRAY-CHEEKED:
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And once the walk had dwindled down to two other birders, Ann and Joanne and I, we tracked down a male HOODED WARBLER that Eric Gyllenhaal had told me about in the Austin Woods. SO AWESOME! My favorite warbler, and I’m happy to finally get a decent photo of it.
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I was also stoked to see a BAY-BREASTED:
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And a female CAPE MAY:
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To end the walk, Joanne and I admired a TENNESSEE WARBLER.
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Another great day of migration birding! Bird-of-the-day to the Hooded with runner-up to the Mourning Warbler — 18 warbler species were seen/heard on the walk. Just need a Connecticut in order to get the “warbler slam” for this spring!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:59 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Birthday birding: Jackson Park & Elsen’s Hill

rain 57 °F

Upon waking up this morning, I saw a text from Isoo O that Jackson Park was full of migrants, so of course I was up and off to the park ASAP!

It was a cool, misty morning: one of those perfect mornings for finding migrant songbirds — a “magical May” feeling morning. And yes, I saw many migrants including 20 warblers at Jackson Park, but the birds were just moving too fast for as many photos as I would have liked. They were really in a frenzy to stock up on their gnats this morning to fuel up for the remainder of migration! One of the first warblers to make an appearance was a good one — a brilliant male CANADA:
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As well as an equally-beautiful female:
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And after quite a bit of putzing around, picking through warbler flocks (which included my favorite warbler species, a HOODED), I spotted a larger, long-tailed bird perched in the trees east of Bobolink Meadow. I knew at once that it was a cuckoo (given that characteristic shape) and I wished and prayed it was a Black-billed, which I have seen maybe twice before. And lo and behold, it was! BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO!!!! Cuckoos are by no means easy to spot, but the Black-billed in my opinion is seen far less than its cousin the Yellow-billed, which I also recently saw at Jackson Park. And the black bill & red eyes of this bird are obvious:
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SO COOL! I then had to high-tale it home so my dad could pick up Daisy from the groomer. But it was not over yet! In the afternoon, I took Tian to a birding location I have always wanted to visit: Elsen’s Hill in Winfield, IL! This is a large hickory woodland & fen that attracts a huge number of migrant warblers and various other species, and it did NOT disappoint this afternoon. 23 warbler species including a MOURNING and the ones pictured below — here is a female BLACKBURNIAN:
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Male:
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Male NORTHERN PARULA:
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YELLOW-RUMPED:
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ORANGE-CROWNED:
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And an EASTERN KINGBIRD on the way out.
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A quick stop at Danada Forest Preserve before getting back on the highway home was unproductive with the exception of a Traill’s Flycatcher (either Willow or Alder), and a couple of FIELD SPARROWS:
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What a great way to spend my birthday! Bird-of-the-day to that incredible Black-billed Cuckoo with runners-up to the Hooded Warbler at Jackson Park and the Mourning Warbler at Elsen’s Hill. Stay tuned: I am leading a bird walk at Columbus Park tomorrow morning, and my fingers are crossed for a spectacular showing of migrants!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 17:38 Archived in USA Comments (4)

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