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Entries about lakes

Olympic Peninsula: Day 1

semi-overcast 73 °F

Last weekend, my dad and I traveled to the Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington state for birding, hiking, and even whale-watching! I will split this trip up day-by-day since I have so many photos. Enjoy!

On Thursday, July 14, we took an early morning flight to Seattle. The views were quite scenic:

Obligatory Mt. Rainier shot on approach to Seattle:

We spent the day making our way over to Port Angeles, WA with stops along the way for birding. At the first stop, my target bird was Mountain Quail, a very uncommon and shy species at which Washington is the northernmost point in their range. This is a LINCOLN'S SPARROW:

Unfortunately, I never found the Mountain Quail; however, we did hear a more common CALIFORNIA QUAIL sing it's classical "Chi-ca-go!" song.

The next stop was Gardiner Beach on the Olympic Peninsula, where we happened to run into birder John Gatchet (who used to live in Wisconsin) who graciously gave us an impromptu afternoon birding tour of the northeast peninsula! Here is a BALD EAGLE and a GREAT BLUE HERON in the same tree:

My first photographed life bird of the trip, a RHINOCEROS AUKLET! This is a species of Alcid, which is a family of marine birds that includes the puffins and are thought to fill the niche that penguins satisfy in the Southern Hemisphere. Alcids were high on my "most-wanted" species list for the trip.


CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, which was my 900th life bird!


We then visited a spit near Sequim that is a fairly well-known place for watching seabirds, as evidenced by this sign:

It has a distant view of Protection Island, where everything from gulls to puffins nest:

We found my life-bird HARLEQUIN DUCK in the water:


Life-bird PIGEON GUILLEMOT, another Alcid species, flying away from me:

Olympic Gulls (hybrid Western X Glaucous-winged Gulls, common on the Olympic Peninsula) with a HERRING GULL:


On one road near Sequim, we successfully found two target life birds for me: Bewick's Wren & Bushtit. Although they were both secretive, I did eventually manage to photograph both species. Here is the BEWICK'S WREN:

And here is the BUSHTIT:


We searched for Varied Thush in this forest, but failed to find it. In its place; however, we had a calling WESTERN SCREECH-OWL and views of some beautiful woodland scenery:

I believe this was an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, female:

After dinner with John, we checked into our motel and settled in for the night. It was a fantastic first day! Thanks so much again to John for a superb afternoon of birding!

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Bushtit with runner-up to the Rhinoceros Auklet, both being successfully-found target life birds on Thursday.
Good birding,

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

Posted by skwclar 08:28 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes beaches people trees animals birds sky sparrow heron gull hummingbird bald_eagle rhinoceros_auklet chickadee junco harlequin_duck pigeon_guillemot wilson's_warbler bewick's_wren bushtit Comments (0)

Illinois Beach State Park!

sunny 93 °F

Today I birded with birding friend Al Stokie in northern Lake County, Illinois. Although it felt quite hot at times (it topped out at 93 degrees today!), we had a productive day of birding.

After an hour-and-a-half commute on the Metra, Al picked me up in Waukegan and we headed to the south unit of Illinois Beach State Park in search of shorebirds and assorted uncommon nesting birds.

On the beach, we didn't do well in the shorebird department; however, we did find a pair of juvenile HORNED LARKS, a fairly exciting find!

Nearby, we found a few very uncommon plant species including this Hoary Paintbrush (a relative of the more widespread Indian Paintbrush):

Although we failed to find one of our target birds, the Lark Sparrow, there were some neat birds around as well, including this GRASSHOPPER SPARROW:

Then, we birded the campground nearby and found this very uncommon YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. This is the only place where this species nests in Lake County and one of the few places in northeast Illinois as it is typically a more southern bird:

Then, we drove to the Sand Pond area in the north unit of the state park in hopes of a Yellow-breasted Chat. That bird was not to be found today, despite the fact that we searched for a very long time for it. We had some nice birds to make up for it, though, including this male EASTERN BLUEBIRD:

And the female:




A very vociferous BROWN THRASHER:

And our best species at Sand Pond was two male BLUE GROSBEAKS, another species that is typically much more common further south in Illinois. Illinois Beach State Park is quite possibly the furthest north breeding location for this species in the state:

A Leopard Frog was also nice:

We ended the day by viewing (with Al's scope from very far away) a PIPING PLOVER sitting on its nest near Waukegan. Since it is in a restricted location with lots of security, Al told me I couldn't take any photos, and they wouldn't have turned out very well anyway because the nest was quite far away.

It was a fantastic day! Bird-of-the-day goes to the two cooperative Blue Grosbeaks, and runners-up to the Yellow-throated Warbler and Piping Plover. The full list for today, a good total of 69 species, is attached below.

Good birding,

World Life List: 887 Species (no recent life birds)

69 species today:

Canada Goose
Hooded Merganser
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Horned Lark
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Posted by skwclar 21:32 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes beaches people children trees animals birds sky Comments (1)

Miller Meadows Bird Walk & Columbus Park

all seasons in one day 82 °F

Today, I led a bird walk at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve in Maywood, IL and then did a bit of birding in Columbus Park, IL.

Eight birders showed up for the bird walk, which turned out to be quite productive. The best non-photographed bird we had was a pair of YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS, a great species, that simply moved through the vegetation too quickly for photos.

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER at the beginning of the walk:






One of at least six GREAT BLUE HERONS seen on the walk:


First-year male ORCHARD ORIOLE, a nice find:

It was a great walk! Here is the full species list for the walk:

38 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 5
Wood Duck 2
Great Blue Heron 6 Conservative count, probably 7 or 8. Two birds were seen perched in the trees on the edge of the north meadow and the others were all flyovers.
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Ring-billed Gull 20
Mourning Dove 4
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 2 Seen briefly in some small trees on the east side of the meadows.
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Willow Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 2
Warbling Vireo 3
Blue Jay 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3
Tree Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 4
House Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
American Robin 15
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 2
Common Yellowthroat 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Savannah Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 5
Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 1
Dickcissel 3
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Eastern Meadowlark 4
Common Grackle 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
blackbird sp. 2
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 1

Following the walk, Aerin Tedesco and I birded Columbus Park where it was overall quiet but nice to get out for a walk on a nice summer morning.

There were a few birds; however, including this EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE:

And a good number of WOOD DUCKS:

Thanks to Aerin Tedesco for giving me a ride home from the birding.

Bird-of-the-day for today goes to the first-year male Orchard Oriole identified first by Aerin at Miller Meadows. Usually the Yellow-billed Cuckoo would get bird-of-the-day, but they wil have to settle for runner-up since they didn't allow for photographs!

The next Miller Meadows bird walks will both take place at 8:00am on June 4 & June 25 - meet at the west parking lot off of 1st Ave.

Good birding,

World Life List: 885 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 21:12 Archived in USA Tagged me lakes people trees animals birds sky Comments (0)

Oak Park Bird Walk & Piping Plover!

semi-overcast 75 °F

Today, before my family and I drove to Michigan, I led a bird walk starting from my house at 7:00am - the final neighborhood bird walk of the spring (although I have three more walks scheduled to take place in Miller Meadows Forest Preserve). It was well attended, with 11 birders in total, and we had a lively time.

The birds were rather few and far between; however, there were a few highlights including this beautiful male COOPER'S HAWK:

Male RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD, a nice sighting for Oak Park:

The best bird of the walk was probably this male CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER which posed nicely over the group:

It was a fantastic walk! 28 avian species were identified, see the list here:

28 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 17 Flyover.
Mallard 2
Great Blue Heron 1 Flyover.
Green Heron 1 Flyover.
Cooper's Hawk 1
Ring-billed Gull 1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 3
Mourning Dove 1
Chimney Swift 3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
flycatcher sp. (Tyrannidae sp.) 1
Red-eyed Vireo 3
American Crow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 2
House Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
American Robin 10
European Starling 2
American Redstart 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 8
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 3
House Sparrow 20

Then, my mom, sister, and I loaded up the car and drove to Michigan (my dad will join us late tomorrow). In mid-afternoon, we met my Aunt Mary and Uncle Mory at the house they are renting in Grand Haven (where I am staying this weekend), and my Uncle Mory and I drove to Muskegon State Park in search for a cute shorebird called the Piping Plover, which would be a life bird for both of us. Not only is this a cute bird, but it is a threatened and declining species due to habitat loss, so it would be fantastic to see.

Sure enough, a fenced-off area of the beach adjacent to the second parking lot on the right held a cage-like structure which contained a Piping Plover guarding her nest.

It is a wild bird, and therefore countable for my list, because it can freely move in and out of nest enclosure, which was put there by biologists to further protect this endangered species' nest from predators - especially dogs and gulls. At one point, the plover popped out of the enclosure to forage around a bit, providing for better photo ops:

A few FORSTER'S TERNS, an uncommon species for Michigan, were seen roosting on the beach:

And my uncle and I hiked a trail away from the beach; however, it was largely devoid of birds despite its beautiful sand dune landscape:

Here is the bird list for Muskegon State Park:

16 species (+3 other taxa)

Turkey Vulture 3
Piping Plover 1 One adult bird sitting on nest within enclosure right off of the second parking lot, as approached from the north. It got up once and poked around, possibly foraging.
Ring-billed Gull 8
Forster's Tern 2 Note slender bill, small size, and relatively small area of black on the birds' heads. Seen on beach with Ring-billed Gulls, kind of close to the Piping Plover area.
tern sp. 1 My guess is Caspian based on size, but too brief of a look.
Chimney Swift 3
woodpecker sp. 1 Probably a Hairy, but too brief of a look.
Red-eyed Vireo 3
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 2
Common Yellowthroat 1
American Redstart 2
Yellow Warbler 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
warbler sp. (Parulidae sp.) 2 Either Blackburnians or Parulas.
Chipping Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 5

Bird-of-the-day goes to the Piping Plover, life bird #885 and my first life bird in quite a while! Runner-up to the Forster's Terns seen on the beach near the plover. It was a fantastic day!

Stay tuned, tomorrow I will do some local birding near our place in Grand Haven in the morning, and I will attend a family wedding in the afternoon.

Good birding,

World Life List: 885 Species (1 life bird today: Piping Plover)

Posted by skwclar 20:29 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes beaches people children trees animals birds sky Comments (0)

Springbrook Prairie

sunny 72 °F

Today (Sunday, May 22) I led a private bird walk at Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve in Naperville, Illinois. It was a beautiful day in the lower 70's with completely sunny skies, and the expansive, rolling grassland landscape of the preserve was very pretty. I had never been to the prairie before; however, with tips from other birders on specific locations to see target birds, we really saw quite a few very high-quality grassland avian species. It was a fantastic walk!

I am experimenting with a new template for the blog, as well as inserting large- instead of medium-sized photos this post. Leave me a comment telling how you like it!

My primary target birds for the walk were Yellow-breasted Chat, Bell's Vireo, and Clay-colored Sparrow with secondary targets being Bobolink, Sedge Wren, Henslow's & Grasshopper Sparrow, Connecticut Warbler, Least Bittern, and Ring-necked Pheasant. We found a very good number of those target birds!

The walk started out with an AMERICAN COOT in the main slough:

As well as a BLUE-WINGED TEAL:






WILLOW FLYCATCHER, which sang its song to differentiate itself from its identical cousin, the Alder Flycatcher:

Male BOBOLINK, secondary target species:

We heard at least two HENSLOW'S SPARROWS and at least one SEDGE WREN in the same area as the Bobolink, with all three of those birds being secondary target birds for the trip which we found!


Sadly, most of the bird walk group had left at this point because it was quite warm in the bright sun of the prairie, and the four of us had to bushwhack quite a bit; however, we were rewarded with nice close-range looks at a pair of BELL'S VIREOS. This is a threatened and declining species which I have only ever seen once before - out in Arizona in 2015.

And then, after locating it by its buzzy song, I found another primary target bird for the day - the CLAY-COLORED SPARROW! This is an even better find because although they are an annual Illinois migrant species, Springbrook Prairie is the only reliable place in the entire state where they annually nest!

Its relative, a pretty SAVANNAH SPARROW perched nearby:

And a male BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER in the woods on the way back to the car was nice:

It was a great walk! Thanks to Michelle H and Jodi T for coordinating the walk, and a HUGE thank you goes to Joe S for giving me all of the insider tips on where to find the Bell's Vireo, Clay-colored Sparrow, and other goodies at Springbrook Prairie.

And finally, here is a nice BLUE JAY photographed from my front porch this afternoon:

Bird-of-the-day goes to the pair of Bell's Vireos, with runner-up to the Clay-colored Sparrow - the full list from this morning is attached below. A very fine day of birding!

World Life List: 884 Species (no recent life birds)

49 species today:

Canada Goose 4
Mallard 4
Blue-winged Teal 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
American Coot 1
Killdeer 2
Mourning Dove 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 2
Willow Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 2
Bell's Vireo 2 Photos obtained.
Warbling Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Tree Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 2
House Wren 1
Sedge Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 3
Common Yellowthroat 6
American Redstart 2
Magnolia Warbler 1
Bay-breasted Warbler 1
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 5
Henslow's Sparrow 2
Clay-colored Sparrow 1 In regular breeding area.
Field Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 7
Song Sparrow 7
Northern Cardinal 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Indigo Bunting 1
Bobolink 6
Red-winged Blackbird 18
Eastern Meadowlark 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 3
Baltimore Oriole 2
American Goldfinch 1

Posted by skwclar 19:11 Archived in USA Tagged me landscapes lakes people children trees animals birds Comments (4)

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