A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about birds

Fall Catch-up Post!

all seasons in one day

Why hello, long time no see!!

It's been a very busy fall with me, although I have gotten to see some birds. The majority of my sightings have been through my regularly-scheduled bird walks and bird surveys in and near Oak Park, as I have been so busy with school and music Iately that I have not been able to do any personal birding day trips!

Here are some bird photos to enjoy since I haven't posted in such a long time.

Well, the first isn't actually a bird but a beautiful Monarch that posed oh so nicely in my backyard!
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Warbler madness! Male CAPE MAY WARBLER:
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Male AMERICAN REDSTART:
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Nonbreeding-plumage CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER:
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SWAINSON'S THRUSH:
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Male NORTHERN CARDINAL:
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GREAT BLUE HERON:
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CEDAR WAXWINGS:
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Female HAIRY WOODPECKER:
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Nonbreeding-plumage SCARLET TANAGER:
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Male BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER:
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SWAINSON'S THRUSH:
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GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH:
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RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH:
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Nonbreeding-plumage BLACKPOLL WARBLER:
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Definitely THE musical highlight of 2016 for me so far was performing with my choir as backup for Chance the Rapper in front of 50,000+ people at the Magnificent Coloring Day/South Side Festival at US Cellular Field on September 24. It was an incredible experience.
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GRAY CATBIRD:
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WHITE-THROATED SPARROW:
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BROWN CREEPER:
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MAGNOLIA WARBLER:
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Nonbreeding-plumage BLACKPOLL WARBLER:
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GREEN HERON:
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ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER:
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YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
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GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET:
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RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER:
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Best look I've ever had at a WINTER WREN, which is usually an extremely skittish bird:
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Also the best look I've ever had of a NASHVILLE WARBLER, as it was posing really nicely for me, trying to force down this inchworm:
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And finally, yesterday, Friday, October 21 was my choir's, the Chicago Children's Choir's, premier gala fundraiser event called the Red Jacket Optional. It was an amazing performance that featured performances from the choir, a guest performance by the amazing Allison Semmes who is an alumna of the choir and best known for starring in "The Wiz," and best of all, 1.25 million dollars were raised for the choir!! Phenomenal!!
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So it has been a busy but fulfilling autumn season for me. Sorry I haven't posted sooner, and I will try to post again after my owling walk scheduled for Nov 11! Email me at trumpetswan@comcast.net if you would like a reservation for this walk, where we will look for Short-eared and Great Horned Owls at Miller Meadow Forest Preserve in Maywood, IL.

Good birding!

Henry
World Life List: 925 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 19:14 Archived in USA Tagged birds fall music birding migration warblers chicago_children's_choir Comments (1)

Surprise Utah Birding!

sunny 99 °F

Today I missed my connecting flight to Idaho, so I was stranded in Salt Lake City for 8 hours. My solution: go birding!

After a quick taxi ride, I arrived at my destination for the afternoon, Bountiful Pond which is a pretty little lake with a nice view of the mountains and a fair amount of bird activity.
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You know you're out west when you see a WESTERN GREBE!
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A couple of FORSTER'S TERNS were nice, the first one is in breeding and the second is in nonbreeding plumage:
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Female AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:
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I encountered a "life mammal:" a Long-tailed Weasel! How cool! Thanks to Liz Cifani for the species identification and she also told me that this species, also known as the Ermine, turns completely white in the winter. I would love to see it in that plumage!
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WHITE-FACED IBIS, a nice treat:
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CATTLE EGRET:
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Female/juvenile type GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE:
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My bird-of-the-day goes to the CLARK'S GREBE that hung around the pond, probably the most uncommon species I found today:
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Good birding! I'll probably post in about two weeks once the birding part of my Idaho trip starts.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 923 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 20:22 Archived in USA Tagged mountains animals birds sky utah Comments (2)

Olympic Peninsula: Day 4

semi-overcast 69 °F

Before taking an overnight flight back home to Chicago, my dad and I had one last day on the Olympic Peninsula, which we spent on a whale-watching boat tour in the Strait of Juan de Fuca! Apart from the obvious, getting to see some of the largest creatures on earth, we chose to do this because it gave us a better shot at finding some aquatic or even pelagic bird species.

The boat pulled out of Port Angeles at 9:30 and we were on our way! A GREAT BLUE HERON was a nice start to the tour:
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4 SURF SCOTERS, a life bird for me just only the day before, flew by:
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The best bird species of the day came early in the trip, and it was MARBLED MURRELETS! This is an uncommon Alcid species, and here is a photo of two sitting in the water in nonbreeding plumage and then two in flight in breeding plumage:
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The scenery as we gradually pulled away from the Olympic Peninsula was stunning:
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RHINOCEROS AUKLET, the most common Alcid species of the whale tour:
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And then we saw...
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Humpback Whales!
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During the tour, we saw 10 Humpback Whales in total, including 8 at the same location! They would surface for about 2-3 minutes, then arch their backs, arch their tales out of the water, and then "deep dive" when they would feed at a greater depth for about 5-8 minutes. Then the cycle would repeat itself over and over again. Very cool to see!
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COMMON TERN, a nice and actually uncommon find:
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Here is my best whale photo, this one was taken just before this whale's deep dive:
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WILSON'S PHALAROPE, very cool find:
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Yet another MARBLED MURRELET:
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HEERMAN'S GULL, a nice ending to an awesome whale watching excursion:
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After a relatively uneventful drive back to Seattle, we met up with my Uncle John for dinner and a walk in his neighborhood of West Seattle. Here are a few Seattle pics from a viewpoint near his house:
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My dad, Uncle John, and his dog Oda Mae:
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And a beautiful sunset from West Seattle:
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It was a great trip! So many life birds (30 in total), so many neat experiences, so much beautiful scenery...I hope to return someday! Big thanks to my dad for birding with me all weekend.

TODAY (Monday, August 25) I am flying out to Sun Valley, Idaho and I will be out there for 4 weeks. The first two weeks I will be at a music camp so I will not be posting; however, the last 2 weeks will be regular hiking and birding like on the Sun Valley trip in past years, so stay tuned!!

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 04:41 Archived in USA Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises trees animals birds boats whales Comments (0)

Olympic Peninsula: Day 3

all seasons in one day 69 °F

On Saturday, July 16, birding guide Scott Atkinson gave my dad and I a fantastic full-day birding tour of the north Olympic Peninsula, in search of specific target birds I needed for my life list. Scott turned out to be an absolutely fantastic guide, and an extremely interesting person as well (he has traveled across the world, and even is the #1 eBirder in Russia!).

Our first birding location was a forest road on the northeast side of the Olympics, in search of Varied Thrush, Black & Vaux's Swift, and our main target bird for the morning: Hermit Warbler.

The views were beautiful from the road, and I fairly quickly heard my life bird VARIED THRUSH singing its eerie whistle on a distant ridge.
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Failing to hear any warblers (usually one would expect to hear at least Townsend's Warblers), we scanned through flocks of CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES like this little guy:
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Female HAIRY WOODPECKER:
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Suddenly, I heard a warbler's "chup!" call and saw some movement in the trees at one of our roadside birding stops. Scott picked out a warbler that flew across the road, and after "pishing" to get the bird's attention, it popped into view. Amazingly, it was our very uncommon target bird, a first-year male HERMIT WARBLER! This is the furthest northern point of its range, and on the Olympic Peninsula, Hermit Warbler commonly hybridizes with the more abundant Townsend's Warbler. Hybrids can be differentiated by a black patch near the eyes & black streaks on the flank, and because this bird showed no black patch near the eye and no streaking on its sides, it was certainly a pure individual. Scott was amazed this was the first warbler we saw because usually he says he will pick through dozens of Townsend's and hybrid warblers before he comes across a pure Hermit. Very cool!
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At one point, we hoped for a view of a Varied Thrush, and although we were unable to find one, we did admire these towering Douglas-Fir trees.
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The next stop was Hurricane Ridge. At a short stop along the way, Scott & I walked along a road in a subalpine area and we found this ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER:
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The forest alongside the road was beautiful:
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Singing HERMIT THRUSH, which is my favorite song in the avian world:
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PINE SISKIN:
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The views from Hurricane Ridge, once again, did not disappoint!
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Juvenile LINCOLN'S SPARROW, a rather uncommon find:
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My life-bird AMERICAN PIPIT amongst the alpine wildflowers! Scott and I hiked the Hurricane Hill trail again in search of American Pipit, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Black & Vaux's Swifts.
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TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE:
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OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER:
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In this photo, the flycatcher (photographed) was chasing a Western Kingbird (unphotographed), which is apparently an extremely rare find for the peninsula, and especially in an alpine area such as Hurricane Hill:
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Male AMERICAN KESTREL:
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BAND-TAILED PIGEONS flying away, the only other time I have seen this species is a brief sighting last year in Costa Rica!
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We searched this lingering snow patches for Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, a species typically associated with alpine snow, and although Scott definitely heard one and I may have heard it, I am not counting it for my life list since it was such a distant identification.
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Very cute juvenile Mountain Goat along the trail:
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This is an Olympic Marmot, an extremely rare & endangered species, and Hurricane Hill is one of the only places in the world to reliably find this animal. Super cool to be very close to it!
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Next, we drove along the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward our final destination of Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the lower 48 and possibly the best place for seawatching in Washington state.

We made a few intermediate stops, and we were successful in finding many birds including my life bird BRANDT'S CORMORANTS:
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Life bird MARBLED MURRELETS:
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HARLEQUIN DUCK:
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COMMON LOON:
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LEAST SANDPIPER:
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Life-bird BLACK TURNSTONE:
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Flyby BALD EAGLE:
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The trail out to Cape Flattery went through an amazingly lush rainforest, where there were even ferns growing out of the trees!
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The birding from the cape was awesome, there were seabirds flying by all the time, and it was just super cool to be at the northwesternmost tip of the lower 48! Many of the birds were found and identified with the help of the long zoom ranges of my camera and Scott's spotting scope.

Life-bird PELAGIC CORMORANTS:
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At one point, I watched SOOTY SHEARWATERS flying by in the distance through Scott's scope. It was so cool to see a pelagic (seafaring) species from land, and the only other time I have seen this bird was on the "Albatross Encounter" pelagic tour off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand in January 2014!

This is a PIGEON GUILLEMOT, one of the common alcids in the area:
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BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, life bird:
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TUFTED PUFFIN, a SUPER SUPER cool life bird that was probably my #1 or #2 target bird for the trip, along with Hermit Warbler. We watched a total of 16 of these fly by during the hour we were birding at the cape.
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CALIFORNIA GULL, uncommon for the area:
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RHINOCEROS AUKLET carrying fish:
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Beautiful HEERMAN'S GULL:
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Far-away island with sea lions:
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COMMON MURRE, awesome life bird!
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CASSIN'S AUKLET, very uncommon life bird and one I had really been hoping to find! With that auklet, we had successfully found all of Washington's summer Alcid species in one day! An Alcid sextuplifecta if I may say so myself!! (Guillemot, Murrelet, Murre, Puffin, Cassin's & Rhinoceros Auklet)
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It was a FANTASTIC, FANTASTIC day! One of the best days of birding of my life, with so many life birds and so many neat experiences.

Bird-of-the-day for Saturday, July 16 will be a tie between the Hermit Warbler, Tufted Puffin, & Cassin's Auklet with runners-up to Marbled Murrelet, Western Kingbird, & Sooty Shearwater. All were life birds for me except for the kingbird and the shearwater.

Great, great birding! And a big thank-you to Scott for an awesome tour and extending our birding to be all-day long!

Henry
World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 20:29 Archived in USA Tagged mountains trees animals birds Comments (0)

Olympic Peninsula: Day 2

semi-overcast 69 °F

On Friday, July 15, my dad and I traveled around the Olympic Peninsula to hike & go birding.

Our morning destination was a drive-up mountain peak on the east side of the Olympics called Mt. Walker, where my target birds were Hermit Warbler and Sooty Grouse. The views from the summit viewpoints were spectacular, and we were even at could-level!
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Although I failed to find my main target bird, the Hermit Warbler, I did encounter a family of SOOTY GROUSE, life bird! The adult female bird let me take her photo:
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After lunch, we drove up to the famous Hurricane Ridge, which sits at over 5,000 feet above sea level and allows for fantastic subalpine and alpine birding, possibly the most famous highland destination for birders in Washington state.
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We were worried it would be cloudy, as it usually is, at Hurricane Ridge; however, the views were panoramic and totally exceeded our expectations! It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
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We hiked the steep Hurricane Hill, where there was a pretty good number of birds, including this super-cooperative female SOOTY GROUSE:
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And the deer, as you can see, were extremely tame:
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The wildflowers also put on a radiant display alongside the trail.
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Nice photo of an uncommon GRAY JAY in front of the mountains:
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HORNED LARK, by far the best photo I have ever obtained of this species:
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Near the summit of Hurricane Hill, there was a rather large snowfield. Time to do an obligatory July snow angel!
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This Mountain Goat, although a nonnative species, was super cool to see and allowed for some fantastic photo ops in front of the mountains:
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This silly young deer obviously hasn't learned how to follow the rules:
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It was another great day in the Olympic Mountains! What a fantastic place! I only obtained one life bird on July 15, Sooty Grouse, so that will be my bird-of-the-day. Runners-up to the Gray Jay & Horned Lark.

Good birding,

Henry
World Life List: 925 Species (30 life birds on the Olympic Peninsula trip)

Posted by skwclar 09:26 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes mountains people trees animals birds snow Comments (1)

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